This week, we held our quarterly teleconference of the INTO Board of Trustees. We begin our meetings with a round-up of what’s been going on at everyone’s organisations. We call this our ‘Learn and share’ and it’s a really nice way to take the temperature of our whole membership, via this representative sample. So, by way of an update this week, here is what the Trustees shared, but first a quick plug for our next webinar:
In this webinar, site managers from three large European trusts reflect on their experience of reopening, with a focus on the practical. How have sites been opened safely? Are visitors keeping their distance? What has been the best way to serve food safely? We’ll compare and contrast the approaches of our speakers, looking tips that can be applied in National Trusts elsewhere in the world. The webinar takes place at 3pm current UK time (2pm UTC/GMT) and we invite you to register via our website.
William White began our Learn and Share by saying that Bermuda Airport had just reopened, bringing some welcome tourists (although also the first new cases of coronavirus). The Bermuda National Trust have kept their staff on throughout, working from home, and a really nice lockdown accomplishment has been the restoration Eve’s Pond (a Buy-Back-Bermuda project). The team have cleared the nature reserve of invasive plant species and are about to plant new grass plugs. With everyone focussing on access to nature at the moment, this is really inspirational.
Emily Drani reported that the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) has begun its National Trust work. The new manager is now in place, their work at Jinja Railway Station is going well and a first demonstration event planned at a Kampala cinema. (I love these pictures of the press conference for #SaveWatotoBuilding – you can show your support via CCFU’s facebook page.) Some funders have offered additional resources during the crisis and thanks to INTO, they now have two additional irons in the fire. (You can read Justin’s Scully’s study into the Feasibility of a National Trust for Uganda here.)
Australia has been lucky, Darren Peacock said. But the recent outbreak in Melbourne has reminded people that it’s not over yet. Things are going back to normal, although there will be more working from home in the future. The National Trust for South Australia has received a major grant from the federal government to fund a heritage tourism route along a historic railway, which will support work with indigenous communities regenerate as well as three National Trust sites along the way.
Natalie Bull said they had also been very fortunate. At the National Trust for Canada everyone has kept working and they have also received extra funding, like for their summer internships programme and heritage festival. The Trust has cemented its role as a convenor of conversations and the next gathering of the Canadian heritage sector will focus on anti-racism (as mentioned in my update last week).
The US is having a tough time, Katherine Malone-France reported, with COVID-19 and social justice issues. She noted that whilst the National Trust for Historic Trust for Historic Preservation had made public statements in the past, they have taken a much less equivocal stance lately. She was very proud of that. Moreover, the Trust has a moral imperative to take position on Black Lives Matter, she said. It is important to show how we are living these statements, through action plans on racial justice and equity.
At the time of our meeting, they were just about to announce grants to 27 places from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund totalling $1.6m. This is a truly inspirational programme. Generally, the National Trust is weathering the storm. They have reached 101% of their fundraising goals this year, membership is up, sites open and close again … “this is not the new normal, it’s the next normal”, Katherine added. And finally, she said that 2020 was definitely “the year of the landscape”! And I think we all agree.
India has lifted lockdown in many parts of the country, but there has been an increase in cases. The government is focussing on domestic tourism and reopening monuments, although they are now suffering from a locust invasion. SK Misra reported that the Trust for Rural Heritage and Development had been able to raise funds for its education work. The office is partly open and the focus is on planning for the future.
In Justin Albert’s absence, I shared with the board that the NTEWNI was going through a major reset programme. It is looking to cut operating costs by about 25% to try and offset the losses of this year. Some of this will be pay-related but there will be other savings sought, like reduced spend on travel or print and marketing. A small number of houses were about to reopen and every signal is that 2020 will be a bumper summer for the NTEWNI, with a big national focus on staycations. (You can read John Orna-Ornstein’s blog about reopening houses here.)
We also talked about the wider impacts of COVID-19 on the INTO family and I actually recorded a short video along similar lines for Heritage New Zealand the following day. They had asked for a ‘Queen’s Speech’ to use in their membership mailing this month! I’m not sure I quite delivered, but tell me what you think. Without Emma’s technical help we weren’t able to insert the images of INTO members I referred to. And I had to film myself on my phone in the garden, but … well, that’s the way of the world these days! You can read their newsletter and check out the clip here.
So … we are very happy to welcome back Emma Taylor, our Communications Assistant, from furlough this week! You should see some increased activity on our social media feeds (and some better, more professional content all round …!).
Thank you to everyone who joined the discussion about Reciprocal Visiting on Tuesday. I have a few 1-2-1 conversations coming up and will report back after those are completed.
Thank you too to those who have completed our sustainable tourism survey – there’s still time to do so if you haven’t yet via this link. And there is more information about American Express’s support for INTO Antwerp 2021 on our website here.
And lastly, please join our webinar next week – more details can be found here https://intoorg.org/programmes/into-webinars!