The interchangeable meanings of Railways as industrial heritage: the Kosovo case
“Industrial heritage consists of the remains of industrial culture, which are of historical, technological, social, architectural or scientific value, including transport and all its infrastructure related to the industry.”
The primary purpose of railways is to provide a transport service for goods and passengers. But technology serves a critical role in all this. Therefore, industrial activities, such as technological innovation, coal machinery, locomotives and carriages, railway tracks, bridges, stations and anything related to industrial culture, play a critical role in the way railways are generally assessed. Unlike in other countries, where industrial values also include intrinsic values, in Kosovo, the criteria for the designation of a railway are limited to the physical infrastructure closely related to the railway and its technological value, which only includes one railway line that of Drenas-Pejë.
By the time the railways were beginning to be built in Kosovo, they had already shown their effectiveness in western Europe, and therefore, as such, they could not be considered innovative. The railways in Kosovo were built as part of a greater project to connect Constantinople to Vienna and to interlink the Balkan region; hence, they had to be compatible with the rest of the region’s lines and could not be authentic or original.
Although not outstanding according to national criteria for cultural heritage, the Mitrovicë-Shkup (part of Kosovo railway) still fulfils its transport purpose while representing a rich communal value. Excluding the social value from technology is to miss the essential aspect of the story: “technical change has both informed, and been informed by, social and economic change around the globe.”
To explore this phenomenon, this research through questionnaires and interviews will assess the significance of the Mitrovicë-Shkup railway line to the Kosovar community to bring forward a paradigm for redefining the interpretation and assessment of industrial heritage, specifically railways, in Kosovo.