Cultural route

Welcome to the ERIH December newsletter. Today we look back on two major events: the dance event WORK it OUT and the ERIH Annual Conference in Ghent, which we held again as a hybrid. We also report on the cooperation with the Berlin Forum on Industrial Culture, share the results of the ERIH Industrial Culture Barometer 2020/21 and provide an update on a change of National Representatives.

The topics at a glance:

  • ERIH Event: WORK it OUT 2021 - a short review
  • ERIH Survey: Industrial Heritage Barometer 2020/21
  • ERIH Meetings: Annual Conference and General Assembly 2021
  • ERIH Cooperation: Ninth Berlin Forum on Industrial Culture 2021
  • ERIH Staff: Change of National Representatives
  • ERIH Calendar: Save the date
Museum of Industry. Ghent (B). Line casting machine Typograph Model B, 1895
ERIH Event: WORK it OUT 2021 – a short review

In spite of COVID-19 and very different regional or national restrictions, the annual dance event WORK it OUT was once again an exciting joint experience. This year, the show spanned 35 ERIH sites in 14 European countries. At exactly 3 p.m. CET on 12 September - the "Open Monument Day" in Germany - mostly young teams delivered a fantastic performance, previously rehearsed with the help of a tutorial. However, they were not only linked by the joint choreography of the Frankfurt dance agency MyDancers to the song "EmpoweringUs" by Dennis Los + Nike, but also by a live stream broadcasted at the Kulturbrauerei in Berlin with TV presenter Clarissa Corrêa da Silva and live coverage of individual sites including interviews with people from all over Europe.

Those who were not able to attend or only followed part of the event can watch the recorded live stream via the following link. A good overview of the participating sites and their dance performances can be found in our photo and video gallery, which also includes our composite video of the event. To check the social media coverage of WORK it OUT, click on the link to the event's social wall.

Recording: "WORK it OUT" 2021 live stream 
Photo and video gallery with composite video
Social Wall with all posts

ERIH Survey: Results of the Industrial Heritage Barometer 2020/21

Actually, ERIH and its cooperation partner, the Statistics and Surveys Unit of the Ruhr Regional Association, have been collecting data on the state of industrial heritage in Europe every year since 2018. Due to the pandemic, the survey planned for 2020 was postponed by one year. The delay provided the opportunity to now include data from 2019 and 2020 in order to better assess the impact of the pandemic on a yearly basis.

The results contributed significantly to the ERIH conference topic this year and have been presented earlier. They are alarming and will only be outlined briefly here.

The 73 sites that participated in the survey were closed on half of the regular opening days due to corona. The remaining days were subject to changing hygiene requirements and restrictions. Events had to be cancelled, rental income was lost. 79 per cent of the sites responded with online offerings such as virtual museum tours or digital exhibitions.

The impact on the annual results compared to 2019 is shocking: 56 per cent fewer visitors and 28 per cent less income could only be partially absorbed by financial aid, mostly paid from public funds. Nevertheless, about one third of the sites had to lay off employees. 14 per cent of the responses still assess the situation as critical and consider the site in question to be permanently in danger.

ERIH Industrial Heritage Barometer 2020/21 - Questions and Results

ERIH Meetings: Annual Conference and General Assembly 2021
General Assembly

Prior to the official conference programme with lectures and workshops, ERIH traditionally held its general assembly. The agenda included the election of the board of directors for the next three years. All board members seeking re-election had their seats confirmed. New members are Peter Backes from Germany and Javier Puertas Juez from Spain.


Jonathan Lloyd - project partner from the very beginning, board member for many years and National Representative for the United Kingdom and Ireland as well as presenter of the ERIH conferences - was appointed ERIH Honorary Member by the voting delegates due to his many achievements.

Jonathan Lloyd
Annual conference

"RESILIENCE - How industrial heritage sites accepted the pandemic challenge and survived the crisis" was the subject of this year's ERIH conference at the Ghent Industrial Museum - a response to the existential threat posed to many sites by COVID-19. The current levels of contagion, with new restrictions and even nationwide lockdowns, show how dangerous the pandemic still is and to what extent the industrial heritage sector depends on jointly developing viable strategies. The results of the ERIH Industrial Heritage Barometer 2020/21 served as a major source for this conference topic.

After an address to welcome the participants by ERIH President Prof. Dr. Meinrad Maria Grewenig and Ann Van Nieuwenhuyse, Director of the Ghent Industrial Museum, the host provided a brief introduction to the impressive conference venue and ERIH Anchor Point.

The lectures

Ann Van Nieuwenhuyse | Prof Dr Meinrad Maria Grewenig

Julia Pagel (DE) from the Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) kicked off the speaker programme with an overview of the results of two surveys on the impact of the pandemic on European museums. The focus was not only on changes in museum structures and activities, but also on changes in visitor behaviour. More than 1,000 museums from 45 countries participated in the surveys in May 2020 and early 2021. 40% of them saw their visitor numbers plummet by at least half after the first lockdown. Income dropped sharply as a result - in the case of museums in traditional tourist destinations, it fell by three quarters compared to previous levels. 93 per cent of the survey respondents reacted by expanding or designing digital products and services, with social media activities and videos being the most popular ones. Among the key challenges for the future, NEMO identifies the need to find new funding options and to invest in digital tools and skills.

Julia Pagel

Dr Michael Nevell (UK), Industrial Heritage Support Officer for England, drew attention to industrial heritage sites in England in his presentation "Restarting Industrial Tourism in England: the Impact of COVID-19". How do they respond to the pandemic and which funding opportunities have been developed? A feature of many sites is the vital role that volunteers play in their day-to-day operation. As a result, three quarters of industrial monuments and museums remained closed after the first lockdown. Those affected also report frequent problems with burglary and vandalism. Reopening required new hygiene concepts and an appropriately adapted visitor guidance system. A new feature are the ten regional Industrial Heritage Networks (IHN), which facilitate regular online exchange between the participating sites.

After this bird's eye view, four speakers subsequently provided an insight into specific measures at ERIH member sites.

Dr Michael Nevell

Maria José Teixeira (PT), Foundation of Portuguese Railway Museums
Under the headline "Portuguese National Railway Museum Visitors - Far away but never so close", the speaker lists a wide range of measures in response to the pandemic. These include the digitisation of exhibits in an online archive, new content for social media, a completely new museum orientation including corresponding visitor routing, virtual tours as well as the development of new event concepts such as theatre performances and talks. A special feature is the one-year "Railfest", which will run until May 2022, inviting visitors to attend a variety of cultural events - exhibitions, music, cinema, workshops, urban art - under the heading "Travelling is a Must" at three different museum sites. As the most important requirement for operation under pandemic conditions, the speaker names certified hygiene standards. Even more important in her eyes, however, is the motivation of the museum teams.

Maria José Teixeira

Chrystelle Dethy (BE), Le Bois du Cazier World Heritage Site
After an in-depth presentation of the sharp decline in income and visitor numbers in 2020, the speaker recommends breaking new ground. As examples, she mentions innovative projects at her own site: a new app for discovering the outdoor area, a specially developed backpack with selected materials for family excursions around Bois du Cazier, and a visitor guidance system that has been reorganised from scratch and also focuses on independent explorations. At times when schoolchildren cannot enter the museum due to pandemic restrictions, there is now an adapted educational concept that goes right to the school classrooms. A final tip provided by the speaker relates to the selection of target groups: Her site has gained good experience in promoting Bois de Cazier as an attractive regional destination.

Chrystelle Dethy

Monika Dziobek-Motyka (PL), Wieliczka Salt Mine Museum World Heritage Site
The title of the lecture - "From 2 million tourists to zero and what's next?" - tells the whole story: the Wieliczka Salt Mine Museum has been hit extremely hard by the pandemic. Since the site generates a considerable part of its income from events and congresses, it had to cope not only with the loss of individual visitors, but also with a slump in MICE tourism. The museum has taken advantage of the hiatus caused by COVID-19 to expand, among other things, its international connections: TICCIH, UNESCO, ICOM, ICOM-CIMUSET, ERIH, ICOMOS, MHA, AMHA and NAMHO are just some of the networks the speaker lists. To strengthen these and other contacts, members of the museum team are intensifying their visits to sites in Europe as well as overseas. The aim is to develop ideas for new cooperations and a new visitor approach and to promote the exchange of exhibitions.

Monika Dziobek-Motyka

Aranka Haneke, Eva Westphal, Sascha Keil (DE), Berliner Unterwelten e.V.
Many of the sites that the Berlin Underground Association is in charge of are not or only partially open to visitors. The pandemic has significantly contributed to the further development of digital concepts or the creation of new ones. It started with 'Radio Unterwelten', which was initially aimed exclusively at members of the association in order to compensate for the temporary lack of activities within the association and to provide access to information. In the meantime, its ten volunteers address their interviews, reports and radio puzzles to the general public as well. The radio programme, aired every fortnight, is supplemented by a podcast. In addition, the YouTube channel has been significantly expanded to include publicly accessible virtual tours as well as association-internal content such as lectures.

Aranka Haneke, Eva Westphal, Sascha Keil

All sites agreed that the pandemic has resulted in an enormous surge of digitisation in the museums. While this is an advantage, it also requires additional skills on the part of the staff. Conclusion: The exchange within the ERIH network should definitely be continued in order to effectively support individual sites in dealing with the many pandemic-related challenges.

Workshops in the afternoon

In the afternoon, the participants gathered in three workshops to share their experiences. They focused on current issues at the sites: "Consequences of Corona", "Industrial heritage and sustainability" and "Addressing modified target groups". The discussion covered challenges, measures already taken and the support needed from ERIH. Outcomes of the workshops will feed into ERIH's future agenda.

ERIH Cooperation: Ninth Berlin Forum on Industrial Culture 2021

"Industrial Heritage and Sustainability – New Approaches to our Legacy" was the title of the conference in cooperation with the Berlin Centre for Industrial Culture (bzi). The event was part of the "Berlin Forum for Industrial Heritage and Society", with nine editions already well-established in German-speaking Europe. This year' s topic of sustainability fits neatly into the ERIH agenda for the coming years: The challenges of climate change and the call for a long-term approach to the preservation and communication of industrial heritage will be one of the priorities of the ERIH network.

Berlin Forum on Industrial Culture 2021

In cooperation with the Berlin colleagues, the hybrid conference provided simultaneous translation into English. A total of 230 guests - including roughly 45 English-speaking participants from all over Europe, but also from Asia and Latin America - proved that hybrid formats effectively support global communication. Two keynote lectures and three focus panels explored the current debate on the influence of sustainability standards on industrial heritage. Topics covered the ecological footprint of industrial monuments and museums, questions regarding appropriate economic operating models - including tourism - and criteria for the sustainable management of old industrial heritage buildings and technologies.

ERIH Staff: Change of National Representatives

ERIH's representative for Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries, Frank Allan Rasmussen, entered his well-deserved retirement. We thank him for many years of advocacy for the network in north-eastern Europe and for supporting its members. With pleasure we remember the ERIH conference 2017 in "his" industrial museum in Frederiksvaerk.

A successor is now being sought. Anyone who is interested in this position and would like to promote the expansion of ERIH in Scandinavia or one of the associated countries is welcome to contact the office.

Frank Allan Rasmussen

Following the shift in the United Kingdom representative structure - a split into the sub-regions of England, Scotland and Wales following Jonathan Lloyd' s retirement last year - we are now facing another change: John Rodger is handing over responsibility for Wales to Ruth Taylor-Davies, archaeologist and director of a consultancy specialising in heritage and tourism. A warm welcome to her as we are delighted to have her as an expert on Welsh industrial heritage. John will continue as the UK representative on the ERIH Board.

Ruth Taylor-Davies

ERIH Calendar: Save the date

The next ERIH Annual Meeting and General Assembly will be held in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, heralded as European Capital of Culture 2022. The event is scheduled for 19 - 22 October 2022, but feasibility is subject to the hygiene regulations that will be in force at that time. We intend to host the conference - regardless of the pandemic situation - as a hybrid event, which has become standard practice by now. 
As always, we will provide updates by email and on the ERIH website.

Other events dealing with industrial heritage (tourism)

Last but not least, we would like to thank all members and supporters for the fruitful cooperation over the past and often difficult months. We wish you and your families a merry Christmas and the very best for the new year. Stay safe and healthy!