Dubrovinik: The Best in Heritage 2015 gathers participants from 37 countries

The Best in Heritage conference 2015 took place on 24-26 September in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and brought together a diverse group of 130 participants coming from 37 countries. The presentation of 28 award-winning museum, heritage and conservation projects – including six winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award – illustrated state-of-the-art practices and provided the ideal platform for fruitful discussions and networking. The event was organised in partnership with Europa Nostra – with the support of the EU Creative Europe programme – and ICOM Endowment Fund. Europa Nostra was represented by Denis de Kergorlay, Executive President, John Sell, Executive Vice-President, and Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General.

Best in Heritage 2015
The conference opened with a welcome ceremony in the Marin Držić Theatre on the evening of 24 September.

In his address, John Sell, who is also the Chairman of the Advisory Board of The Best in Heritage, pointed out the many threats to cultural heritage in the modern world and how colleagues, working under extreme circumstances, sometimes even give their lives in defence of our shared heritage.

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović highlighted that “only in close cooperation and partnership we can address many challenges and respond effectively to many threats to our heritage” and that “our collective voices and actions can make a real difference”.

Tomislav Šola, Director of The Best in Heritage, drew attention to the unique features of the conference, emphasizing that it is a global meeting place of professional and civil society representatives in the heritage field. Šola added that the focus of the event ‘Projects of Influence’ highlights the power of example and inspiration that their quality and achievement generate.

In his keynote speech ‘Heritage and crisis? Some recommendations’, Carl Depauw, General Manager of the Art Museums in Antwerp, Belgium, actively challenged the listeners in thinking differently about how to run a museum in the 21st century.

During the subsequent welcome reception held at the Sponza Palace, participants were greeted by Goran Svilanovic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council based in Sarajevo (B&H), who expressed the wish and hope that in the future many more heritage professionals from the wider region will be able to attend and benefit from The Best in Heritage event in Dubrovnik.

Over the remaining two days, the most innovative, professionally advanced and inspiring projects nationally or internationally recognised in 2014 were shown at the Marin Držić theatre. Six winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award presented and discussed their outstanding achievements: in the Conservation category, the Horta Museum in Brussels in Belgium, the Teatro Sociale in Bergamo in Italy, the Historical Route of the Lines of Torres Vedras in Lisbon in Portugal, and Dragomirna Church’s 17th Century Frescoes in Suceava in Romania (Grand Prix and Public Choice Award winner); and in the Education, Training and Awareness-Raising category, Passage: From a Rusty City to a New Miskolc in Hungary (Grand Prix), and The Coen Case in Hoorn in The Netherlands.

At the end of all presentations, the audience voted for the most influential project. The distinction as the ‘Project of Influence 2015’ went to The Coen Case project, represented by Dr. Ad Geerdink, Director of the Westfries Museum in Hoorn.

At the closing event held in the beautiful Rector’s Palace on the evening of 26 September, Europa Nostra’s Executive President Denis de Kergolay stressed how much inspiration he had drawn from the presented projects. “The Best in Heritage conference always energizes me. These projects are “the best of the best” and meeting the people behind so many amazing museums and cultural heritage treasures, gives new insights and shows the significance of our shared motto “the power of example””.

Europa Nostra’s Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović and Vice-President John Sell, together with Brian Smith, Secretary General of the European Association of Historic Towns and Regions, also met with several NGO’s concerned with current developments which threaten the ancient city of Dubrovnik. They discussed the problems caused by large cruise ships, the constant growth of tourist numbers as well as the proposed new construction projects (including a much debated golf course) in the vicinity of the city zone protected by UNESCO.

In a post-conference event held at the Inter University Centre Dubrovnik on 27 September, participants debated the topic ‘Financing Heritage Institutions in Times of Scarcity.’ The gathering was organised in partnership with the Embassy of the Netherlands in Croatia and in association with ICOM Croatia. Ellen Berends, Ambassador of Netherlands in Croatia, and John Sell, were in attendance, while representatives from the Dutch museum world presented important examples of innovative financing models in the Netherlands.

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