Imagine a world without cultural heritage collections: no more libraries, archives, museums, treasured artefacts in temples, cultural centres and communities. How big a difference do you think this would make in your life?
Last year, we conducted an online survey asking this single question in 22 different languages and sent it around the world. In return, we received around 2,400 responses from 102 countries, from people of various ages and occupations.
Two out of every three people said it would make a huge difference in their lives. Over 90% of the respondents said it would have at least a large impact. Only very few people replied that the absence of heritage collections would make a small, very small, or no difference in their lives.
This striking and simple evidence shows that even in today’s fast changing world, people in general care a lot about heritage collections. This reinforces ICCROM’s worldwide mission and commitment to promote the conservation and sustainable use of this precious resource for the benefit of present and future generations.
Different, but interconnected reasons emerged as people justified their answers. For the large majority who care about heritage collections, their reasons include collections as a source of wellbeing, identity and belonging; of knowledge and understanding of others, of knowledge about the past, and our history in this planet. They also constitute a source of livelihood, and a meaningful reference and inspiration for the future. Altogether, the key message was that collections are strongly associated with our very human fabric.
ICCROM firmly believes that collections and their conservation have a crucial role to play in sustainable development. Besides being an effective way of safeguarding and transmitting cultural and natural heritage directly, they provide the basis for enabling a wide range of activities and programmes. From learning, education, participation and research, to creative industries, sustainable tourism and peacebuilding, heritage collections can advance sustainability in its different pillars.
However, many organizations in charge of heritage collections are still unclear on what they can do concretely with their resources, or, they do not see themselves as actors in sustainable development. Furthermore, many of those who could make use of collections in ways that advance sustainable development are unaware of their potential.
Coinciding with the start of the United Nations’ Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, ICCROM is proud to announce the launch of the Our Collections Matter project. The goal of this novel initiative is to accelerate, increase and amplify activity in support of sustainable development through use, development and conservation of heritage collections.
Our Collections Matter is fully aligned with the “Transforming Our World” and “leave no one behind” spirit of the UN 2030 Agenda. It aims to ensure that all collections-based institutions play their fullest part, and that collections and conservation work is valued as an actor in sustainable development by both the heritage and other sectors. It also seeks to highlight the central role of conservation in unlocking the potential of collections for the benefit of all people.
Through a strong coalition of international partners covering all typologies of heritage collections (for example, in museums, archives and libraries), and benefiting from existing knowledge and experience outside the heritage sector, Our Collections Matter will provide practical tools and build capacity to enable collections-based institutions to achieve their maximum potential helping make this world a better place. Stay tuned, and please get in touch if you wish to be part of this collaborative effort!