In December 2023, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage launched a new partnership with the Foundation for Regional Economic Development of Mukhrani (FREDM) to develop community-based cultural heritage tourism in the Republic of Georgia.
The partnership will start with the Mukhrani Village Experience, combining research, documentation, and youth engagement to create ten new tourism experiences based on living culture in the community. The Mukhrani region includes several important cultural heritage sites, including the Dzalisa archaeological site (second century BCE to eighth century CE) and the nineteenth-century Mukhrani fortress in the historic center of the village. By developing community-based tourism experiences near these sites, the project aims to establish a replicable model that ensures financial benefit for communities in destinations with important cultural sites.
The Center, through its Cultural Heritage Tourism Initiative, has been collaborating with communities to create cultural heritage tourism experiences for several years.
“What’s exciting about this project is the engagement of the LEPL Mukhrani Public School N1,” notes Halle Butvin, the Center’s director of special projects. “Through a student research and documentation project, we will bring local youth directly into the process for the first time.”
Drawing on the Center’s work on the My Armenia Cultural Heritage Tourism Program, the project will also create an opportunity for exchange and knowledge sharing between Armenian and Georgian researchers and partners. Over the two-year project, the Center will advise the FREDM team, local researchers, and community partners and conduct workshops on how to create cultural heritage tourism experiences.
“Over the years, FREDM has cultivated ideas and developed concepts, rehabilitation and renovation projects, gradually transforming them into tangible realities,” says David Kiknadze, director of FREDM. “This particular project is special for us as, with the guidance of our experienced partners, we will directly engage with the local community. We aim to uncover hidden gems and co-create tourism experiences that not only celebrate the community’s heritage but also drive the development of Mukhrani as a unique and thriving tourism destination.”
The Foundation for Regional Economic Development of Mukhrani (FREDM), founded in 2015 by Dr. Frederik Paulsen, aims to unlock the touristic potential of Mukhrani and its vicinity for the social and economic benefit of the community. The Mukhrani Village Experience is part of a strategic program initiated by FREDM to develop the Mukhrani cultural heritage cluster. This program will include infrastructure improvements for key cultural sites and community infrastructure investments.
About the Cultural Vitality Program
The Center’s Cultural Vitality Program bolsters community efforts to preserve and practice living cultural heritage in the face of social, economic, and political challenges. The program aims to understand and mitigate threats to cultural vitality, scale our impact through partnerships, convenings, and thought leadership, and transform public understanding of cultural diversity.