Europa Nostra delivers keynote speech at Europeana 2021 Conference “Recover, Rebuild, Grow”

Europa Nostra participated in the Europeana 2021 Conference “Recover, Rebuild, Grow” held virtually from 10 to 12 November. Through a rich and interactive online programme, the conference looked at how Europe can rebuild and grow through cultural heritage in post-pandemic times. Europa Nostra’s Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic actively contributed to the conference with an acclaimed keynote address, followed by a panel discussion, on 11 November.

Europeana 2021 aimed at raising voices from across the heritage sector to empower digital transformation and explore the role of (digital) cultural heritage in supporting a sustainable, responsible and inspiring future. It was organised around three themes: Putting values at the heart of Europe’s digital future (day 1), The role of cultural heritage in a sustainable future (day 2) and Technology as a driver for social change (day 3).

Europa Nostra’s Secretary General actively contributed to the second day of the conference, which focused on using Europe’s digital transformation to contribute to a sustainable future. In her keynote address, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic elaborated on the extensive work carried by Europa Nostra to ensure that cultural heritage is at the heart of Europe’s discussions on sustainability.

Any holistic strategy for sustainable development needs to have a strong cultural dimension. Why? Because Europe’s green transition will require, first and foremost, a cultural shift,” stressed Europa Nostra’s Secretary General. “Culture and heritage play a key role in addressing the major environmental challenges facing Europe and the world. Aware of this unique potential, Europa Nostra has been active in mobilising the heritage ecosystem for climate action, in particular in the last couple of years,” she added. Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović then reminded how cultural heritage can contribute to building a more sustainable, inclusive and beautiful Europe.

When talking about sustainability, she emphasised: “For the huge potential of cultural heritage to be unleashed, all climate, environmental and sustainability frameworks – the European Green Deal at European level and the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the global one – must incorporate social and cultural aspects. Conversely, climate considerations need to be effectively mainstreamed into heritage policy and actions”. She also applauded the visibility and momentum gained by the heritage for climate movement, as demonstrated by the many heritage-related events organised during the COP26 in Glasgow.

When talking about inclusion, Europa Nostra’s Secretary General reminded how digital means can support the heritage sector to diversify audiences and improve access to cultural heritage, and highlighted the need to reduce the digital gap between smaller and larger heritage organisations. “Europe already plays a leading role in digital cultural heritage and has the potential to forge ahead. Now, we must work together to accelerate and further improve the digital transformation, while narrowing the divide between institutions that are digitally equipped and those that are not,” she stressed.

When talking about beauty, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic underlined the importance of accessing culture, heritage and the arts to bring beauty and hope to people and communities during the trying times of the pandemic and the related lockdowns. She applauded the New European Bauhaus initiative – of which Europa Nostra is a proud partner – which adds a much-needed cultural dimension to the European Green Deal to engage and reach the hearts and minds of citizens across Europe. “Europa Nostra is firmly convinced that Europe’s cultural heritage offers an inspiring framework for sustainable lifestyles, which contribute greatly to the wellbeing of citizens and their communities”, she added.

To close her keynote address, Europa Nostra’s Secretary General launched a forceful Call to Action for a more sustainable, inclusive and beautiful Europe: “At a time when Europe is determined to “build back better”, let us tap on the immense potential of cultural heritage to help us shape a better future together,” she said.

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic was then joined by Susanna Eklund, Designer at the National Library of Finland, Barbara Fischer, Liaison counsel at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, and Héctor Aliaga, Architect and European project technician at Fundación Santa María La Real, for an interesting panel discussion focusing on key EU policy initiatives, such as the European Green Deal and the New European Bauhaus.

At the end of the session, the Europeana climate action manifesto was presented as the result of the commitment by Europeana, the Europeana Foundation and the Europeana Network Association to minimising the impact of the Digital Cultural Heritage world on the climate and environment. Europa Nostra applauds and endorses these efforts and will support in further disseminating this important and timely document.

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