AUR’s Cultural Heritage program equips the next generation of heritage professionals to meet the challenges of preserving our vast patrimony of art, history, and culture. Our graduates gain the skills for careers in practical heritage protection and project development alongside equally important soft skills in intercultural communication.

Based in Rome, the city at the center of debates around the future of global heritage, the M.A. program in Cultural Heritage: Sustainability and Community trains graduates to face the most important challenges in the heritage industry today: decolonization of our museums; preventing the looting and trafficking of cultural objects; safeguarding the unique culture of indigenous cultures and marginalized groups; protecting cultural heritage during conflict and, after conflict, using the reconstruction of communities as part of long term peacebuilding.

Cultural heritage is an essential element of developing stable, sustainable, and resilient communities, and it is a crucial component of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

What makes AUR's Cultural Heritage program unique?

Community focus

This program focuses onthe community, not onstate structuresorinstitutional responsesto heritage. AUR’s program aims to train students in skills that lead to roles in the heritage sector, working with communities, NGOs, and other organizations to ensure the restoration and protection of sites of cultural importance.

Professional networks

The faculty of the Cultural Heritage program are career professionals highly regarded in their fields. Their connections, alongside the growing reputation of this program sees students working directly with organizations like ICCROM, UNICRI, Parco del Colosseo, and many more.

Career potential

from AUR's MA in Cultural Heritage have gone on to illustrious careers with the likes of The Smithsonian, NATO, Pakistan's Higher Education Commission, and the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of the New York district attorney’s office.

Career destinations

Cultural heritage is becoming increasingly economically important throughout the world. Accordingly, well-trained professionals will find a range of fulfilling careers in this field. In balancing theory and practice, this Master’s program prepares students for employment in heritage administration, development control, and consultancies, as well as for continuing academic research. Graduates of this program have moved in many directions.

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Lia S., 2017.

Heritage preservationist, Joshua Tree National Park

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Alyssa T., 2016

Antiquities Trafficking Unit, New York

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Kristen L., 2020

The Black American West Museum

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Sarah S., 2020

Travel entrepreneur, Simione Travels

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Katarina R., 2019

Customer Services, Historic Milwaukee Inc.

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Melanie B., - 2020

Supervisor, Museum Operations & Collections, Kingston, Ontario.

"One of the most enduring lessons I learned during my Masters in Sustainable Cultural Heritage at The American University of Rome was the sheer diversity of meaning for the term ‘heritage.’ My favorite was that heritage could be anything that people wanted to save for future generations. This simple yet profound definition is the guiding light for my current work as the SUCCESS Programme Communications Officer at the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN). AUR gave me the understanding that the past, present, and future are not distinct, separate 'boxes'. They're a spectrum, and each element influences people and cultures at a conscious and unconscious level. This tenet affects my work on a daily basis."

Anjum Malik, Communications Officer at the NGO Rural Support Programme Network (Cultural Heritage, 2019)

Outstanding Internship Opportunities

In keeping with AUR’s promotion of vocational skills, the curriculum includes an internship placement worth three credits towards the overall degree. The internship experience is tailored to the individual student’s career of interest and is an invaluable opportunity for first-hand involvement in the field, whether it be participation in a restoration project, supporting the fundraising and marketing department of an NGO or assisting in the organization of a sustainability conference.

Katarina recounts her internship experience at the Parco del Colosseo.

Over the span of July and August, I was fortunate enough to be able to intern for the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo. I worked in the office located inside of the Colosseum, where I worked closely with Elisa Cella. Under her direction I was able to complete two projects for the Parco Colosseo during that period.

Firstly, I was able to do a Social Media Analysis of the Parco Colosseo’s accounts. Secondly, I was able to conduct a Visitor Experience Analysis. This included going on many of the tours offered by the Parco Colosseo, and experiencing it as a visitor as well as me creating, conducting, and analyzing a survey on visitor experiences of the Colosseo. This unique experience allowed me to see so many different parts of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the Palatine that I had never experienced before.

During my time at the Colosseum, I was able to witness the large-scale organization and work it takes to take down a temporary exhibit and install the new exhibit. This opportunity allowed me to become more intimately familiar with how large-scale cultural heritage sites are run and issues that arise. This experience taught me to practically apply many of the skills taught during the program.

Program Information

This 15-month M.A. program consists of 36 credits, of which 27 are for coursework, 3 for the internship, and 6 for the thesis.

Program objectives

  • To provide an overview of the interdisciplinary nature of the field.
  • To give the necessary heritage management tools in line with international, national, and regional strategies to enhance cultural heritage management.
  • To provide an understanding of the tools, techniques, and processes for documenting and assessing cultural resources, and producing and implementing management plans.
  • To foster an understanding of the role of heritage agencies and organizations at international, national, local, and regional levels.

The Thesis
must obtain at least a B- for their MA thesis to complete the MA program.
The thesis will focus on a particular topic identified by the student as an area of special interest and/or pertinent to his/her future career or further research in Cultural Heritage.
The thesis enables a student to demonstrate the knowledge and skills acquired during coursework, as well as their ability to conduct a research project, produce high-quality academic writing and defence.

Upon completing the Master’s program in Cultural Heritage, students will have acquired the following skills and knowledge:

  • Project management - including budgeting and fundraising.
  • Appreciation of the complexity of heritage economics, its relationship to tourism, to the local community and to conservation issues.
  • An understanding of the role of heritage in the broader political and legal context, including issues of contested heritage, dark heritage (heritage from periods of tragedy or war or discredited political regimes) and an understanding of the role of heritage in forming identity at the local, regional, national and transnational levels.
  • Oral and written communication skills at a professional level, including the ability to debate issues with practitioners in the field.
  • Planning, marketing, management and funding of sustainable heritage-related projects, including the ability to examine and critique heritage management theory.
  • Critical analysis of the use of heritage in different political, religious, social and ethnic contexts.

AUR Alumna fighting antiquities crime

Alyssa Thiel (M.A. Sustainable Cultural Heritage, 2016) has recently been appointed to the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of the New York district attorney’s office.
The unit, set up by DA Cyrus Vance in 2017, is the first of its type and was created to deal with the increase in looted antiquities that are flooding the art market in New York, mostly as a result of conflicts in the Middle East.

Alyssa, who has been working since graduation at Princeton University Art Museum as Campus Collections Assistant, fought off fierce competition to win the position of Investigative Analyst on the team of Assistant DA Matthew Bogdanos.

Read the full story here