On Friday I spent the day in Antwerp. INTO members, Herita, will be hosting our next conference in the city from 19-23 April 2021. And this was a kick-off meeting to visit the venue and discuss initial programme suggestions.
Firstly, Antwerp is amazing! I’ve visited before but on Friday I saw it through the eyes of an INTO delegate. You will arrive at the amazing Antwerp Central. Built between 1895 and 1905, it is a thing of great beauty! And definitely on my list of top five favourite railway stations!
From the station, it’s a short walk (really – it’s literally next door) to the Zoo. And it’s at the Zoo that we will hold the conference plenaries along with some of the workshops. The Flanders Meeting and Convention Center is located in the historic Zoo buildings together with newer extended conference venues. It styles itself as ‘A Room with a Zoo’ and brilliantly connects history and nature conservation. Perfect for an INTO Conference!
Secondly, the theme is also spot on. I don’t want to spill too many beans, but Herita have been elaborating their original proposal. And they are focussing on the importance of partnerships and networks. We are all part of an international network, INTO. But we all also collaborate with our local and regional partners. (The Innocastle project has also highlighted the importance of such networks.)
What can we learn from each other about working together? What strategies can we share? How can we ensure that our organisations balance heritage, social and economic values? How do we build those bridges between those values?
Lastly, Herita has such a lot of good experience and knowledge to share with our INTO members. It has a unique approach as it combines what in other countries might be separate organisations (Open Monuments; Heritage sector network and site management/visitor business). It therefore offers an interesting model for new Trusts or those seeking to develop and grow.
As at previous conferences, we will have workshops at some of Herita’s and their partners’ sites in Antwerp and beyond. We will also spend time connecting with the members of their regional professional network. I was delighted to meet and dine at the gorgeous Paleis op de Meir during my visit on Friday. Can’t wait to see more!