This week, we held our quarterly teleconference of the INTO Board of Trustees. We begin every call with a round-up of what’s been going on at everyone’s organisations. Since our last formal Board meeting, the world has changed completely. So needless to say, this ‘Learn and Share’ focussed almost entirely on the Covid-19 crisis. Here is a summary of what the Trustees shared.
Elizabeth said that all the National Trust for Fiji sites were closed to the public. Staff are mostly working from home and field staff continue to deliver vital conservation work. She reported some problems with vandalism and theft, and that their budget had been cut. They are remaining positive however. Moreover, they have developed a communications strategy to increase their visibility through virtual visits and media.
Bermuda was waiting for news today on what changes would be introduced when the current restrictions end on Monday. William said that he had wandered down the road to cut the grass at the Bermuda National Trust last week! (No one is allowed out to do anything and gardening is not considered an essential service!) They have dusted off their collections and sharing stories which have been very popular on social media. The Trust is exploring the possibility of opening parks and public spaces. The water is very warm and everyone is desperate to go to the beach! (As an avid tea drinker, I particularly like this one.)
In Malta, Din l-Art Helwa is trying to be positive but they are worried about the long-term impact on their organisation. Their sites are closed so there is no property income and corporate donors are looking at more worthy beneficiaries. They are not expecting tourism to pick up until next year. And the government is keen to kick-start the economy through construction. This is bad news for Din l’Art Helwa. On the other hand, there are dolphins all around the islands so nature is making a comeback!
Darren reported that Australia was very lucky and under the least restrictions of anyone. He reported that the National Trust for South Australia is liaising closely with the other state and territory trusts. Moreover they are using this as an opportunity to think about how to rethink the model and use properties differently. There is a good appetite for change.
The National Trust (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) was past the peak but in a difficult place. They have furloughed 81% staff. Justin agreed that it would be valuable to explore the ‘new normal’. And not sleepwalk back into how we were last summer or indeed February 2020. We need to come out of this crisis better. He also welcomed the opportunity to work together with international partners. And said how helpful it is for the NTEWNI to hear the experiences and strategies from INTO members as we reopen. It’s important to have international consensus.
Natalie said they felt they were ‘drinking from the fire hose’ so intense and exhausting is the work at the National Trust for Canada. She is based in rural New Brunswick so feels a bit insulated from some of what’s going on. There are some opportunities however emerging from the crisis. She reported that they are about to sign an agreement with Parks Canada to increase funding for their summer festival. Turning it from a 1-day event to a multi week virtual celebration. They are learning from the Australian experience.
The Trust also recently reached out to places of faith and brought stakeholders together on a webinar to think about new sources of funding. In fact, there is a lot of collaboration going on across the board. Indeed, the Trust mobilised the sector to write a letter to ministers explaining the sort of stimulus funding they would like to see. And making the case that not all the money should be spent on construction.
India is under lockdown until 3 May but this date will likely be extended. Farming and rural industry are continuing. However, numbers are going up steadily as it’s difficult to enforce social distancing in the poorer areas. The Trust for Rural Heritage and Development has stopped most of its field work and is considering cutting salaries. Those working at home are focussing on the preparation of future programmes and mobilising funding for craftspeople.
Ari said that the crisis is making everyone more creative. She reported that the Indonesian Heritage Trust (BPPI) had launched a directory of cultural landscapes. She added that regular online discussions were reaching people far away. Moreover that they continued to send vitamins and face-masks to people working in the forests.
In the Czech Republic, Irena noted that the virus came at a very bad time and the Czech National Trust was preparing a short, restrictive season. Or indeed no season at all. However, she also said that everyone is trying to find a silver lining to the crisis. She shared the creative work of Czech animator, Dora Martinkova, who would be delighted to work with INTO members on creating engaging virtual content. Here is an example of a piece she created with local school children about Donatello and Brunelleschi, which we love:
Emily said that the crisis is forcing the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) to think more flexibly as an organisation. They are just coming to the end of their five year plan and strategising for the next plan has been very different. CCFU prepared an article on culture and epidemics which has been picked up in several newspapers including in the Observer. Emily also noted that their railway work has been approved and their thinking about a National Trust is maturing.
On 5 May we will hold our second Town Hall session on ‘Re-engaging Historic Sites’ at 12 noon GMT. Do let us know if you would like to join that conversation. A summary of the first discussion can be found here.
We will continue to share your ideas and experiences as we face this crisis together. One really interesting document is this piece from the Ruan Yisan Heritage Foundation in China: Research on 6 reopened Historic Places and Museums during the epidemic of COVID-19 in Shanghai and Suzhou.
From discussions with our members, we learned that you were eager to learn and share communications ideas. There are two previous blogs with some nice examples on our website: 10 April 2020 and 3 April 2020.