The Cities of Culture Research Observatory is based at the School of the Arts, University of Liverpool.
The Observatory combines humanities and social science research frameworks to articulate the value of evidence-based cultural policy in the development of event-led urban regeneration. The wealth of material gathered by the Observatory and its associates showcases common trends, challenges and opportunities in the ever growing concept of ‘cities of culture’ and its application worldwide.
The Observatory started as a scholarly project in 1999 within the Centre for Olympic Studies at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. This work led to the launch of the Cultural Policy Research Forum in 2001, one of the first digital academic environments dedicated exclusively to showcasing cultural policy initiatives. The Forum evolved into an informal cities of culture research observatory within the Centre for Cultural Policy Research at the University of Glasgow, in connection with the Cities and Culture Project (2002-2005). The latter set the methodological foundations for Impacts 08, the European Capital of Culture Research Programme led by the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University between 2005 and 2010, followed by the establishment of the Institute of Cultural Capital in 2010. In 2020, Beatriz Garcia is working with international colleagues to revamp the Observatory as a curated repository of academic research and evaluation on the evolving concept of ‘cities of culture’.
The Observatory has documented the cultural policy and cultural programming framework of every Olympic and every European Capital of Culture host city, as well as a selection of comparable cultural events and international cultural policy initiatives, from the Commonwealth Games to the World Design Capital, from the UK Cities of Culture programme to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites programme.
The Observatory has benefited from access to data, research collaborations and funding secured on the back of major research programmes and initiatives directed by Dr Beatriz Garcia since 1998. Research started in the context of the Olympic Studies Centre at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (1998-2001). After the Cities of Culture Project (Centre for Cultural Policy Research, 2001-2005), key datasets have been developed through Impacts 08 | European Capital of Culture Research Programme (University of Liverpool, 2006-2010) and the varied range of research programmes and projects conducted by Dr Garcia and her team at the Institute of Cultural Capital (University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, 2010-2019). Since 2020, the Observatory is contributing to the development of joined-up evaluation frameworks for culture, in collaboration with the new UK Centre for Cultural Value.
By 2020, the Observatory is collaborating with an international network of critical scholars. Our associates combine critical scholarship with advisory roles and consultancy, assessing as well as advising cities in their capacity to document and interrogate cultural policy frameworks and their strategic thinking for culture.