The deadline is approaching to submit your Adopt a Monument application. It’s been a real honour and a privilege for us to work with the Heritage Council on the scheme since it began in late 2015. So far, thirteen community groups around Ireland have been selected to participate. Each one of the thirteen groups are unique, with each group having its own priorities, ambitions and challenges. It has been our task to work with the groups to help them to achieve their goals, and to provide mentoring, training, mediation and facilitation. So with the application window now open, we thought it might be a good opportunity for us to discuss the application process and what makes for a good candidate for the scheme. We hope that this is of use for you and your community if you are considering applying.
In 2019, five groups will be selected to join the scheme. The application process for Adopt a Monument has been designed to be as thorough and transparent as possible. The process consists of a number of steps:
Adopt a Monument Application Step 1:
We begin with an initial review of all the applications that were submitted in advance of the closing deadline. This review judges all the applications to ascertain that it meets the three key criteria, so the application can then go on to the second round of evaluation. The key criteria are:
- Landowner & Consent: The group must establish who owns the site. Has the landowner given consent for the monument to be put forward for the Adopt a Monument Scheme and for access to the monument? Do they agree with your long-term aims and objectives? The landowner’s enthusiastic consent is fundamentally vital to your application.
- Site Status: The Scheme is unable to consider applications from National Monuments under the guardianship of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Any sites that are designated as a National Monument are immediately deemed ineligible for this scheme. To find out whether your site is a National Monument please visit here.
- The Community Group: This seeks to understand the makeup of the proposed community group. Applicants should be a group with a clear organisational structure, with the potential for a positive and inclusive steering committee that will drive the project to success. In our experience, participation in Adopt a Monument, like most heritage projects, ends up becoming far too onerous and demanding to fall on the shoulders of one person. For us, an ideal group would be made up of a diverse section of the community who all bring their different interests and strengths to the project.
Adopt a Monument Application Step 2
If the initial criteria were successfully met, the application is then scrutinised by a panel of heritage experts. To date, this panel has included staff and board members of the Heritage Council, staff from Abarta Heritage, along with academics and journalists. Each application is discussed in detail, the applications stated aims and objectives are reviewed and compared, and a shortlist of the most promising applications is agreed upon.
Adopt a Monument Application Step 3
The Adopt a Monument team then visit every community on the shortlist, to discuss the scheme and application in detail and to visit the site to gain a first-hand impression of both the community and the monument. A core ethos since Adopt a Monument began, is that we do not select a monument on its own archaeological or historical merits, we select the community. The group is always of the utmost importance, and we choose those who are sustainable (where the workload is not all going to fall on one person), groups who have clear and appropriate aims and objectives and are willing to adhere to best-practice, and those communities who can work together as a group with outside stakeholders to give their project the very best chance of success.
We then discuss the shortlisted applicants in detail again with the Heritage Council and a final decision is made on the most appropriate sites for selection. Whether successful or unsuccessful, we endeavour to ensure all applicants are quickly notified of the decision.
From the experience of Adopt a Monument to date, one of the key learning outcomes both for us as practitioners and for the community participants, is that there are few ‘quick-wins’ in heritage. By its very nature, the conservation and understanding of our monuments can involve a gradual, and an occasionally glacial, process. It can take time to create a sustainable group or team, it can take time to agree on approach and plans, it can take time to raise funds, it can take time to build a support network and engage with appropriate practitioners and specialists, it can take time to obtain the necessary permissions, it takes time to build awareness and momentum – but all of that time is well spent as it ensures the best results. There are no shortcuts in heritage, but if a group embraces the ‘journey’ as being a necessary and essential part of the process, then the project has a much higher chance of success as the process becomes an enjoyable experience in itself.
We highly recommend checking out the Adopt a Monument Manual if you are looking for more information on Adopt a Monument, along with practical guidelines on community heritage projects. The deadline for applications to Adopt a Monument is 28th February 2019. For more information, and to download your application form please visit the Heritage Council website.