Handbook of Cultural and Heritage Management


5.1. Drafting regional “maps” of cultural assets and activities


Mapping makes culture more visible

so that it can be utilised in new ways –

exchanged, linked and further developed.

– Greg Young, Cultural Mapping in the Global World


What is Cultural Mapping?

It is the basic tool for all urban planning strategies, policy makers, cultural advocates and community leaders, to ensure that all the appropriate decisions are made in the management and development of areas and communities. Through cultural mapping all have the opportunity to understand the uniqueness of the identity of a local area. Thus is widely recognized as an effective tool for development and planning.

In international literature cultural mapping is described as a new field of research where methods and tools are combined in order to design a new enriched, informative and useful profile of an area. All the cultural assets and resources are categorized as well as the strengths and weaknesses.(creative city.ca, 2010). It’s a multi usage tool ideal for cultural policy makers, sustainable development policies and even for the community itself. (Duxbury, N., Garrett-Petts, W.F.,  MacLennan D., 2015; Unesco 2015, creative.city.ca, 2010)


Why Cultural Mapping?

Cultural mapping is a drawing that depicts the cultural resources. During this process there is a unique opportunity to learn the unknown resources and their importance. This drawing points out what are the strengths of an area to build on, what are the problems, where to allocate resources, or which are the weaknesses. Once the drawing is published all community sectors and local stakeholders have a common base to talk about. (creative city.ca, 2010)

The main advantages of cultural mapping are:

●       Comprehensive view of cultural resources for all stakeholders; a new definition of local culture may arise while the overall activity of the area is pictured on a map.

●       Locating gaps, overlaps and assessing needs; is there any scarcity or duplicity in a sector? What does this area really need to develop?

●       Increase awareness and participation; previously unknown resources come to light.

●       Successful and creative partnerships, identifying networks.

●       Successful Planning and decision-making; the first stage of cultural planning


But there are also those who reject cultural mapping on the following basis:

●       It is a useless tool since heritage and cultural resources or human capital is already identified by the state.

●       Critical problems or gaps may come to light that will create political problems.

●       It is an effort consuming time, money and human resources.


Before starting a cultural mapping process always have in your mind that perhaps there are other less demanding or more common accepted  ways to go about itsuch as small research in the local library or in the public archives etc.


Fundamental actions for Cultural Mapping

Before starting a cultural mapping process it is crucial to ask yourself these three, very simple questions:


Who?, Why?, How?


1.      Who? 

Who is going to take part in this process? A working team in Cultural Mapping should be supervised by cultural managers but the rest of the members may come from:

1.      Local community

2.      Local administration

3.      Universities

4.      On - line platforms (social media)

☝     Are we ready for this really difficult coexistence?

2.      Why?

What is the final goal and why is it important to map the cultural heritage of one’s area. e.g: sustainable development, local awareness and synergies etc.

3.      How?

Redefining the cultural and human resources, identifying networks and resources for sustainable development. The collection of this data could facilitate cultural mapping.

☝     Once you have decided that cultural mapping suits you then let’s have a look at the following steps and tips.


Steps for a successful Cultural Mapping project


The steps are simple but really effective:

Plan, Design, Implement, Synthesize, Finalize, Publish


Step 1: Plan: set the objectives, working team, budget, resources

Step 2: Design: Set timelines & deadlines for interim reports, decide working methods (interviews, questionnaires, web research etc)

Step 3: Implement: Raise awareness regarding the project (set up website, publicize the project in the local press) and let’s start!

Step 4: Synthesize: collect and analyze all the incoming data.

A cultural map may include the following: 

●       Tangible and Intangible resources

●       Creative industries

●       Cultural heritage

●       Natural heritage

●       Facilities

●       Labour Force

●       Stakeholders (Private & Public & Local community)

●       Community identity (images, stories, narrations etc)


1st attempt to interpret the results and discuss them with the community/working team,

➢   pay attention to the feedback

2nd attempt to create the map

➢   get feedback from different groups (local administration, stakeholders)

Step 5: Finalize: the map is completed

➢   Always double-check the final result with your team members

Step 6: Publish: Present the results in public

➢   Be prepared for comments and necessary changes


For examples from the field of cultural heritage you should also see the following: Limassol Cyprus and the toolkit All Culture is Local : good practice in regional cultural mapping and planning from local government


Tip: Always remember that cultural mapping is a collective work and the data are part of the community’s heritage and culture!