Around 50 delegates attended the conference, mostly representatives of museums, heritage centres and local history organisations.
CONFERENCE ON THE FUTURE FOR ISLAND HERITAGE
Last November a conference took place to discuss the presentation and promotion of the Island's heritage. The conference was organised by the Isle of Wight Council, assisted by the Isle of Wight Society. English Heritage supplied the venue in the Victoria Hall of Osborne House.|
(The background and objectives of the conference were covered in our November News Item)
The morning session heard presentations from English Heritage, Quay Arts Centre and The Isle of Wight Society. Talks covered developments within their operations, with an emphasis on finance and the degree to which grants and community support were necessary to overcome the shortfall in money from authorities. Richard Smout detailed the range of existing facilities provided by the IW Heritage Service.
A presentation offering immediate opportunities came from David Thornton, of Visit Isle of Wight, the official tourist marketing service. He announced that next year the tourist theme would be local heritage attractions and he offered all organisations free web space to promote themselves on the Visit IoW website. He also raised the prospect of developing this into a comprehensive package, providing visitors with additional interests and information, such as a schedule of exhibitions and events.
After lunch, the conference delegates divided into groups to discuss three different themes: Heritage Tourism, The Heritage Hub and Accessible Collections. Following these workshops, the conference reassembled to collate the various suggestions and examine a detailed range of proposals that might form part of future developments. Volunteers were sought to implement tasks and action plans were drawn up. It remains to be seen how many of these proposals become permanent features.
The report was given by John Allen, advisor to the Chamber of Commerce Board on Tourism. The delegates discussed a wide range of possible actions then highlighted those that were considered the easiest and most likely to be developed.
The first action suggested was the compilation of a list of speakers on historic subjects who would be available, not only for meetings of local groups, but also for organisations putting together package tours and hotels organising themed topics for their guests during their stay.
The second proposal was to use the Visit IoW website as a one-stop source of all information that would be useful to visitors. This should include information from the commercial sector, the voluntary sector as well as the Council. This would include information on local group meetings and activities that would interest residents as well as visitors.
The third suggestion concerned making the best use of the Island's heritage through organising Heritage Open Days. It was considered that the national weekend of Open Days currently organised by English Heritage in September did not suit the Island as it is after the main holiday season and clashed with the Bestival. Therefore the suggestion is to organise an Island-wide event, possibly attached to an Isle of Wight History festival to be held in the Spring and co-ordinated through Visit IoW.
An interesting suggestion was put forward to encourage residents to make more use of Island attractions. Many families hosted friends and family visiting the Island and took them to various attractions. However this could become a financial burden if repeated regularly. Therefore the suggestion is to establish a reduced admission charge for Island residents making return visits to tourist attractions.
The last suggestion from this workshop concerned bringing accommodation providers into the partnership. The accommodation where visitors stay is where visitors could get the most information of attractions, again by being shown the Visit IoW website. The March meeting of the Chamber of Commerce Tourism and Industry Board will be concentrating on this subject.
The Heritage Hub
The workshop results were presented by Esme Ballard, a semi-retired Museum Manager. The main outcome was that the Hub is not a particular building but a circle of museums and heritage societies.
The aims of this Hub would be mutual support, involving both visitors and residents, a partnership to make joint funding bids and developing projects that would involve a wide group of participants.
The Hub would create a database to provide communication links, a tool for education and research, develop and share exhibition material, share equipment and use their combined requirement to make use of bulk purchasing of exhibition material etc.
To make the Hub work a Co-ordinator will be needed for the administration. No one volunteer could handle the entire brief. Would the co-ordinator be paid? If so, could this be achieved through grant funding? The Co-ordinator would need to be pro-active with the media. They would seek to fill gaps in collections. They would be a focal point to create a new body of heritage volunteers to man collections and open days. They would carry out marketing through Visit IoW.
A trial project could be based on an existing plan to create an event commemorating WWI over the next four years. This is being led by David Langford supported by Richard Smout, Fiona Hanna of AONB and Carol Flux of Natural Enterprise. They need to collect a list of speakers, participating organisations and create a calendar of events.
The workshop results were given by Corina Westwood from the Council's Museum Service.
The most important requirement was to share knowledge through groups such as the Island History Forum.
There is a need to train volunteers through programmes such as the South-east Museums Development Programme that is organised by Lucy Marder.
There is a need to challenge parochialism where organisations were only concerned with their area and did not look at it in an Island-wide context.
A collection can also be displayed on line when it has been digitised.
Collections can be supported by pooling funding bids. Advice on grants available with tips on making bids and other know-how are obtainable from various sources. One of these is through Carol Flux at Natural enterprise.
There is a need to look at new sites for displays both commercial,and non-commercial. There could be a link here to accommodation providers.
When historic artefacts come on to the market that would be valuable to an Island collection the public should also be made aware and involved in fund raising to acquire the item.