Understanding the value of arts and culture: the AHRC Cultural Value Project

Arts Cultural industries Cultural policy Research methodology Literature review
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The Project had two main objectives. The first was to identify the various components that make up cultural value. And the second was to consider and develop the methodologies and the evidence that might be used to evaluate these components of cultural value. This report sets out the often striking findings of the Project’s work.

Some 70 original pieces of work collectively make up the Cultural Value Project – a mixture of new research, critical reviews of the literature and specialist workshops. This work has probed, challenged and advanced our thinking about how better to understand and capture the elusive phenomenon that is called ‘cultural value’. The authors of the report have also drawn on a wide range of literature from the UK and internationally. The result is among the most extensive, wide-ranging and challenging of attempts to grasp the difference to individuals, society and the economy that engagement with arts and culture makes.

Our key aim was to cut through the current logjam with its repeated polarisation of the issues: the intrinsic v the instrumental, the elite v the popular, the amateur v the professional, private v public spaces of consumption, qualitative v quantitative evidence, and the publicly-funded v the commercially-oriented. Definitional and boundary difficulties of these kinds have bedevilled debate about what constitutes the value of culture and in what ways it may be evaluated and captured.

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