Sound & Vision is a large cultural institution in the Netherlands that plays an important role in sharing knowledge with sister institutions. To help carry out this task, Sound & Vision has joined forces with European partners in exciting projects. RECHARGE is one of these projects, and its main belief is that community participation can reinvigorate the cultural heritage sector across Europe. Nienke argues that being part of this project will help Sound & Vision in its mission towards supporting sustainability and the cultural heritage institutions' resilience.
‘There is an unexplored path to improving the work we are doing with communities and networks, to be able to understand how we can strengthen these relationships. We need to understand our role in society and extend [our reach] beyond the limits of the country to a pan-European and global level.'
Nienke explains how this would help open up S&V, and build stronger connections with anyone who wants to access heritage. In this sense, S&V’s participation in the project could inspire and foster knowledge sharing within the sector in the Netherlands and beyond, strengthening the sector.
Cultural Heritage Sector and its Challenges
Many of us talk about the current challenges we’re facing in the cultural heritage sector. Big and small institutions need to tackle digital transformation in order to become more accessible. At the same time, they need to cope with shortage in staff and juggling projects involving community participation, social responsibility and corporate relationships. It’s an even bigger challenge to then balance these efforts with developing financially sustainable long-term partnerships. According to Nienke…
‘(...) heritage institutions do not operate as an island, they are part of society. We have a relationship with the people who come and visit, who we open our doors to, and our connections extend to the place where we are located.’
Nienke emphasises the value of those who collaborate with us in sharing our stories. According to her, we should take pride in nurturing enduring partnerships and relationships at multiple levels, considering this a standard practice for heritage institutions. Therefore, one of our goals in this project is to demonstrate how to implement long-term partnerships and transform projects into programmes.
How RECHARGE helps CHIs to face challenges
Three partners in the consortium are developing Living Labs in which they test the limits and benefits of networks and partnerships they already have in place. From totally different perspectives, the Hunt Museum in Ireland, the Textile Museum in Italy, and the Estonian Maritime Museum in Estonia are developing and implementing their own participatory business models. The experience of these three partners will be documented and analysed so that it could be replicated by others.
Long standing partnerships: the key?
Although the project is still running, we have already recognised some useful insights: long-term partnership could be key to achieving sustainable long-lasting existence for CHIs. Nienke emphasises that the most valuable partnerships are those founded on core principles, in which the relationships grow from long-term commitment. These partnerships should work towards sustained, mutual and shared goals.
Perhaps the most rewarding and challenging aspect we face, as CHI’s, is the fact that we need to learn from our own and other’s experiences. According to Nienke, we can learn from one another, gaining valuable business insights through various collaborations. She believes that the heritage sector can excel in this without compromising its core values and missions.
‘Our aim is to engage in these collaborations with trust, guided by our own values and the mission of our heritage institutions in their respective locations.’
What can you do to face your own challenges?
Join forces with peers, strengthen your networks, learn with and from partners, share your experiences and knowledge, and most of all, dare to walk the paths you haven’t walked yet, maybe they can offer you the solutions you’re looking for.