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NETwork and digital platform for Cultural Heritage Enhancing and Rebuilding

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NETCHER (NETwork and digital platform for Cultural Heritage Enhancing and Rebuilding)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-03-31

The last decades have witnessed a variety of initiatives promoted by a diverse set of actors engaged in the protection of endangered cultural heritage and in stopping illicit trade, initiatives that have tried to bring about solutions, remedies, methods and approaches to tackle looting and trafficking. Looting and illicit trafficking of cultural goods are a significant and growing problem that deprives countries and societies from their cultural heritage and generates amounts of money (sometimes fuelling illegal activities). NETCHER sought to address the complex challenge of harmonising and bringing together these worthy, but often disconnected initiatives by using a participative approach that has resulted in the establishment of a structured network (defined as a Social Platform) drawing together a broad range of players such as law enforcement agencies, border control unities, international bodies, umbrella organizations, national governments, researchers, cultural heritage professionals, public policy makers, NGOs, as well as public and private foundations. In light of the significance of these uncoordinated efforts, the Platform takes charge of systematising and framing all the emerging best practices in order to enhance and capitalise on the experiences of the partners at an international level to build a joint action plan, with shared toolkits and a research and innovation roadmap.
The workplan was defined according to the objectives below:
1)Obtaining a clear view of the current situation: following the start of the worldwide pandemic, a virtual Seminar 2 has been organised on July 2020 with more than 60 experts from 14 countries. It aimed at providing a feedback on the online platform, addressing collectively COVID-19 impacts and contingency plans, potential research solutions for cultural heritage protection, cross-cutting cooperation paths and policy recommendations. The outcomes were delivered in the public Forum 2, organised online on March 2021. In addition, about 130 references in 4 languages and a map of linked projects can be found in the project’s website.
2)Establishing an International network: 285 experts and stakeholders from 29 countries are registered in the network. Forum n°1 took place on February 2020, gathering more than 100 attendees. Sharing, understanding and acknowledging different methods and approaches require time and mutual listening. This is a prerequisite to efficient collaborative work. Bringing together various professional communities allows a fruitful discussion on the feasibility and acceptability of some potential innovative technological solutions by the end-users.
3)Training stakeholders: Capacity building and education activities were organised and enhanced. “Provenance and Traceability” training module took place on February 2020. “Preservation & reconstruction” and “Remote sensing & Earth Observation” training modules were delivered online in Period 2. A MOOC has been run from 1 to 28 March 2021 and was available until the end of May 2021, gathering more than 200 registrations and 100 active participants, trained by 18 professionals, constituting a reusable teaching content. A state of the art and feasibility study for a new, interdisciplinary European Degree has been prepared.
4)Managing the collaborative Platform: based on the practitioners’ requirements, major features of the Platform were defined. It is available and operational. Improvements have been identified and implemented in Period 2. The Platform is a unique portal, a data centre that gathers resources and expertise, where to find key information and links to relevant contents. Experts from the involved professional fields can meet, open a discussion and find answers, involving other experts.
5)Defining an international framework: experts from 29 countries are involved. Following Seminar 2, Research and Technology roadmaps to face illicit trafficking of cultural goods were proposed. A best practices repository and a Recommendations booklet have been edited. Regarding the art market, an assessment of the opportunity to define a Chart and a Label has been proposed.
6)Raising awareness: the dissemination and communication strategy has targeted three kinds of audience: Policy makers, Professionals and General public - especially young people who can directly engage in changing the current situation, as they are doing for the climate change emergency. Two public forums, two thematic webinars and one Youtube live event took place. Following a cooperation with the Youtuber Charlie Danger, a video targeting the young audience was produced. A Public Alert Protocol was edited, which is intended to encourage citizens to take action. Two more communication plans and policy briefs have been submitted. 10 newsletters were published on the website and sent to the interested community.
The progresses and related impacts can be summarised as follows:
1)Uptake and Dissemination of Research and Best Practices: long-term research tackling especially social and economic issues must be accomplished in order to define requirements to be transposed into efficient European policies. NETCHER has collected a significant amount of Resources, most are available online.
2)Development of Strategic and Integrated European and International Policies and Interventions: working as a network allows efficient bottom-up processes and democratic decision-making. It can assess the feasibility of the solutions.
3)Development of a Large Panel of Value-Added Toolkits and Recommendations for a Variety of Stakeholders: together with the Reports and Deliverables available online, the outcomes mentioned above address a large panel of topics, towards the audience identified.
4)Consensus Building on Future Needs for Supporting EU in Developing an Innovative and Focused Research Agenda on Endangered Cultural Heritage: potential research solutions (humanities and social sciences, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, nanotechnologies, databases, 3D and satellite imageries) were identified. A Research agenda has been prepared, gathering researchers from various fields. More details are included in Seminar 2 and Forum 2 Reports.
5)Reduction of Cultural Heritage Destruction: education and raising awareness among the broadest audience is clearly one of the key aspects to reduce cultural heritage destruction. Young people can get more actively involved. Interdisciplinary and international trainings are relevant and need to be promoted.
6)Increased Illegal Traffic Prosecution Capabilities and Shorter Court Cases: in that sense, the need for building bridges between professional fields and countries has been underlined many times.
7)Preservation of Human Collective Memory while Increasing Citizens Perception of Safety: relevant resources are freely available online from the website (Public Alert Raising Protocol, Youtube video, Final Forum realisations).
8)Support the Competitiveness of EU Industries: the work-cycle rationale experienced within NETCHER can be reproduced on an annual rationale, reducing the gaps between professional communities, increasing the end users’ perspective, saving time and energy.
9)Market Development Fostering for Innovative Technology Providers: the research agenda can pave the way towards further initiatives. Future steps include tackling language diversity and long-term studies to put the emphasis on prevention and not only on reaction.