Amilcar Vargas is Responsible of World Heritage at Casa Batlló, one of the most representative and symbolic monuments of Barcelona. Born in Mexico, the archaeologist has also worked in other world-renowned institutions in matters of conservation and preservation of heritage, such as UNESCO and INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History). Likewise, he is currently a professor of the Legal Aspects class of the Master’s Degree in Cultural Management at UIC Barcelona where he wants to teach his students the importance of knowing the conventions on heritage protection to become great cultural managers.
What caught your attention about Cultural Management and Heritage to dedicate yourself to it?
My relationship with Heritage and culture stems mainly from a trip I took when I was 18 years old to my grandmother’s hometown that had just been inscribed on the World Heritage list. At that time I was studying accounting, but from then on I became very interested in heritage and began to travel with friends around Mexico. Those cultural pilgrimages gave me a very diverse impression of the richness of my country that I hadn’t had the opportunity to see before, so I decided to study archaeology with a more social approach. I was fascinated about how heritage worked in historical sites with an ancestral cultural abundance, but also with a living population that has different needs and expectations than a century or a thousand years ago.
Do you consider that studying Archeology has helped your professional career?
Yes, because it gave me humanist, social, anthropological, and archaeological training that, together with my vocation, was very important. Through studying archeology I was able to continue traveling and I made my first stay abroad in Italy and France, which allowed me to discover other patterns of heritage management that enriched my vision as a student.
What is the job of a World Heritage Officer in an institution like Casa Batlló?
If I had to describe it in one sentence it would be to implement the UNESCO World Heritage convention in this house. However, my tasks are grouped into four areas: First, Patrimonial Responsibility, fulfilling the obligations that being inscribed on the World Heritage list implies with all the actors involved, from UNESCO to the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Spain and the Government of Catalonia. Secondly, Patrimonial Visibility, it’s my duty that the patrimonial values of this house are visible not only to the visitor but also to our collaborators and staff. Thirdly, Global Expansion, linking us with the rest of the world due to the patrimonial values and the distinctions that we have. Finally, research to better understand and protect Casa Batlló.
What has been the process to be awarded as the Best Monument in the World in 2021? What does it mean to you?
At Casa Batlló we offer a unique cultural experience in the world with an exceptional restoration and a commitment to new technologies in a historical asset. As the person in charge of Global Expansion and Heritage Visibility, I must present Casa Batlló in all the possible calls related to the cultural offer, restoration, customer service, social inclusion and sustainability, which is one of our most recent award-winning projects. In the last year, we have received ten awards, but the one that has gotten the most media attention has been the Best Monument 2021 by the Tiqets platform.
What are the future challenges of the institution?
The challenge for the future when you have this type of distinction is to not lower the level, on the contrary, to improve it every day. When you have reached such a high level of demand, it’s difficult to stay on top, however, the satisfaction is very pleasant. We want to continue offering functional immersive installations that don’t hinder the user experience and make the house more accessible for those people who have some type of disability, we want to reach them because they have the same right to enjoy this heritage as everybody else.
Could you tell us a little more about the Neurodiversity project? Where does the idea come from?
The Neurodiversity project arises from the need to be able to go one step further in terms of social inclusion. The project is carried out with the company Specialisterne to include people with neurodiversity in the visitor service area which aims to demystify and destigmatize their condition. It’s a commitment to inclusivity, giving them an opportunity that is not usually available in the business world.
What do you want to teach the students of the Legal Aspects subject? Why did you decide to lead this class?
I didn’t choose it, I was reached by UIC to teach the class of Legal Aspects within an area that follows international conventions on Heritage and culture. It has been a great opportunity to join an international university and teach after having finished my Ph.D. in February 2021. Although I had occasionally offered lectures at some universities in the past, this is the first time that I have been in charge of a subject that requires a little more commitment and dedication. The new generations must know the world conventions and have a much more global perspective on culture and thus, be able to work anywhere regardless of the country, the type of heritage, the seniority, the sector…