Small Town Resilience and Heritage Commodification

by Luďa Klusáková (Volume editor) Bianca del Espino Hidalgo (Volume editor)
©2021 Edited Collection 326 Pages


Small towns are continuously overlooked and under-researched, although they represent a type of urban settlement present in large numbers, especially in Europe. Questions regarding the resilience of small towns are an important issue acknowledged in the EU policy of regional development. This volume is written by an international and interdisciplinary team of scholars who are convinced about the importance of small towns as a research topic. It looks at how towns approach heritage, its instrumental use and its commodification in support of its survival, asking about towns’ strategies to achieve resilience to external pressure. The chapters present cases from Europe and beyond. It represents various types of situations and approaches of urban communities, but it is not limited to success stories. The authors deal with places that are undervalued, not fully exploited or in danger because of lack of appreciation. They explore a wide range of strategies in the fields of revitalization stabilization, stagnation, decline or desertification, considering the possible role of heritage, as well as small towns’ creativity in networking initiatives.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Luďa Klusáková (*1950–†2020) (Jaroslav Ira)
  • Foreword (Jaroslav Ira)
  • Principles for heritage-based resilience in small towns facing the global era (Luďa Klusáková and Blanca Del Espino Hidalgo)
  • Section I: Reflections
  • Can small towns survive in a global world? The cases of Avesta and Söderhamn (Lars Nilsson)
  • Does the development history influence how we think about small towns? (Réka Horeczki)
  • Section II: Initiatives
  • Tourism and territorial development: Dynamization strategies for an agrarian cultural landscape Guadalhorce Valley in Malaga (Lourdes Royo Naranjo)
  • Viterbo. Heritage and future (Manuela Raitano and co-author Paolo Marcoaldi)
  • The white coal town, the emergence and decline of textile industry in Naoussa (Nikolaos Leonidakis)
  • Ruin and time, abandoned settlements. The small town of Granadilla (F.-Javier Ostos-Prieto and José-Manuel Aladro-Prieto)
  • Section III: Community
  • A new Phoenix from the ashes? (Marta Marçal Gonçalves, Stefan Rosendahl, and María Teresa Pérez-Cano)
  • Building community resilience through heritage in small towns: Case study of Vysoké nad Jizerou (Jiří Janáč)
  • Section IV: Cooperation
  • Corredor Bio-Comechingones, an innovative regional scale agreement among small towns (Mónica Jimena Ramé)
  • Networking of small communities for heritagization (Paola Pellegrini)
  • Railway: From global infrastructure to local heritage. The case of the historic railroad Avellino-Rocchetta in Southern Italy (Consuelo Isabel Astrella)
  • Section V: Promotion
  • Balancing between local and global: Heritage presentations of central European small towns (Case of Telč and Bardejov) (Jan Krajíček)
  • Entry into the UNESCO club: The experience of the Ulyanovsk region (Elena Elts)
  • Research survey
  • Touristification of historic urban centres in the Southern Italian Salento region (Katja Maaria Huovinen)
  • Conclusion
  • Heritage characterization and strategies for resilient small towns (Blanca Del Espino Hidalgo – Luďa Klusáková)
  • Note on authors
  • Series index

←10 | 11→

Luďa Klusáková (*1950–†2020)

Jaroslav Ira

I feel honored to write this short portrait of our dear colleague and teacher, Professor Luďa Klusáková. At the same time, it is hard to accept that she will no longer be able to see this result of her work and to make so many of the plans she had in mind really happen.

Luďa Klusáková studied history and French philology at Charles University, where she later pursued her academic career as a historian of modern European history, with the main focus on urban and cultural history. For more than forty years, Luďa Klusáková was a respected scholar and gained a high reputation in international academic circles. She became professor of History and led a Seminar on General and Comparative History for two decades. Enormously active in international cooperation, Luďa played an important role in several international projects, such as the CLIOHRES.net research network (leader of thematic workgroup), TEMA Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (academic coordinator for Charles University), REACH Horizon2020 project (leader of Charles University team), and KREAS research project (work-package leader). Last but not least, Luďa has long been an active member of the international committee of the European Association for Urban History (EAUH) and served as the president of EAUH from 2010 to 2012. Among her awards, one could mention the title of Chevalier de l’ordre des palmes académiques, awarded by the French Government for building relations between France and the Czech Republic in the academic sphere, and recently, honorary membership in the Finnish Academy of Sciences.

Luďa’s preoccupation with cities and towns dates back to her studies, during which she focused on railways and urban spatial development. In the 1980s, she conducted a comparative analysis of the transformation of urban systems in Western and East-Central Europe on the threshold of ←11 | 12→capitalism1. In subsequent decades, her focus shifted to cultural themes such as identity, image of the city, and cultural encounters, and resulted in a study on the imagery and perception of the Ottoman cities in early-modern travel literature2. In the final phase of her career, Luďa turned her major research interest to small towns in peripheral regions of south-western France, the Czech Republic, eastern Slovakia and Poland, and analyzed them through the prism of the debates on the creative and innovative cities, revitalization strategies, uses of heritage, and urban resilience3.

The intellectual trajectory of Luďa Klusáková represents some of the major turns in urban history: from large-scale study of urbanization and urban systems to the study of urban cultures, and more recently to domains such as heritage studies and research that borders with urban economy or tourism. Forever young in spirit, Luďa always delved into the new vocabulary with curiosity and rigor of a fresh-minded student, only to come up with an original appropriation of fashionable concepts on her long-researched themes, or, to put it another way, with fruitful rethinking of the buzzwords through her urban perspective. She was a pedant in the best sense of a historian who insisted on familiarity with wider historical contexts and intimate knowledge of the places researched, and whose awareness of the history of words used was accompanied by her openness, and indeed eagerness, to implement concepts and insights from other disciplines such as ethnology, geography, or architecture.

I still keep in my memory a course of hers that I frequented in the early 2000s. Luďa took us on a virtual tour back in time, digging ←12 | 13→down into the historical layers of a region in south-western France. It was an intricate exploration of many themes that Luďa so interestingly illuminated through the perspective of small towns in Gers, such as a blurred boundary between the urban and rural sphere, the uses of the past and heritage in self-promotion and rural renewal, the interplays of local, regional and national identities, and the relations between landscape, technologies and everyday culture. It was a fascinating intellectual journey that opened hearts of many of us to the themes researched in this volume. May this volume be a discreet memorial to her inspiring personality.

←14 | 15→


Jaroslav Ira

Literature on urban resilience has recently been accumulating at an amazing pace. Yet small towns have remained at the margins of this debate, although they provide a unique perspective on resilience and may help us broaden its understanding. Small towns embody a peculiar socio-spatial category. While closely connected to the rural sphere, they represent outposts of the urban world and often proudly display their urbanity. They thus have to cope with a specific mix of challenges, different from those of the big cities and the countryside, while sharing many problems of both. We may likewise presume that the small-town communities perceive their problems and vulnerability in particular ways and often come up with original solutions. Furthermore, the histories of small towns are often fascinating testimony to the social and cultural energy that has been invested in their endurance and development. Seemingly predestined to become obsolete in modernity, small towns have largely survived as a locus of human attachment, even if their fates have varied from thriving to serious decline. While bemoaned as being in constant danger of disappearance, local identity has often served as an important basis of community resilience.

The authors of this volume offer novel perspectives on these issues. In particular, they concentrate on the role of cultural heritage in small-town resilience. It has become a truism that cultural heritage is an important source of community resilience; or that it should be, especially in smaller and peripheral places. But this idea is far from self-evident. As readers will find out, the volume brings together a range of constellations and scenarios, drawn from many different contexts. There are various reasons behind this: Many actors may have many visions. For instance, the perspective of local citizens who dramatize their fate in terms of “survival” and a “stay or go” dilemma may often differ from the perspective of planners and policy-makers who articulate the small-town question as ←15 | 16→an “economic problem”, “development issue”, “social question” and the like. What is considered heritage has always been a contentious issue, and so are the objectives and impacts of its use. Many projects and strategies may succeed and set the town on a trajectory to a bright future, but others may turn out to be failures, immediately or in the long run. As is often the case with social and historical enquiry, it is complexity which is the major result and message of this book.

This volume originated as a result of the stimulating exchange of papers in the session “When Local Wishes to Become Global: Heritagization Strategies of Small Towns and Little Places in Remote Regions (20th and 21st centuries)” chaired by Luďa Klusáková and Blanca del Espino Hidalgo during the conference Urban Renewal and Resilience: Cities in Comparative Perspective, organized in Rome by the European Association of Urban History (EAUH) in late August 2018. But its origins go back to the EAUH conference in Lisbon (2014) and the session on small towns organized by Luďa Klusáková, Marie-Vic Ozouf-Marignier and Jaroslav Ira that raised some of the issues discussed here, and that resulted in the book Small Towns in Europe in the 20th and 21st Centuries: heritage and development strategies (Prague 2017) edited by Luďa Klusáková. It was in Portugal that the fruitful collaboration between Luďa Klusáková and Blanca del Espino Hidalgo began. And it could be sustained thanks to the projects that supported the subsequent meetings and the publication of the present volume.

The editors are particularly grateful to project KREAS: Creativity and Adaptability as Conditions for the Success of Europe in an Interrelated World, a European Regional Development Fund-Project, held by the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, that co-financed the production of the volume1. KREAS has explored social adaptability and creativity in various dimensions. The research group around the late Professor Klusáková has focused on cultural heritage in historical perspective as a form of adaptation. How cultural heritage has been used as a means for making small towns and urban communities resilient and thus capable of steering their own futures has been one of the major questions.←16 | 17→

Equally important for the emergence of this volume was the project REACH: Redesigning access to cultural heritage for a wider participation in preservation, (re)use and management of European culture, supported by the European Commission within the funding program Horizon2020.2 The project supported language revision and enabled the editors and some of the authors in Budapest to meet during the REACH conference Resilient Cultural Heritage and Communities in Europe in May 2018. Luďa Klusáková with her team at Charles University conducted the pilot on small-town cultural heritage, which had as its objective the exploration of the uses of the small-town heritage, with a specific focus on participatory approaches in heritage practice and research. Furthermore, REACH aimed at creating a large social platform of heritage experts and stakeholders and Blanca del Espino Hidalgo became one of the project’s associated partners.

←18 | 19→

Principles for heritage-based resilience in small towns facing the global era

Luďa Klusáková and Blanca Del Espino Hidalgo


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (November)
Bruxelles, Berlin, Bern, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 326 pp., 64 fig. b/w, 13 tables.

Biographical notes

Luďa Klusáková (Volume editor) Bianca del Espino Hidalgo (Volume editor)

Luďa Klusáková was a professor at the Faculty of Arts, Institute of World History, at Charles University for more than 40 years and directed the Seminar of General and Comparative History from 2000 until her passing in 2020. She graduated from two programmes, history and French, at CUFA. Blanca Del Espino Hidalgo is an architect. She has done her PhD in architecture, Masters in architecture and historical heritage and Masters in sustainable city and architecture. She works as a research fellow in the Andalusian Institute of Historical Heritage.


Title: Small Town Resilience and Heritage Commodification