Bermuda is THE focus for the INTO Secretariat and Board this month. Reaching out to participants and cross-checking all delegate information, finalising workshop sessions, writing speeches … it’s all systems go!
It was certainly back to work with bang on Monday after a week of poor data connectivity on vacation. That definitely curtailed any attempts to work (no bad thing …) but did make Monday a bit spicy! I did fortunately manage to join the second of our reciprocal visiting webinars. It was actually quite fun calling in from our sleeping French home in the middle of the night.
I wrote about the first one last week and this was just as good! So nice to hear from friends around the world full of support, encouragement and good ideas. On Monday, we fed back the results of these conversations and the survey to the INTO Board. The plan is to have a fairly well-developed proposal to discuss in Bermuda – so far so good!
The 18th International Conference of National Trusts takes place in Bermuda from 27-30 March. Still very much at the heart of our movement, the ICNT presents many opportunities for learning and discovery. And this year in Bermuda we have a truly unmissable event. Yet there are so many ways to connect these days. You may wonder why we put so much effort and resource into our biennial conference? Well, meeting face-to-face has such huge benefits. Which is why the ICNT has been a core programme for the past forty years.
Here are my key six top reasons for investing in the Bermuda conference:
The overarching theme of this year’s conference is ‘Arms Wide Open’, drawing on the concept of arms open conservation that INTO Chairman, Fiona Reynolds, outlines in her recent book:
“Before being interviewed for the job of Director-General I’d taken my middle daughter, Rose, around a country house in Cornwall. Even she, a butter-wouldn’t-melt child, was shushed and frowned on as she chattered during our visit. These buildings were not saved by continuing to exist: they needed to speak to people, to embrace them and to mean something to them.
And so that’s what I set out to do, stealing the phrase ‘arms open conservation’ from a visit to the US National Parks Service to explain what I meant. I wanted people to feel involved, enthralled and engaged in the spirit of place, and not be simply passive observers of it; I believed the Trust could only make that possible by enabling people to feel more at home, more welcome, and less inhibited by rules and regulations. The ‘arms closed’ approach, where the Trust took charge, telling people what they could and couldn’t do, and the prevalent ‘do not touch’, ‘do not sit here’ and ”do not walk on the grass’ signs had, I believed, gone beyond what was necessary for high conservation standards, and risked alienating people in a world where the appetite for being instructed was ebbing.
It was time, I believed, to move on from Lees-Milne’s ‘mummification’ and bring the houses to life. I wanted our supporters to see our conservation work in action and to feel part of the Trust’s great and inspiring cause.” – Dame Fiona Reynolds, The Fight for Beauty: Our Path to a Better Future
We believe that the ‘open arms’ concept applies to so much of our work. Not just to how we present our built heritage, so the five themes that sit under that main title are:
Forever, for everyone. What does it mean? It seems to underpin discussions around access to heritage, community involvement, dialogue and understanding. The family of National Trusts aims to reflect the diversity of the communities around the places in their care. But is there more to be done? We strive to strike a balance between remembering the past and understanding its impact on our multicultural present. What adjustments could we make to how we think about the heritage of different cultural groups? How can we help manage their diversity and recognise cultural rights?
Reimagining museums, historic places, National Trust sites and other heritage is a challenge we all face. Particularly in an era where people can experience the world with the click of a mouse. We will explore how to make heritage relevant. Moreover how heritage organisations can leverage digital resources to make their assets more accessible.
Bermuda, like other INTO members, faces continuous development pressures. Striking the right balance between economic success and mobility while retaining a pristine environment is a challenge all countries face. INTO members from small islands such as Bermuda face specific challenges related to their size. Limited potential for growth in membership, in visitor numbers, in fundraising, in volunteers. Disproportionate effects of climate change such as rising sea levels, hurricanes etc. We want to provide an opportunity for those involved to share experiences and best practice to overcome these challenges.
This strand is about building capacity amongst heritage practitioners and organisations. It will showcase best practice around membership, fundraising and visitor services amongst other things. National Trusts are well placed to offer all kinds of experiences. But it takes investment and work to make them successful. When they are successful they can provide greater awareness of our organisations. They are also a vital source of new revenue.
With increasingly elderly populations in the developed world and large young populations in the developing world, how do we ensure our stories and causes stay relevant to young people? The general slowdown in economic growth in many countries also means that non-profits are increasingly dependent on volunteers, who can be difficult to find. With changes in the world of work, the profile and desires of volunteers is also changing. And we are told that millennials are not “joiners” but want to get involved and support in different ways. We would like to explore the success stories of our organisation and others in attracting members and volunteers to our ranks and how we are relevant and compelling in the 21st Century.
So, as the team here at the Secretariat works on the nuts and bolts of the conference, we need you to make it a success! Our role is one of support and resource but we rely on the INTO membership to deliver and lead from the front. We can’t do this alone! And are greatly looking to seeing INTO members; old friends and new; colleagues, partners and peers in Bermuda in three weeks’ time. There is still time to register if you haven’t already …