November was a particularly busy month for BSI, involving participation in international conferences, meetings, workshops and trainings. Both BSI President Peter Stone and Secretariat Dr Emma Cunliffe visited the Netherlands for the signing of an MOU with the Smithsonian’s Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI) and Cultural Emergency Response (CER) on the 2nd November in the Hague. Peter then went to Berlin for an international conference on the future of the World Heritage Convention (WHC) organised by the Institute of Heritage Studies on the 4th November. Three days later he was in Belgium for a CPP experts meeting and exhibition ‘Culture in Armed Conflict’ at NATO HQ, and, by the middle of the month, was in South Korea. Finally, on the 22nd November, Peter gave the key note address at the annual meeting of the Office of Cultural Heritage of the Barcelona Provincial Council in Spain.
During the international conference in Berlin, entitled ’50 Years World Heritage Convention — Times of Peace, Conflict and War’, Peter drew attention in his presentation, ‘World Heritage Sites: Targets in conflict? Ambassadors for peace?” to how CPP is crucial for helping to build “heathy, peaceful, stable, sustainable communities”.
Taking part in the same event were Prof. Dr. Friedrich Schipper, Executive President of Blue Shield Austria, who moderated the session Visions from the Civil Society – 50 Years of World Heritage – What has been achieved – What has not been achieved – What has to be done in the face of this war? and Ms Elisabeth Korinth, Officer at the Senate Department for Culture and Europe, and Vice President at BS Germany, who participated in the round table on The Future – Discussion with Former, Current and Future Experts. The conference ended with the presentation of an open access book: 50 Years World Heritage Convention: Shared Responsibility — Conflict and Reconciliation’.
In the middle of the month, Peter was in South Korea for a conference on ‘Heritage Interpretation in Armed Conflict’, organised by the International Centre for the Interpretation and Presentation of World Heritage Sites (WHIPIC). Acknowledging in his presentation that heritage interpretation is often focused on the past, he highlighted how it also needs be situated in the present, and look to the future. But he cautioned that “Interpreting heritage sites during an armed conflict impacting on those sites is an almost impossible task” and highlighted how “heritage interpretation is primarily a peacetime activity“.
Towards the end of what had been a very busy month, Peter gave the keynote address at the opening of the Office of Cultural Heritage of the Barcelona Provincial Council’s XXXIV Meeting of the Local Museums Network on 22nd November. The focus of this year’s meeting was Museums in the face of conflicts and humanitarian crises. With the focus on conflict and its consequences for museums in terms of CPP and other issues, Peter stressed the importance of forward planning. “Are you prepared?” he asked, and listed a number of measures that conservators, heritage practitioners, and volunteers can take to ensure the safety of their collections before any threat materialises. Amongst other measures, he stressed the need to create ‘grab-lists’, to pre-position packing materials, and to identify safe spaces for storing collections that may be at risk.