Inspired by the example of the National Trust in the UK, the CNT has been established to connect and strengthen the many branches of the Czech heritage sector in order to increase awareness of the historic environment at a grass-roots level and enable the involvement of local people in the restoration, protection, reuse and enjoyment of their cultural heritage.
The idea of a Czech National Trust was first mooted several years ago. Indeed when HRH The Prince of Wales (President and Patron of several National Trusts) visited the region in 2010, INTO convened a meeting of heritage practitioners in Prague and there was much discussion of the possibility.
The following year, INTO hosted a capacity building training programme (funded through the generous support of Mr Rodney Davidson AO) which included two young Czech heritage professionals. Participants came to the UK to study best practices and develop strategies for strengthening the capacity of organisations and emerging leaders. They explored different approaches to safeguarding the future of historic buildings by building community engagement, developing craft skills and securing long-term funding.
INTO’s engagement with the Czech team has been led by Oliver Maurice, our Director of Membership, who visited the country on several occasions to offer advice and encouragement. Ian Kennaway, another former National Trust Director, has also been instrumental as co-founder of the Friends of Czech Historic Buildings, Gardens and Parks (now called ‘The Friends of Czech Heritage).
At one such event in 2012, Dr Irena Edwards, then Chairman of the Friends of Czech Heritage, made a ‘call to arms’ to the Czech public and an enthusiastic working group, led by the manager of one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic, Kromeriz Chateau and Gardens, was convened to steer efforts forward.
The Czech National Trust was formally registered in October 2013, has established its office in Moravia and identified two pilot projects to act as a focus for public support and as models for future activities. The event on 18th June in London is to celebrate and share this achievement.
The CNT’s Board and Advisory Committee includes well-regarded heritage practitioners, representatives from the fields of accountancy, banking and legal professions, an ex-Minister of Culture, a handful of private historic house owners, a world famous architect, to name but a few. Many will be attending a celebration of the launch of the Czech National Trust tomorrow, being held under the patronage of the Czech Ambassador to the UK, Mr Michal Zantovsky.
“The Communist era was not kind to cultural monuments. It left properties uncared for, changed their use – often to their detriment – and instilled in the people a feeling that heritage had nothing to do with them,” writes Dr Edwards. “Inspired by the worldwide National Trust movement, the Czech National Trust plans to grow awareness and pride within local communities; help them love and adopt these places; and start a grassroots movement to preserve them for future generations.”
On the eve of the launch, Catherine Leonard, Head of the INTO Secretariat, expressed INTO’s delight at the establishment of the Czech National Trust “We are pleased to welcome the Czech National Trust to the INTO family and will continue to share our knowledge and experience to enable this burgeoning Trust to flourish and achieve its important objectives.”
The overarching mission of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) is to promote the conservation and enhancement of the cultural and natural heritage of all nations for the benefit of the people of the world. INTO is an international network of National Trusts and similar non-governmental organisations, globally diverse but united in a shared commitment to work through cooperation, coordination and comradeship. Our objectives are to: develop and promote best conservation practices; increase the capacity of individual organisations; establish Trusts where they do not presently exist; and advocate in the interests of heritage conservation.