Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS) is a program of the Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF) intended for education in the field of archaeology and historic preservation and is targeted for students and specialists, but also for anyone (18+) interested in cultural heritage study and preservation. BHF is а Bulgarian public, non-profit, non-governmental organization. It was established in 2008 by Ivan Vassilev, Nayden Prahov and Angela Pencheva with the mission of supporting the study, preservation and promotion of the cultural heritage of Southeastern Europe. In the period 2008 - 2017, BHF conducted and supported 86 projects related to archaeological research and excavations, conservation and recording of cultural monuments and artifacts, training and education in the field of cultural heritage, volunteer workcamps, exhibitions, conferences, public lectures, fundraising campaigns, and design of strategic plans for utilization of cultural heritage by municipalities.
BHFS first started in 2003 and resumed as the BHF program in 2008. It includes field school programs, taught in English, in four Balkan countries: Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and the Republic of Macedonia. All the field schools are affiliated with ongoing research and/or conservation projects: archaeological excavations, art historical expeditions, conservation of artifacts and monuments, thus contributing to the study and preservation of the cultural heritage of the Balkans. Since 2008, BHFS has implemented 86 field school projects (with durations ranging from 1 to 8 weeks) attended by approx. 1500 students from 57 countries and involved a great number of academic and research institutions, museums, and heritage specialists from Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Belgium, Greece, France, Montenegro and Japan.
The BHFS overall goal has been the development and enhancement of accessible practice-based education in the fields of archaeology and heritage conservation with an emphasis on Balkan cultural heritage. It aims to:
- supplement the academic education, volunteer training, and pre- and early career training through short-term practice-based field schools;
- encourage the involvement of students, scholars and volunteers in studies, preservation and promotion of Balkan cultural heritage;
- support research and conservation projects related to cultural heritage in SE Europe;
- promote and present Balkan cultural heritage worldwide;
- contribute to the sustainable development through utilization of cultural heritage for education and enhancement of cultural tourism in SE Europe; and
- foster the sensibilisation of local communities towards cultural heritage.
Each BHFS project combines 3 basic educational modules: theoretical (lectures, presentations and field training), practical (participation in excavations, lab work, conservation workshops, field trips) and excursions to attractive archaeological and cultural sites & behind-the-scene visits.
Currently there are three types of field school programs offered by BHFS:
- Archaeological field schools take place at different excavation sites (including underwater) related to all major cultures and civilizations that once existed in the Balkans, starting with the first Neolithic farmers in Europe and Europe’s first civilization in the Copper Age, followed by the Ancient Greek, Thracian, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Ottoman civilizations.
- The emphasis in the workshops on historic preservation/heritage conservation is on ancient Greek pottery, Roman pottery and glassware, mosaics and wall-paintings, historic metal, paper and textiles, as well as vernacular Balkan architecture.
- In addition, an expedition introduces students to Late and Post Medieval (Byzantine) ecclesiastic architecture and wall-paintings.
Since 2014, BHFS has offered a thematic combination of certain projects as BHFS project packs providing more comprehensive educational opportunities, broader experience, extra excursions and tempting admission fee discounts.
Three universities award academic credits to students who participate in BHFS projects: New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria; Queen's University, Canada and Connecticut College, through Institute for Field Research, USA. Participants who are not interested in academic credits are not expected to pay any tuition fee nor to take part in any activities related to academic curriculum (exams, academic reports etc.).
BHFS is not only a school but also a platform for solidarity in benefit of cultural heritage. Based on this, BHFS students, heritage specialists, partnering institutions and local communities interact and collaborate with each other benefiting as follows:
- BHFS students learn from professionals while taking part in real ongoing cultural heritage projects, travel to many historical & archaeological sites in the Balkans, gain intercultural experience and new friends, establish contacts receive academic credits.
- Heritage specialists (archaeologists, conservators, architects, art historians, etc.) and partner institutions (museums, research institutes, municipalities, NGOs, etc.) involved with BHFS receive additional funding & support for their work.
- Local communities, where BHFS projects take place, obtain new income, seasonal jobs, new perspectives about the local heritage, and increased promotion of the local tourist potential worldwide.
Considering this, we are always happy to inform each participant in any of our projects that joining the BHFS s/he becomes not only a student, but also:
- a Volunteer in either a scientific research or a conservation-restoration project;
- a Sponsor of the local economic growth;
- a Benefactor to the local cultural heritage.