Interview Robert Philippart

Dr. Robert L. Philippart (Luxembourg)

World Heritage Site Manager of „City of Luxembourg: its Old Quarters and Fortifications“, Ministry of Culture, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

  • Which site do you associate your first World Heritage memories with?

The monuments of Nubia represent an outstanding archaeological area which contains such magnificent monuments as the Temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel and the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae. They were saved from the rising waters of the Nile thanks to the International Campaign launched by UNESCO. Saving the temples of Egypt and dismantling, stone by stone, the Abu Simbel temple in the early 1960s was a first act to the protection of cultural heritage looked as a World Heritage. Its stands at the cradle of the UNESCO Convention from 1972. The attitude adopted showed that preserving heritage and encouraging economic development request global answers at universal level.

  • How did your professional journey in the heritage sector begin?

It was at the age of 17 that my interest in the preservation, conservation and presentation of heritage was awakened. At the end of the 1970s, a whole historic and emblematic district of the City of Luxembourg disappeared under the shovel of bulldozers. I got involved in “Jeunes et Patrimoine” and set up ad hoc committees for the defense of threatened buildings. I have undertaken history studies and my doctoral thesis deals with the historic evolution of the city as a place of life. Nearly 200 articles and monographs demonstrate my interest in the urban history of the City of Luxembourg. Since 2008, I have set up and been leading guided tours on the historical development of Luxembourg on the basis of my own historic research. After a career spent as director of the National Tourist Office and as a scientific collaborator at the Catholic University of Louvain, I applied for the newly created position of UNESCO Site Manager “ City of Luxembourg: its Old Quarters and Fortifications” at the Ministry of Culture. This was in 2017.

  • In your opinion, what are currently the biggest challenges in the heritage sector?

Preparing World Heritage sites for climate change, rethinking public space as a place for high quality of living and finally, reconciling the residential, commercial and cultural functions of cities. We need to envision the city as an accessible, inclusive place. Establish in a sustainable way the mechanisms of collaboration and consultation between the administrations responsible for urban development and the conservation of historical heritage. Make the City understood as a historic urban landscape in all its dimensions.

  • Which skills do you think will be important in the future for the heritage sector?

Historical research and preventive archaeology are essential. Without professional communication in history, we will not be able to raise awareness for heritage. Training in restoration techniques and old construction trades are essential for quality conservation. Having a good knowledge of law is required to apply all conventions, laws and binding regulations. Possessing a great deal of empathy helps to convey social, cultural and economic added value inherent in cultural heritage.

  • Which advice would you like to give to young heritage professionals? 

Listening is a high-valued soft-skill as well as open mindedness. Be ready for concessions, but never give in on what is essential. Be vigilant, keep an inner distance from the subjects you are discussing, always be conciliatory, take challenges on an optimistic side, be confident in progress, oriented towards solutions, be pragmatic.

Robert Philippart

Robert Philippart