Due to the Corona crisis, almost all cultural heritage institutions have seen a huge decline in their visitor numbers; museums as well as galleries, archives, and libraries. This decline relates to all types of visitors and users, but especially to adults and in many cases, it amounts to 50% or more. Even after restrictions were lifted, audiences did not return immediately, and the expectations for the future are not very hopeful.
Institutions are doing their best to remain in the public’s attention in other ways, with greater or smaller degrees of success. The question is whether this will be done in a sustainable manner and whether certain population groups are not excluded. Recent studies show that the pandemic has a major impact on a target group that can (and could) already be seen as vulnerable. While it is especially important for this group to have social contacts and retain contact with cultural sites, this is now seriously complicated by the circumstances.
The Erasmus+ project CRISP (Research on Creative, Innovative and Sustainable Practices to get adults (back) in touch with heritage) extensively researches initiatives in the cultural heritage sector focusing on good practice. The research takes place completely online, but we will also interview those responsible – users, people within the industry, and political stakeholders. Also, an extensive survey among users and non-users is to be carried out; the researchers are interested as much in practices that don’t work as in those that do, as both will teach them important lessons going forward.
How do we as a lab approach the research?
CRISP is conducted in our lab, where our researchers, teachers, students and partners (business community and/or governmental parties) work together on (complex) social issues. Tourism can be a vehicle to help preserve the future of cultural heritage.
The CRISP consortium uses the project to make an inventory of approaches that do and do not deliver the predicted and desired results with the target group; vulnerable adults. Professor New Urban Tourism Ko Koens: ‘’Our results will be made available to everyone, and we will actively contribute to it. Ultimately, our goal is to allow others to achieve productive results with these outcomes. We do not start this project under the presumption that we will provide an answer to everything, but rather in the expectation that we may lay the foundation for further developments and initiatives. In addition, we believe that we will raise awareness of the issues that exist when involving adults in the world of European cultural heritage. We do this because we believe this can produce a positive effect on European society as a whole. Knowledge of each other and of each other’s heritage continues to be of great importance in a world where understanding each other is not self-evident. ‘’
The project is also intended to contribute to a better and mutual understanding of strategies involving the target group and to assess which do and which don’t work, and in what setting. This knowledge will be combined with experiences gained in other relevant projects to create a better overall understanding of present and future approaches.
What is the importance for our education?
Our researchers Wendy Raaphorst and Charlotte Beukers are very much involved in the Cultural Tourism minor of the Tourism Management Hogeschool Inholland Rotterdam program. Together with students we already conduct research for the Netherlands Intangible Heritage Knowledge Center (KIEN) on tourism and intangible heritage. The CRISP project can be seen as an addition to this. We are coaching groups of students to come up with solutions for complex cultural and heritage tourism-related concerns.
What are the expected results?
Visiting heritage institutions via online media is well accessible for the public that already dealt with information in this way. But what about the elderly or people with less technical skills or opportunities? How inclusive are these developments? And what about the audience that did not or hardly come and for which the hesitation or disinterest was too great even before the crisis?
We are especially – but by no means exclusively – interested in the experiences of adults that are facing economic, social, or health issues. Using four training activities, we will discuss the outcome of our investigations and prepare conclusions. At the end of the project all of our descriptions and conclusions will be available for everyone on a website.