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  • Getting ready to reopen (Weekly blog, 8 May 2020)

    Posted on May 8, 2020
    A blog by Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General

    As INTO members prepare to reopen their sites, our Secretary-General, Catherine Leonard, reflects on the past week:

    “Today is a public holiday here in the UK.  We moved our usual Spring Bank Holiday (first Monday of May) to Friday 8 May this year.  To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.  VE Day was meant to be the start of a weekend of bunting, street parties and community reminiscences.

    (Here’s a picture of my bunting, full of reminiscences as it’s made from scraps of material from the past.   An old curtain belonging to my Granny, some of my late father’s cotton shirts, clothes our children have outgrown, worn out sheets I bought on my first trip to India – each ‘flag’ tells a story!)

    With the country still under lockdown, we will have to wait a little longer until we celebrate.  But I read an article in the Guardian this morning about the parallels between the war and coronavirus.  ‘The war taught us many things: fellow feeling, shared values, resourcefulness’ the veteran reporter, Joan Bakewell, writes.  She goes on ‘with both the war and the pandemic has come the resolve, hardly formulated today but widely shared, that we can’t go back to the old ways’.  Coronavirus is an opportunity to confront the ever-growing inequalities in society.

    Eager to reopen

    This week, we held an INTO member discussion on plans to reopen their sites.  There were 29 people on the call and it was heartening to hear common themes emerging.  But perhaps more important was the real value people felt in learning and sharing with international colleagues.   At the end of the call, we also talked about how INTO members might reshape themselves after the pandemic.  How we will all change and adapt to fit the ‘new normal’.   It may be painful in some respects but also an opportunity to hold onto some of the good things we’ve learned over the past weeks (and stop doing some of the things we’ve found we don’t really need to do anymore).

    Common themes included:

    • Reopen in a phased way, starting with the outdoors
    • Online bookings only
    • Working in partnership with other heritage and environmental organisations
    • Volunteers very keen to come back
    • Differences in understanding of how popular visiting will be with the public
    • Adapted visitor journeys
    • Need for good communications, both before and in-visit

    Thanks to Fabrice Duffaud of REMPART for the photo!

    Writing to government?

    I had some good feedback after sharing the National Trust of Canada’s letter to ministers last week, so here are a couple of recent communications from other leaders of our global movement:

    Firstly, Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust (of England, Wales and Northern Ireland) last week urged the UK government to ensure its recovery plans support green growth.  Like Natalie Bull, she too warns against the temptation of building our way out of the crisis and calls for renewal rather than mere recovery.  ‘Our towns and cities can’t take any more destruction of habitat and biodiversity. We must grow back in green, not grey.’

    We’re in this together

    And secondly, here is Paul Edmondson’s President’s note in the latest issue of Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the US.  Paul also talks about looking to the past for courage, comfort and inspiration.  And he highlights the importance of working together.  Just as when we address the effects of climate change, the challenges of the coronavirus will require ‘that we work side by side with partners, with experts, and with the public to bring the full breadth of ideas and resources to address a global problem’.

    Which says it all really.  We are in this together and we will come out of it together.  I hope all is well with you, your families and organisations.   Do think about our coronavirus TAP-INTO grants and if you don’t already get our newsletter, you can sign up for it here.    (And if you’re interested, here is also the latest news from our Innocastle project.)

    So, on that note, I’m off to put up some bunting … like Wallace and Gromit in their Jubilee Bunt-a-thon with the National Trust (EWNI) from 2012!

    Thanks for reading!

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