A year like no other: ICCROM 2020 Annual Report released
Much has already been written about 2020, a year unlike any in living memory. Of course, the advent of the global pandemic was the dominant story, testing the resilience of nations confronted with the sudden loss of lives and livelihoods, and in many places a crisis still unfolding. However, these were also 12 months in which we witnessed remarkable feats of human endeavour, as vaccines were developed in record time and millions worldwide rallied in support of transformative action, from climate change to social justice. By the end, 2020 was defined as much by hope as it was by hardship – a dichotomy we have chosen to reflect in the design of the ICCROM Annual Report.
Undoubtedly, its boldest element is the cover depicting Michelangelo's David in a face mask, juxtaposed against an exuberant background. While open to individual interpretation, for us, the image symbolizes our motivations in 2020 as an organization particularly concerned with the impact of the pandemic on cultural heritage and determined to meet the challenges positively for our Member States. It is also a reference to Italy, the country in which ICCROM is proudly headquartered, which was among the first to suffer the devastation wrought by COVID-19. In that sense, David, as the fabled protagonist who felled the giant, feels emblematic of broader efforts to overcome this historic period of adversity.
Overall, the adventurous use of colour and graphics throughout the report represents a break from convention befitting a year that was anything but routine, and in which the centrality of art and culture in all our lives was affirmed by dint of its curtailment due to lockdowns and other necessary public health measures. Like countless others, we were forced to adapt quickly and creatively to ensure our work could continue unabated, and in many respects ICCROM is better for the experience. Despite initial setbacks, we accomplished a significant amount in core areas such as capacity building, research, and knowledge-sharing, with benefits for more than 100 countries. Our Flagship Programmes proved to be agile and robust, and we ably minimized disruption to valued services, embraced new modes of course delivery, and even launched several highly relevant prospective activities.
As always, our achievements would not be possible without the support of our partners, totalling 267 in 2020, and our 137 Member States. We are especially grateful for their generosity and trust in a year when none were spared from the turmoil – it attests to the strength of our shared commitment to protecting and preserving our global cultural heritage. There will be a need in the months and years ahead for honest and thorough appraisal of the international response to the events of 2020, not least if together we are to succeed at fulfilling longer-term ambitions, including the Sustainable Development Goals. For now, we look back on an exceptional chapter in the ICCROM story with thanks, and forward to the next with optimism and a clear sense of purpose.