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Newsletter Sharing Heritage Expertise Online version
Sharing Heritage Expertise Special edition, April 2020
'Fort Concordia, Banda Besar’. A young boy runs on a wall of fort Concordia (photo: Isabelle Boon, 'I love Banda')
Welcome to this special edition of our newsletter! In the past, each of our organisations has faced challenges, but the current crisis related to the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on the cultural heritage sector around the world are unprecedented. More than ever, the connections between our countries are evident. To foster these connections, especially now we are all dealing with social distancing, cultural lockdown and travel restrictions, we would like to share updates on the situation in the heritage sector in each of our Shared Cultural Heritage partner countries. For this, we have received input from several guest reporters, who we would like to thank for their efforts in these hectic times. Also, in the Meet our Partner section you can read about how you could contribute to DutchCulture’s Helpdesk COVID-19. In July, we will return with a regular newsletter. Until then: keep well and stay safe.
For this special edition, we contacted partners in each of the 10 Shared Cultural Heritage partner countries, to ask how the current crisis is affecting the cultural heritage field in their country and their own institution. Unfortunately, museums, heritage and archaeological sites and monuments have closed to the public in all countries, due to national measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In many countries, the cultural heritage sector is severely affected by loss of revenue. But our partners also shed light on how they are creatively adapting to the current crisis, and finding optimism in these difficult times.

In Australia, we contacted Andrew Viduka, Assistant Director Maritime and Commonwealth Heritage of the Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. There, COVID-19 has significantly impacted heritage through the restrictions on public movement. The closure of World, National and local heritage sites stopped the public’s physical access and impacted employees and those who indirectly benefit from heritage tourism. Nonetheless, many heritage properties still have staff undertaking maintenance and other activities to ensure heritage values continue to be managed. Equally affected are planned national and international heritage conferences, and natural and cultural heritage and public archaeology programmes, which have been delayed or cancelled. The Australian government is actively exploring ways to financially support heritage sites and individuals directly and indirectly impacted. The Australian Government’s Heritage Branch has responded to the pandemic by rapidly moving towards working from home, reprioritising activities and assisting the broader Australian government’s efforts to address the pandemic.
From Carla Rabelo Costa we heard that in Brazil all non-essential public services have been shut down, including the National Heritage Agency (IPHAN), where she works. All public servants are working from home and fortunately they don’t face the threat of losing their job. However, private museums and art galleries are facing financial difficulties and the government still hasn’t made financial aid available. The greatest impact of COVID-19 on IPHAN’s work is on listed cities in Brazil, since the Agency is responsible for their inspection. IPHAN’s state representatives issue construction permits to preserve the outstanding values of each site, however, these permits are now being issued online and deadlines have been extended. Surveillance field work, which helps monitor the impact of interventions on heritage, has stopped in most listed cities, and thus IPHAN is currently unable to control the damage on historical sites. The Agency often works with universities, communities and other stakeholders, but most of its joint projects have been postponed. IPHAN’s Management and Policy Coordination team is now creating national and local policy guidelines to improve its collaborative work. 
Nowshad Padiyath, from the Muziris Heritage Project, shared that in India all activities connected to conservation have stopped. Since many monuments and museums are managed by central or state governments, employees are receiving their salaries on time, despite the heavy loss of revenue. Freelance professionals and others, however, are struggling with the situation. The Muziris Heritage Project was planning to complete its pending museum works by March 2021, however, the current situation will have an effect on ongoing activities. It is expected that the widespread revenue loss will also have a significant impact on the Muziris Heritage Project, yet its management team has decided not to reduce its staff. The management team is making the most of the current limitations to work on other important tasks: for instance, a SWOT analysis was carried out regarding the organisation, its strategic, medium and immediate goals have been revisited, and museum managers were asked to resubmit their targets for 2020-21 and to consider new avenues for revenue.
We were informed by Punto Wijayanto from the Indonesian Heritage Trust (BPPI) that many cultural organisations making a living from cultural heritage sites are currently unable to earn enough income, thus the government is setting up an assistance programme to support them. The government is also developing an online training to improve heritage professionals’ competency in conservation practices. The Indonesian Heritage Trust is working with its partners, including heritage institutions and universities, to mitigate the impact of the crisis on heritage activities. For instance, they are considering how they can continue to engage with audiences online. It is currently impossible to carry out work on-site, but some projects are still under preparation or taking place with the necessary adjustments to the situation. The Indonesian Heritage Trust continues to campaign for heritage conservation by holding discussions through video conference and social media channels. The Trust has organised online events that have been made available on YouTube. Furthermore, UNESCO and five World Heritage Sites in Indonesia went live to celebrate World Heritage Day 2020.
In Japan, it is currently difficult to work on projects related to the cultural sector. With many projects being cancelled or postponed, professionals working in this field are worried about continuing their work due to the current uncertainties regarding the future, since it isn’t known when the situation will improve. Daiki Nakagawa let us know that since it’s impossible to physically visit sites, the Japan and Netherlands Architecture Cultural Association (JNACA) can only do non-onsite research and online meetings. For the Association, these limitations are not a critical issue if projects are postponed. However, its members of staff are worried that some might be cancelled, which makes it hard to keep up the motivation. In Japan, remote work wasn't very common before the current situation but the JNACA staff rapidly adjusted. Through the necessary changes in modes of working, the balance between work and personal life has changed. Nakagawa sees it as a good opportunity to rethink lifestyles, and future perspectives regarding activities related to cities, rural towns and heritage.
In the Netherlands, not only are museums and monuments closed, but archaeological excavations have also become challenging. Vocational training without practical lessons is hardly feasible and many cultural organisations and freelancing professionals are struggling with revenue loss. To help them survive and to prevent loss of employment, the government has allocated extra budget. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) works with a range of stakeholders, from private owners to research and knowledge institutes, specialist contractors and government authorities, to monitor the impact on the heritage sector, support where possible and anticipate on the afterlife of the new corona virus. According to Jinna Smit, for the Shared Cultural Heritage Programme of the RCE, the corona crisis means that some projects are put on hold, postponed or cancelled, but at the same time, the exploration of other modes of collaboration has accelerated. Thus this period also provides new opportunities for professionalisation and reflection on the long-term effect of this crisis for international collaboration.
In Russia, cultural institutions are severely suffering from the loss of revenue. Pavel Kouzmine of the Netherlands Embassy in Moscow let us know that it is expected that some independent cultural organisations might not survive the current crisis, even though the government has alleviated the tax pressure and loan payments. Museums are increasing the number of online tours, webinars and other digital ways of working. They cannot, however, develop paid services as audiences themselves have less money to spend. Most staff members of the Embassy are currently working from home. The cultural section is working on ongoing projects that don’t involve public gatherings. Public events have been postponed, and there has been less contact with the Embassy’s partners in the field. Fortunately, however, its members of staff are keeping busy with ongoing activities that started before the current crisis, as well as with new heritage-related initiatives. There are therefore plans to start financing new projects.
South Africa
From Catherine Snel of the Sanlam Archives in South Africa, we heard that the heritage sector went into a complete standstill, meaning a loss of income, especially for the private sector. Government, university and corporate museums and heritage sites will continue to receive financial support. Many activities have been cancelled or postponed, and preventive conservation is currently a significant problem. Most work is now done remotely, and museums are creating virtual tours. The current crisis has made Sanlam’s staff members realise how important it is to have contingency policies in place for events such as the current crisis. The South African Naval Museum is one of the many museums that closed its doors on 16 March. Curator Commander Leon Steyn shared with us that curatorial work is financially supported by donations received from the public, which means that this crucial means of income has come to a halt. The museum has been offering virtual tours and it seems like it has received even more (virtual) visitors during the lockdown than when physically open to the public!
Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, although there are indications that the lockdown measures will be relaxed from 4 May onwards, no announcement has yet been made as to whether museums, heritage and archaeological sites will then reopen to the public. The Embassy of the Netherlands in Colombo, where Mahendra Ratnaweera works, is currently working from home and some essential staff go to the embassy when needed. (Shared) cultural heritage continues to be discussed during the weekly policy meetings, which are now done via MS Teams conferencing. Unfortunately, the lockdown came at a time when the Embassy had just invited proposals for new projects, which now had to be put on hold. The only project which had been finalised and was about to be implemented was an exhibition on Dutch Forts in early May. It is now scheduled to take place in September and in principle it will be shown in different locations around the country: Galle, Jaffna, Mannar, Trincomalee and Batticaloa.
Regarding Suriname, Stephen Fokké, director of the Suriname Built Heritage Foundation or SBHF (Stichting Gebouwd Erfgoed Suriname), let us know that there are currently no tourists in the country since all flights to and from Suriname have been cancelled. Sites like the Surinamese Museum, Jodensavanne and the Open Air Museum Fort Nieuw Amsterdam are suffering from the loss of revenue and members of staff risk losing their jobs. Tourists are an essential source of income for heritage tourist sites in Suriname. Although the Surinamese government has announced that it will establish a COVID-19 Emergency Fund, as of 27 April no financing was made available. After being closed for several weeks, the office of the SBHF is now open a few days a week with limited staff and working hours. Most work is still being done from home. All planned participations in regional and international conferences and workshops have been postponed or cancelled. Other heritage institutions, such as the National Archive of Suriname, are currently also closed.
United States
In the United States, Sophie van Doornmalen of the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York (CGNY), informed us that cultural events and programming have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Although governmental and private funds made relief support available, most of the American cultural organisations depend heavily on ticket revenue and philanthropy. With a severe loss of revenue, cultural organisations are forced to furlough employees and for smaller institutions this could mean definite closure. On a positive note, the online presence and views have dramatically increased as organisations are making their collections, research, educational resources, webinars, virtual tours and talks with curators available online. Through their creativity and community engagement, the sector is offering moral support and showing the importance of culture, especially in these challenging times. In the midst of this crisis, the CGNY is still promoting Dutch arts and culture through the Dutch Culture USA social media and website. The CGNY is still in the process of adapting to this ‘new normal’ and we continue to anticipate how to best support the Dutch arts and culture in the U.S.
Participants of a 2019 Visitors Programme from the US. More information about programme and its participants in link below (photo: Renske Ebbers).
Meet our Partner, DutchCulture
DutchCulture is the Dutch network and knowledge organisation for international cultural cooperation and it is one of the executing organisations of the national Shared Cultural Heritage programme. Within this programme, DutchCulture‘s main objective is to improve the coherence of activities carried out within the programme and the visibility of shared cultural heritage, by offering a number of services to Dutch and international heritage professionals and institutions. These include providing advice on Shared Cultural Heritage projects, funding projects (through the Shared Cultural Heritage Matching Fund) and the travel expenses of Dutch legal entities and setting up visitors programmes for international heritage professionals (such as this one).

In March, DutchCulture created the Helpdesk COVID-19 for international cultural cooperation, a page that shares relevant information for cultural professionals that are mainly located in the Netherlands who work internationally. On this page, DutchCulture has also been monitoring and collecting information about the developments of the corona crisis in the countries that are part of the International Cultural Policy of the Netherlands. These includes the 10 Shared Cultural Heritage countries. Each country webpage is updated regularly, and provides information about the general situation in the respective country, the measures that have been taken, travel advice, relevant information for the cultural sector and online initiatives that have been developed (when available).

If you have relevant information regarding the cultural heritage sector in your country, please send an email to infopoint@dutchculture.nl so it can be added to the respective country webpage. Currently these webpages are only available in Dutch, but until an English version becomes available, you can use the GoogleTranslate tool to translate them into your own language.
Sharing Heritage Expertise is the newsletter of the Shared Cultural Heritage Programme of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. This programme follows from the International Cultural Policy Framework of the Dutch government. Other organisations executing the national Shared Cultural Heritage Programme are DutchCulture and the National Archives of the Netherlands, and the Embassies of the Netherlands in the 10 partner countries. For more information on their activities, see their respective websites.

For more information, please visit our website (English and Dutch) or contact the editor, Sofia Lovegrove (lovegrove.sofia@gmail.com). We welcome comments and suggestions regarding the content of our newsletter.
Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
Smallepad 5 | 3811 MG Amersfoort
Postbus 1600 | 3800 BP Amersfoort
The Netherlands
+31 (0)33 – 421 7 421
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