In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the small town of Weimar in Thuringia saw a remarkable cultural flowering. Enlightened ducal patronage attracted many leading German writers, composers and artists to the town, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and Franz Liszt, thus making Weimar the cultural centre of Europe at that time. This development is reflected in the high quality of many of the buildings and parks in the surrounding area.
“Classical Weimar” was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1998, the 20th site in Germany to be recognised as World Heritage. “Classical Weimar” comprises twelve individual buildings and ensembles, all of which portray tangible and intangible elements of Classical Weimar’s cultural heritage. Weimar’s City Castle, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, Goethe’s and Schiller’s residences, the Town Church, the Ducal Vault with the Historic Cemetery and many others are included on the World Heritage List.
Weimar’s historical parks and gardens connect the historical buildings and their surrounding grounds and are a key feature in the “Classical Weimar” collection: the Park on the Ilm with the Roman House and Goethe’s Garden House, Belvedere Park with its Castle and Orangery, Tiefurt Park and Castle and Ettersburg Park and Castle.
The World Heritage Volunteers project “Parks and Gardens of Classical Weimar” has been taking place for several years. The project aims to combine practical work to restore and maintain the cultural landscape with World Heritage Education and the promotion of volunteering for heritage.
The practical part has two elements: firstly, the volunteers restore a system of historical paths in the southern part of Belvedere Park, based on plans from the early 19th century. They carefully search for remains of the original paths which disappeared several decades ago, and uncover and restore their tracks. Year by year another section of the paths is rebuilt. Secondly, the volunteers carry out maintenance works in other parks and gardens of “Classical Weimar”, helping the site management in works which can only be undertaken manually, such as cutting long-grass meadows on slopes. At the same time, the volunteers gain a detailed and varied knowledge about the different buildings and parks of the World Heritage Site and the challenges in managing them.
The educational side of the project informs the volunteers about the background to the project and includes lectures and guided tours about “Classical Weimar” as well as excursions to related heritage sites. The possibility of free entrance to museums and exhibitions enables individual study. Finally, there is a public presentation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites from the participants’ home countries, which enlightens the wider public about the idea of volunteering at heritage sites.
The international group usually consists of fifteen volunteers from fifteen different countries from all UNESCO regions, most of them linked to heritage, either professionally or through their studies, or with an interest in architecture, landscape planning or gardening. Therefore every participant can make use of the cultural background to, and own knowledge about heritage in their home countries, enabling a complex and interesting exchange of experiences, approaches and ideas.
The project is organised by European Heritage Volunteers in close cooperation with Klassik Stiftung Weimar, the foundation which manages the UNESCO World Heritage Site.