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8 Jan 2019

Putting Scotland on the map

Written by Bryan Dickson, Head of Buildings Policy
An exterior view of the bright yellow walls of Culross Palace. A stone courtyard is in the foreground.
Culross Palace
We’re showcasing Scotland’s world-leading conservation work on an international stage. Bryan Dickson, Head of Buildings Policy, writes about his recent experience at the launch of the brand new Bavarian National Trust.

The Trust presented at a conference in Munich recently alongside many other members of the growing European National Trust community.

The event marked the launch of Kulturerbe Bayern, a National Trust for Bavaria, and its purpose was to invite National Trusts from all over Europe so that they could learn from their experiences as they set off on their journey. Kulturerbe Bayern have acquired their first property in Rothenburg, Bavaria, a late medieval townhouse with one of the oldest Jewish ritual baths in Germany, and have aspirations to restore this rare survivor with the help of community and volunteers. Within their constitution, Kulturerbe Bayern has aspirations to grow their organisation throughout the vast state of Bavaria, protecting both valuable cultural heritage and natural landscapes for the benefit of its developing membership and the Bavarian people.

The value of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) as a support network for both established and emerging Trusts was also emphasised, providing a forum to exchange ideas, provide direct support and the potential of reciprocal agreements.

Both the National Trust and ourselves presented and, as long-established Trusts, have very similar challenges in looking after a vast complex estate of ‘things’ and keeping our actions relevant to our members and the broader public of the UK. It was interesting to reflect on the experience and challenges facing newer organisations, how these differ and what we can all learn from each other.

Some of the organisations who presented included:

  • The recently set-up Czech National Trust, having successfully completed a restoration of a tomb, are turning their focus to their next building rescue, a disused medieval castle in Central Bohemia.
  • The Gederland Trust was founded in 1929 with ownership of 120 nature reserves and 35 castles and estates. Seeking new ways to engage their 42,000 members and visitors is at the heart of their new strategy, which involved new art installations within historic houses, organised nature watches and the re-creation of an Iron Age farm steading.
  • Herita in Belgium is an organisation that’s on a journey of rebirth. Its key aims are public support, site management and the establishment of a network of interested parties to promote the sustainability of heritage across Belgium. They have focused on aligning these goals to the European Strategy for Cultural Heritage and the UN 2030 charter for Sustainable Development and Herita is hosting the INTO global conference in 2021.

As you’d imagine, at a European conference, the role of the European Union and co-operation was at the fore. The benefits of great minds have helped shape our approaches to heritage for many years, with initiatives such as the Athens and Venice Charter through to the European Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st century. While the future isn’t clear, there are certainly opportunities for this network of National Trusts, across the globe and in conjunction with other pan-border organisations, to work closer together, to ensure standards are maintained, there are common frameworks and knowledge and expertise is shared.

The conference’s clear conclusion is that these Trust models are both successful and growing, providing important protection for Europe’s special places. This concept provides a cost-effective mechanism for protection, public engagement and innovation, free of many of the complexities of government frameworks. And, we all had a shared motivation, wherever we were from. Everyone attending understood why we do all we do, for the love of Scotland, because that special connection with their home is what drives them too.

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