Purpose – Literature on cultural districts has repeatedly pointed out the role of place branding as a tool to upgrade the image of urban environment as an indicator of meaning and significance. Throughout the case of UNESCO’s mining heritage district in Sardinia (Italy), the purpose of this paper is to investigate on the role that Place Branding Organizations (PBOs) has and/or may have in the construction of coherent images for landscape and cultural heritage in the design of “sustainable” cultural districts in connection with local authorities’ agenda. At this purpose, the authors propose an operative definition of “partnership building strategy” and a new analytic framework to evaluate PBO’s activity within place branding theory. Design/methodology/approach – Considering what recently expressed by UNESCO about the integration between spatial and cultural planning, the authors focus the research on cultural heritage districts protected by this organization. Starting from the definition of strategy proposed by Anholt (2011) and the participation-based approach outlined by Hankinson (2010), the authors propose a new analytic framework to evaluate PBO’s activity and the authors try to apply it to the experience of mining heritage in Sardinia (Italy), comparing the activity of local PBOs (the Consortium for the UNESCO’s Sardinian Geo-mining Park and the Local Tourism System) with the Development Plan of the Carbonia-Iglesias Province. In the final part of the work, the authors discuss the outcomes of the comparative analysis in terms of partnership building strategy and its influence on cultural heritage district design. Findings – The experience of the Sardinia district proves that partnership building strategy has a relevant role both in place branding and cultural heritage district design but it is not sufficient to make this letter really functioning. It confirms also that a place brand can survive to political regime changes on a periodic basis only if the PBO establishes an appropriate institutional framework for the creation of a cooperative network that can take the branding process forward. The research finding about place branding of UNESCO’s mining heritage sites, outline the demand for a new and more integrated approach in the district design, inspired to the geographic studies on “cultural basin.” Research limitations/implications – The analytical framework which the authors provide on the basis of a new operative definition of partnership strategy building, has proved to be a useful tool to assess PBO’s activity but, despite this, it represents only a partial result because the theoretical model of the relationships between PBOs, local and supra-local actors requires further developments to describe the effective type and nature of this links. Practical implications – The research finding about place branding of UNESCO’s mining heritage sites, outline the demand for a new and more integrated approach in the district design, inspired to the geographic studies on “cultural basin.” To achieve a real sustainable development and a shared enhancement of identity and landscape, the authors propose as a possible solution the abandonment of administrative boundaries in cultural planning through a correspondence between cultural district and historic region, this latter defined according to the methods and tools developed by the geographical sciences for the “cultural basin.” At this scope the authors propose a new methodological framework which takes the participation-based place branding into the “cultural heritage chain” for the district design, setting a future research agenda. Originality/value – The authors propose an operative definition of “partnership building strategy” for the participation-based approach outlined by Hankinson (2010) and, on this base, the authors test a new analytic framework to evaluate PBOs’ activity which combines the traditional activities of promotion and marketing with PBOs’ partnership strategies. Finally, the authors propose a methodological frame which brings the participation-based place branding into the “cultural heritage chain” setting a future research agenda in cultural heritage district’s design.
Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 17, 2015
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