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NETwork and digital platform for Cultural Heritage Enhancing and Rebuilding

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NETCHER (NETwork and digital platform for Cultural Heritage Enhancing and Rebuilding)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31

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 solutions, remediation, methods and approaches to tackle looting and trafficking. NETCHER seeks to address the complex challenge of harmonising and bringing together these worthy, but often disconnected initiatives by using a participative approach that will result 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, public policy makers, NGOs, as well as public and private foundations. In light of the significance of these uncoordinated efforts, the Platform will take charge of the systematizing and framing of all the emerging best practices in order to enhance and capitalize on the experiences of the partnership members at an international level for building a joint action plan with shared toolkits and a research and innovation roadmap.
Obtaining a clear view of the current situation: 6 thematic groups have been set-up and a panel of experts has been invited to work in each of them. Following the experts’ workshops, challenges, needs and resources for each thematic group are described in 7 Deliverables, submitted in Summer 2019. A significant amount of data has been collected in the matter of human and institutional resources, practices, bibliography (+100 titles, 4 languages). 10 platforms and/or online tools have been identified and presented during Seminar 1.
Establishing an International network: 104 experts and stakeholders are registered in the network. +90 additional experts are in the process of being integrated. During Period 1, more than 50 experts were involved in the thematic workshops. The first Forum is scheduled in Lyon (France) on 25-26 February 2020.
Training stakeholders: “Provenance and Traceability” training module is scheduled on 18-21 February 2020. “Preservation & reconstruction” and “Remote sensing & Earth Observation” training modules are planned in Period 2. A state of the art and feasibility study for a new European Degree is ongoing.
Managing the collaborative Platform: based on the practitioners’ requirements, major features of the NETCHER Platform are identified. NETCHER restricted area is available and operational, including Documents, Chat and Activity Stream functions. Improvements have been identified for both website and restricted area. The Platform is a resource and data centre, a place to find key information and links to relevant organisations, tools, platforms and contents.
Defining an international framework: experts from 13 countries are involved in the network. The major part of this Objective and related Key Performance Indicators will be addressed within WP5 in Period 2.
Raising awareness: the website is available online. 2 communication plans have been submitted. 5 news have been published on the website. 1 policy brief is ready to be published on NETCHER website. 1 international awareness raising event is planned in Period 2, the organisation has started, plus 2 webinars are planned and 1 Digital Forum.
The first year of the NETCHER project has facilitated collecting and organizing a substantial amount of high-quality information related to illegal trafficking of cultural goods, in cooperation with relevant professional communities such as law enforcement agencies, cultural heritage experts from academia, museum and cultural organisations, institutional representatives and technology providers. The work done in Period 1 leads to the following general conclusions:
Mapping the dissemination of traffic in European countries: in-depth studies are needed, as well as demonstration of the roots and effects of the phenomenon. Geographical Information Systems may be relevant tools. Depth research issues must be transmitted to European policies, in terms of efficiency requirements. Interdisciplinarity raises questions of language, concept, common vocabulary. Deep differences exist between socio-professional areas. Whereas immediate effectiveness is requested, building such interdisciplinarity requires time.
Organizing the fight with operational tools: increased cooperation between professional communities is required, as well as sustainability and interoperability between databases, operational and simple circuit to report looting, developing digital tools allowing for more efficient data mining on the web, creation of an ID for objects and increasing the task force dedicated to fight against trafficking of cultural heritage.
Raising awareness among professional communities and in European societies: the positive role played by education, training modules, communication and warning to the general public has been detailed.
Some aspects of the fight against looting and trafficking of cultural heritage can be addressed through a top/down dimension. Although the legal arsenal is sufficient, improvements are needed. Rather, it is about the national implementation of the different conventions. Bottom-up approach is required as well, on the different fronts in order to perpetuate ideas. We need enabler tools, connecting people and standards. We need technological challenges, beyond gadget aspect, including artificial intelligence and nanotechnologies.
There is a shared claim for the setting-up of a European agency and resource centre to serve the community of professionals involved in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural goods.
Digital humanities are one of the European research agenda's priorities and this can be connected to our topics, to bridge the gap between programs. There is a need to support digitisation programmes and strategies of heritage, based on the FAIR approach. European research programs can be used to address it and play an active alert role. This is also necessary to institute on the question of education and awareness policy: there is a great interest in modelling methods to build awareness of cultural heritage and the feeling of belonging and identification.
Having an expert task force, as for wildlife protection, is another aspect. What about posters at airports for cultural property, or warning pop-up windows on websites?
Networking can be deeply relevant as a governance tool: as flexible entity, a network allows transforming contexts, acting as the vector of good practices to be disseminated. NETCHER shows that working as a network is relevant to define states of play; this is also an effective way to build future programmes.
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