Heritage Without Borders

Heritage Without Borders

At a glance


  • Voluntary sector support
  • Museums / heritage

Other details

Geographical remit: 


Heritage Without Borders (HWB) aims to develop the capacity of people working in the heritage industry in regions where particular skills such as object conservation and community engagement are in short supply. Our capacity development teams are staffed by UK volunteers. Our volunteers are all practicing professionals or masters students with a practical specialism in the subject areas where our international hosts and partners need it most.

Training and practical two-way collaboration are central aims of all of our projects. We are an independent charity, although we operate in partnership with University College London (UCL). We also have strong partnerships in the local regions where we run projects.

We aim to:
- Build capacity in heritage skills in situations of poverty and reconstruction;
- provide life-transforming work experience for UK volunteer students and professionals in the heritage sector; and
- save heritage

HWB believes passionately in the importance of conserving heritage, especially in areas suffering from poverty or undergoing reconstruction. Our work is eminently practical and technical, but it is underpinned by a deep commitment to cultural rights as a form of human rights. We see heritage as central to defining, maintaining and articulating cultural identity for individuals, nations and regions. Soon after the Second World War, UNESCO emphasized that cultural dialogue was a key for peacebuilding. We share this view and strive to ensure that our work contributes in small but real and sustainable ways to rebuilding communities and creating professional and inter-cultural relationships and networks.

Our beneficiaries tell us that our organisation has an impact on them personally and professionally. Amongst other positive comments, UK volunteers tell us that they find jobs in a highly competitive job market because of the experience they have had with Heritage Without Borders. Our international beneficiaries tell us how life changing it is for them to meet colleagues from different nearby towns, cities and countries. This is an opportunity that they would not have under normal circumstances. They also tell us that the skills we pass on will help them to preserve and use their heritage.


To achieve our aims, we run two types of projects:
1) Capacity building short courses which are practical and are carried out in an international host museum or other heritage location. The cooperation of a host institution allows us to positively affect the collections whilst training others.
2) Two-way professional exchanges which expand the skills of UK professionals and international colleagues.

Below are two brief summaries of recent projects:

Gjirokastra, Albania - 2014
With a grant of £10,500 from the Clothworkers’ Foundation, we recruited a team of 4 professional textile conservators who worked with a cohort of international project participants (heritage professionals and students) from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Albania to improve the conditions of the historic textiles on display and stored within the museum. Please see the photos included.

As a result of the success of this project, we have extended our work in the region for 3 additional years with the kind support of The Headley Trust. There is significant interest regarding long-term preservation of hugely important textile collections within public institutions across the South East Europe region.

Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia
South East Europe Cultural Heritage Exchange Programme in partnership with University College London and The British Council – 6 month project ending in March 2015
This project is an educational professional exchange programme with a difference. As well as a study trip to the UK, international participants are matched with a UK counterpart (an HWB volunteer) based in a participating museum. Collaborative working takes place between both professionals on a discrete community engagement project over a period of 6 months.

This is not a straightforward mentorship project because the UK professionals also make a return trip to visit and work with their international colleagues. There is enormous opportunity for two-way learning and interesting collaborations to result. For example, a UK professional from National Museums Northern Ireland in Belfast is working closely with a colleague from Kosovo. Both are in situations where culture, heritage and conflict are situated in close company. Each are learning a great deal from the other.

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