The project "Good practices of volunteering for European cultural heritage" represents the outcome of European Heritage Volunteers’ long experience in volunteering for heritage which condensed in 2018/2019 on occasion of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. It comprised more than 50 volunteering activities at various kinds of architectural heritage in more than 20 European countries where local heritage activists and almost 800 young heritage professionals jointly engaged for the rescue, conservation and revitalisation of heritage sites. Based on an international network of heritage professionals and stakeholders the project developed, monitored and evaluated quality standards for volunteering for heritage. Under the guidance of specialists who transmitted traditional techniques and heritage-related skills the young participants gained practical experience which complemented their theoretical education. The projects’ outcomes were disseminated by numerous seminars, two conferences, a touring exhibition and a publication thus aiming to sustain the voluntary engagement for European architectural heritage.

A summary of the umbrella project you can find here.

Details about the particular activities which had been part of the umbrella project - the volunteering projects, training courses, seminars, conferences and exhibitions - you can find on our website as well as our Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channels.


The publication "Good practices of volunteering for European cultural heritage" provides a differentiated and multilayered insight in the field of volunteering for heritage and an overview about the wide spectrum of the European Heritage Volunteers Programme and gives testimony of the manifold personal experiences within the programme - of project coordinators, technical instructors, group coordinators and participants. In total, it collects contributions from almost fifty authors from around thirty countries from Europe and beyond.

Find the content table here

The publication is also available as hard copy. If you are interested, please, send an email to


Over the coming months various articles from the publication will be shared which illustrate the perspectives of both Technical Instructors and participants. We continue with an article written by Mariana Martinho. In her article, Mariana Martinho refers to a Training Course of traditional wooden shingle making in the Ore Mountains in Germany. She explains the importance of wood in mining activities, including the careful timber management which has helped to avoid massive deforestation in the region since the 17th Century. She discusses the many challenges of working with wood and the fact that while the participants struggled to meet the necessary specifications of each shingle to begin with, practice made perfect over the two week period. The additional challenge of language barriers was equally overcome by learning through doing along with a willingness to both share and learn, enabling the transmission of knowledge across generational and cultural gaps. Ultimately, the training course enabled her and participants to gain a deeper understanding of the mining region and its traditions, the challenging work involved, and the lived experience of miners.

This year, there will be - as annually since 2017 - another project take place in the UNESCO World Heritage site Ore Mountains which will also include wood-related techniques, as well as a Training Course related to wooden shingled roofs in Romania.

Find the complete article below as well as the pdf version including pictures here.  


From underground to the shingled rooftop

Then you start using a drawknife to finalise the shape of shingle into the ideal proportion, careful to craft a straight surface, without spikes. Master Kai taught us how to feel the surface of a correct shingle and how to replicate it through shaping. The best shingle is one that does not have branch nodes and tissues breaks, which means that the natural structure of the tree is not damaged. Meanwhile machine-made shingles last only for ten years and soon start to rot; correctly handmade

The Ore Mountains are a transboundary region in Germany and Czechia characterised by the mining and processing industry. But that is not the only natural resource that one can find there.

Wood is essential for mining activity. It is needed to build tools and transportation material such as barrels. But mostly, wood helps to control a third natural element: water. Water is both a problem and a solution, while wood is the resource in the middle. To take water out of the mines, wood is used in a pumping system powered by the strength of the water itself. Mechanisms as water wheels are built from wood that resists harsh conditions and the passage of time.

Expansion of the mines brought a consequent need for more wood. The growth cycle of trees was not sufficient for the rhythm of work in the mines, and the negative impact of such dependence was causing massive deforestation. Fortunately, among the brilliant local engineers and craftsmen who earned statues located in the surrounding cities, there was also Hans Carl von Carlowitz. His solution to wood scarcity was based on a careful timber management plan for the land. Even though this happened in the 17th century, this concept of sustainability seems to fit quite well in the current era. Each tree is precious for many reasons and they are still needed to keep the traditional landscape alive. This resource was the central topic for the European Heritage Training Course “Traditional wooden shingle techniques”

We arrived and huge tree logs were waiting for us. If one day I was excited and cutting logs in slices like a pizza, the next day my muscles were sore. Working with wood is a hard task. There was wood everywhere, combined with iron, creating an industrial atmosphere. Even the work bench was made of wood. We were fortunate to have a building of the Alte Elisabeth mine, which is a beautiful monument itself, as a workshop.

The fact that we were an international group sharing our stories also con- tributed to a nice atmosphere during the daily work. But we had to keep focused on the execution. Even though it looked easy, not everything was what it seems. Each shingle had to have a perfect degree of inclination and a precise space where the shingle would fit into the next one. Our eyes were still not skilled enough for such detail, and the first pack of shingles was so imperfect that it had to face a destiny other than becoming roof shingles. But practice makes perfect, and soon we were working well.

And the work of an apprentice can only be successful with a good work instructor. Even though the language could be an obstacle in some situations, such as naming the tools and techniques, such difficulty was quickly overcome with the learning-by-doing method. The transmission of knowledge between different generations was just wonderful. Not only the fact that experienced people were available and happy to share what they know with a younger group, but also the willingness to learn and ab- sorb every detail from the side of the participants. Although I was not very talented in this task, I still remember some details that, if I had not made them with my hands, I would have forgotten then by now.

But the transmission of knowledge goes beyond the work and respective work instructors. The course was completed by an intensive educational programme where we were introduced to different perspectives that complemented our work and put the whole region into context. We learned about the mining traditions of the region and about other handicrafts that were part of the daily reality of the Ore Mountains, like blacksmithing and lace ma- king. But the most special thing was hearing stories from the locals. Can you imagine how funny it was to hear an 80-year-old man say he thought there was a ghost in the mine? In the end, there was no ghost – it was just a water wheel that was not blocked when the mine had been deactivated and occasionally turned, making noise.

But the thought of ghosts is not even half as scary as when I first went down into a mine. After what seemed to be an endless elevator ride, we entered the dark underground. But then, the lights were turned off and there was only candlelight. I couldn’t see my feet – yet this is all the light each miner had. I still get goose bumps just for thinking about it. And I was told that I – just one and a half metres tall – had the perfect miner’s size, so you can already imagine how small the corridors were. Looking at that, the basic tools, and the noise of trying to drill a couple of millimetres per day into the stone wall, made me think how brave the miners were.

It is impossible not to feel emotional when faced with this tangible reality, and even more so when witnessing the intangible mining atmosphere. Hearing the miners singing is one memory I will never forget. I was amazed by the traditions and the artwork that you can find in many museums in the region. Like the Schwibbogen, a candle holder made out of wood, which is another use of this raw material in the region. This connection between men, ore, wood, technique, art, and tradition were some of the reasons to justify the region’s inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List. But for us, participants in this training course, being there was more than learning the history. It was also about living this experience. When going down into the mine or climbing up to put wooden shingle in the roof, one could always hear a warm Glück auf – the regional greeting, which means “Good luck”.

Mariana Martinho


European Heritage Volunteers