ERIH Italy: Industrial Heritage and Covid-19 – How to restart after Lockdown?

At their annual meeting on 14 May, held online this time, the representatives of the Italian ERIH sites focused on two key questions: What is the impact of the corona crisis on the activities of each ERIH member and what are the strategies for reopening the industrial museums and monuments after the national lockdown?

The discussion was inspired by the special edition of the ERIH Corona Crisis Newsletter in April. The aim of the newsletter was to spark ideas for communicating with interested visitors despite nationwide site closures and to build on the potential of the ERIH network for developing new approaches in order to learn from each other.

A survey, conducted by comparing the actual situation with figures from 2019, revealed the devastating effect of the pandemic on industrial heritage tourism in Italy. Many of the Italian ERIH sites are funded by over 70 per cent from admission fees and sales in museum shops and visitor centres. The losses are accordingly disastrous for their existence.

At the same time, it was emphasised that the crisis also spawned innovations. This particularly applies to online communication, including the systematic development of social media profiles, as in the case of the Dalmine Foundation near Bergamo or the "wheel factory" (Fabbrica della Ruota) in Pray, as well as guided virtual tours of exhibitions, as in the Museum of Industrial Heritage in Bologna, or short videos on lesser-known aspects of a museum, for instance in the Textile Museum in Prato not far from Florence.

The reopening of the sites for visitors is subject to the anxious question of how many tourists are to be expected at all. Forecasts are based primarily on domestic tourists and visitors from the surrounding area. Since industrial museums and monuments are traditionally well represented in this target group, this might be a source of hope for industrial heritage tourism in times of crisis. However, all this depends on many factors. Among other things, the sites, as well as the visitors themselves, have to accept new conditions: the obligation to (or recommendation of) online bookings, the compulsory wearing of masks, strict distance regulations and a limitation on the number of visitors.

Guests at the annual meeting included ERIH Vice-President Adam Hajduga, Stefano Dominioni, Executive Secretary of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, and Edoardo Currà, President of the Italian Association for Industrial Archaeological Heritage (AIPAI). The results of the discussion are documented in a detailed newsletter.

ERIH Italy Newsletter May 2020

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