University College Utrecht offers its bachelor students the opportunity to participate in the UCU Cultural Heritage Program (CHIP). Cultural heritage is about the various things, places and practices that people want to keep and pass on to the next generation. It ranges from monumental Amsterdam house interiors, to the mediaeval Lebinius Codex in the Catharijneconvent. Other examples are the Aboriginal Australian artefacts dating from the time of Cook’s voyages, now in the British Museum; or the beautiful plant specimens in the Natural History Museum collection in London. Cultural heritage involves selection, classification, preservation, documentation, research, digitalization and display. It also concerns different forms of memory and identity.

Cultural, natural and intangible heritage have increased worldwide to become an intrinsic part of the ways people understand the past and create the future in the present. Heritage precipitates new forms of professional collaboration: artistic creation, innovative curation, design, technological and architectural practices; it is much debated – sometimes contested - and frequently entails consultation with diverse public stakeholders.

The UCU Cultural Heritage Program (CHIP) entails learning about heritage from the various perspectives of the arts, the social sciences and the sciences. It enables students, while still undergraduates, to gain experience of and contribute to the crucial practices of managing, preserving, researching, and exhibiting cultural heritage. The learning curve is very steep for most participants: being included in a professional environment means being given responsibility, while at the same time gaining unique insight into the collections and current practices of great institutions.

CHIP started as a grassroots initiative in 2011. A group of UCU professors realized that many students would like to contribute to heritage projects in a practical way, and that they learn immeasurably by doing so. Practical experience and research tasks yield rich material to reflect upon and explore further – connecting to the fascinating world of interdisciplinary research. Students who have done the CHIP have gone on to a wide range of master and PhD programs; and some now work in  the professional sector - for galleries, museums, and auction houses. The Alumni Advisory Group keeps us in touch with developments in the field and contributes in many ways to the activities and projects for UCU students. We are participating in the UCU CONNECT and PUUR Programs, launched in 2014, to extend our institutional partners and systematize the research insights we are gradually building up on changing museum practice, from the complementary perspectives of Art History, Anthropology and Science.