From 18 to 20 April, eight European Heritage Youth Ambassadors (EHYA) met up in the Netherlands. It was the first time an in-person meeting was organised since the start of the programme in 2021. The group of young professionals visited various heritage organisations such as Europa Nostra and BOEi, and got to know other young professionals at the Dutch Heritage Agency (RCE) during an event by Erfgoed Jong (Heritage Youth). We look back at the empowering meeting which established multiple connections across Europe.
The international meeting, organised by the European Heritage Tribune in partnership with ESACH and Europa Nostra kicked off in The Hague, at the offices of the last mentioned. There the eight Ambassadors met with Secretary-General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović and other representatives, to discuss the importance and role of young people in cultural heritage, amongst other things. “It was amazing to have a face-to-face discussion with her”, reckoned Ambassador Grace Emely.
“Also for the group of ambassadors to see each other in person, but it was great to talk with someone such as Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović. For us young people it’s invaluable that people like her take the time to exchange ideas and get to know us.” The group agreed on the importance of collaboration to preserve heritage in Europe: “We need to protect the past for a better future”, stated Quaedvlieg-Mihailović at the end of the afternoon.
On Wednesday morning, the group visited BOEi, which has been working on repurposing Dutch heritage for over 25 years. At their offices in Amersfoort, Menje Almekinders and Finn Dudok van Heel engaged in a lively discussion with the Ambassadors about BOEi’s work and the difficulties of repurposing heritage sites and buildings, much to the delight of EHYA Andromeda Ludmila Liberiou.
“It was really inspiring to hear their story, how they built themselves up to an established organisation with more than 30 employees”, she smiled. “They have saved so much heritage through their hands-on approach and eye for co-creation and collaboration with local communities. I genuinely believe these kinds of projects are the answer to creating a sustainable future for heritage.”
Future of the Sector
One of the absolute highlights for Liberiou was the ‘A European Career in Cultural Heritage’ event, organised by Erfgoed Jong – a Dutch independent network of young people aged between 16 and 30 with an interest in and an opinion about tangible and intangible heritage. The meeting featured young professionals based in the Netherlands and focussed on opportunities and obstacles in the European job market for young and/or starting heritage professionals. “It was incredible getting to know like-minded people and peers, especially when they are driven by positive ideals and values to build the future of heritage” she stated.
The event took place at the office of the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE), where Adinda van Wely, a communications advisor at the agency, started off with a word of welcome. Programme coordinators (and former EHYA) Jasna Popović and Miruna Găman introduced the attendants to the programme and invited them to join their efforts in building a young European network of heritage professionals with ESACH. A video from Gabrielle Bernoville, a young policy assistant at the European Commission, fit the theme of empowering young professionals as she invited the attendants to join in and share their own visions and ideas to enrich the field.
“Seeing that we as young people have the support of organisations such as European Commission, Europa Nostra or the RCE is encouraging. They want us to get involved in the sector and have serious conversations with us”, Liberiou said. The discussion groups and networking drinks at the end really showed the importance of youth empowerment and international connections for her: “It was quite an emotional moment to see so many young peers reacting with a lot of enthusiasm to your ideas and what you have to say. I was definitely moved.”
On the final day, the Ambassadors met up with Menno Welling, manager of the Master & Heritage Lab at the Reinwardt Academy, the Amsterdam University of the Arts. There they discussed how the Academy is educating the heritage professionals of the future. “As a heritage professional, you need a theoretical basis and an excellent knowledge of ethics. However, you need all this with the purpose to act, to do things with heritage”, the empowering message from Welling to the group sounded.
For EHYA Emely the experience felt like a reminder of why she is eager to work in heritage: “Sometimes it can be hard to find people with the same passion for culture or heritage. So you start to struggle a bit. These days have been a reminder that you’re not alone. It really gave me a boost.”
Fellow Ambassador Liberiou could not agree more: “I’d say I’m thankful for these days, and that this ambassadors programme exists. My gratitude goes to all organisations involved for organising this. I feel we can do great things together going forward, and that there is space for these kinds of initiatives to grow and make an impact.”
This in-person meeting was made possible by the generous support from DutchCulture, the network and knowledge organisation for international cultural cooperation in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the European Heritage Tribune would like to thank all involved organisations and European Heritage Youth Ambassadors for making this meeting possible and for their time, energy and unwavering support.