This year the ERIH family met in Bologna, surrounded by Italian culture and lifestyle. The motto of the annual conference – "Mind the Gap" – focused on the challenges of successfully communicating industrial heritage in the coming decade. Speakers and workshops provided best practices of how industrial monuments and museums can address and reach new target groups in an accelerated and increasingly controversial culture of communication.
Board member John Rodger opened the lecture part by pointing at a number of issues that ERIH sites need to address in order to increase visitor numbers, including accessibility, gender equality, multiculturalism and seasonality as well as climate change, virtual reality and international tourism. ERIH Vice President Adam Hajduga gave ERIH’s reply to these challenges by outlining current projects such as Work-it-Out, Site Twinning and Linking Europe.
The other speakers offered exciting insights into the practice of individual sites, some oft hem using market research, for instance, to find out what particularly attracts visitors and what does not. Other presentations focused on interpretation as an effective means of interaction with an audience and pointed out that it is not only about machines and facts, but also about preserving personal, first-hand recollections and other forms of intangible heritage. The way some speakers dealt with failed attempts to approach specific target groups was also very helpful.
The workshops in the afternoon established a forum for the six participants of the Site Twinning pilot project to report on their first experiences. They agreed that taking a look behind the scenes of a closely related ERIH partner is very useful. The digitization workshop was peppered with tips on digital communication and also provided good ideas on volunteer management.
Once again, the excursion part offered a lot of highlights, including the exciting Museum of Industrial Heritage in Bologna, the very impressive MAST, dedicated to build a bridge between the company and the community through art, technology and innovation, as well as the Ducati factory and museum tour, which was not only rewarding for motorcycle fans. Another excursion headed to the protoindustrial canals of Bologna, which are underground today, and unveiled the city's power system.
Bologna was a wonderful conference host. Thank you very much to the city of Bologna and its museums, especially the Museum of Industrial Heritage, as well as to Miriam Masini, Maura Grandi and Martina Buiat for the excellent organisation!
Photos of the conference