Best in Heritage 2020: an enriching digital experience of heritage excellence

The Best in Heritage annual conference, in main partnership with the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and Europa Nostra, and with the support of the Creative Europe programme of the EU, was held fully online this year.

Over the course of three months, starting from late June 2020, the project delivered an annual overview of best practices in museums, heritage and conservation through a series of 42 interviews with representatives of award-winning achievements from the past year on their YouTube channel. The 42 interviews provided a diverse selection of material for all interested in best practices and innovations in the wide field of cultural heritage and public memory institutions. The series featured talks with prominent laureates from the past year, coming from art to civil rights museums, educational programmes to costume festivals, from national libraries to restored castles, conservation projects to archaeological digs, disrupted exhibitions to vital educational programmes, and covering a vast array of new trends with immersive recreations of historical events and places, interactive visits, wide-reaching social media campaigns and open access collections.

Among the award-winning achievements presented during the Best in Heritage 2020 were former European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards laureates (VERONA: Van Eyck Research in OpeN Access, Le Dimore del Quartetto, Stewards of Cultural Heritage, The Portal of Glory, The Queen Louise Adit Complex, Fortified Settlement of Mutso).

Europa Nostra’s Secretary General, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, in her new capacity as co-chair of the Board of Stakeholders of Best in Heritage, congratulated all the award-winning achievements featured in the 2020 online conference with a video message. “Special greetings to all the heritage champions that are taking part in that conference; I look forward to your presentations” stated Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović and added “Special greetings also from me to the six winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards that we have the honor of organising together with the European Union.”

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, also extended her congratulations to The Best in Heritage organising team for their inspirational and engaging work in these challenging times. “I am sure this very special energy and vibe that is so characteristic of The Best in Heritage conference will be experienced by all of you even through virtual means. I am very grateful to my dear colleague and friend Professor Thomislav Šola [Director of the Best in Heritage] and Luca Cipek [Project Manager of the Best in Heritage] for all the creativity, imagination, innovation that they have put in the organisation of this virtual edition of The Best in Heritage Conference.” stated Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović.

Projects of Influence

The finale of the Best in Heritage 2020 digital edition was reached at the end of September, when the Jury comprised of six moderators and two last year’s winners voted for the Best in Heritage and IMAGINES 2020 “Project of Influence”.

The IMAGINES title of “Project of Influence 2020” went to the State Library of New South Wales for their project “#NewSelfWales” – presented by Paula Bray. The second place by number of votes was taken by the Fine Arts and Archaeology Museum Besançon for the LIVDEO project – presented by Ciprian Melian. Third by number of votes was ArchAIDE app project, presented by Gabriele Gattiglia.

Apart from the high quality preparation and execution, the jury was excited the most by the openness of the curatorial team to the unintended consequences of involving the audience in the storytelling, and in particular in welcoming the disruptive approach audiences took to the technology that underpinned the visitor experience. Giving an audience agency in the curatorial end-product creates a completely different kind of experience, one that people are happy to share and enjoy. It is through this sense of play that learning is amplified and the extensive work behind the exhibition can be rendered vivid”, stated Ivor Crotty, on behalf of the IMAGINES Jury 2020.

The core programme 2020 “Project of Influence” was given to Helsinki Central Library Oodi – presented by Harri Annala. Second by number of Jury votes was the “Stewards of Cultural Heritage” project by the Archaeological Heritage Network – presented by Moritz Kinzel and Abdulhamid Dihna. And the third place by number of votes went to the Queen Louise Adit Complex – presented by Magdalena Szczypkowska & Michalina Bieńkowska.

The project demonstrated a systematic involvement of the public right from its inception. The jury was very impressed by this involvement of the community in a project of this scale which continues to play a transformative role in the community. We commend the commitment and dedication as a centre of knowledge that crosses boundaries and works with diverse resources and learning practices. It is at the same time grounded in the past and serving the present, by engaging with the newest achievements of technology. The Jury was impressed by the architecture of the building, as it was conceived with each level designed to address the involvement and participation and how it integrated with the city.” mentioned Dr Monisha Ahmed, on behalf of Core Programme Jury 2020.

Professor Tomislav Šola, Director of The Best in Heritage, also shared a personal message on the occasion of the announcement of this year’s winners. “This year’s edition demonstrated many tendencies. Technology has widened both the range and the scale of activities. Of central importance is the need to serve communities, place visitor interests at the heart of our work, enable collaborative practice and develop co-curation”, highlighted Professor Tomislav Šola and continued by saying “The forward-looking concept of the conference is our best guarantee, that will bring us next year to the 20th anniversary of the conference. Due to our partnerships and support, the conference presents a unique platform where official, private and civil society projects in the heritage sector meet. Thus, the conference offers a rare opportunity of insight into the quality and innovation that the best practices can offer, establishing and promoting the influence of the best among us”.

Meet the award-winning achievements of The Best in Heritage 2020 through watching the interview series (here) or by reading The Best in Heritage 2020 publication (here). Alternatively, for a summary of the The Best in Heritage 2020 online conference watch the video report here.

The Best in Heritage Conference was launched in 2002 and has been organised in partnership with Europa Nostra since 2009.

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