Koosje Spitz: Mutual Cultural Heritage Cooperation
As part of my master programme World Heritage Studies at the UNESCO Chair for Heritage Studies at the Brandenburg University of Technology of Cottbus (Germany) I did an internship at the Centre for International Heritage Activities (CIE) in Leiden, the Netherlands. CIE is taking part in a Mutual Cultural Heritage Online Database Project. This database will offer Dutch and foreign partners such as museums, heritage trusts, academic and governmental institutes and researchers access to knowledge and expertise concerning international heritage projects. In addition to the Online Database a set of overview reports will provide detailed information on the heritage cooperation between the Netherlands and the various priority countries.
I received help by the ICOMOS Shared Built Heritage Student Help Desk in my search for an internship. Unlike most students who organise an internship through the ICOMOS Shared Built Heritage Student Help Desk and primarily focus on the heritage itself, my internship focused on the Mutual Cultural Heritage Policy (GCE beleid) of the Dutch Government and on the heritage cooperation between the heritage fields of the Netherlands and eight Dutch priority countries (Brazil, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname). Much of the heritage is related to the trading activities of the VOC. Under Mutual Cultural Heritage three categories can be distinguished: The overseas cultural heritage; Heritage built in or taken to other countries by the Dutch; Heritage in the Netherlands from those countries whose culture has influenced the Netherlands.
I worked at the CIE for a period of six months. During the internship I was responsible for outlining the structure of the overview reports in general and for the content of the overview reports on South Africa, Sri Lanka and Suriname. The information in the reports was based on preliminary research and the outcomes of the Heritage Days and Counterpart organized by – or in cooperation – with CIE, as well as on information gathered from policy papers, academic papers, interviews and organizations involved in the mutual heritage projects. It has felt like a big responsibility, as these reports will form an important part of the Online Database. Dr Robert Parthesius (director CIE) and drs Anouk Fienieg (project coordinator) have given me much freedom in ‘designing’ the reports.
As my master thesis also covers the topic of Mutual Cultural Heritage, my internship at CIE was of great value. It gave me an insight into the Dutch heritage field, into the Dutch international cultural policy and into the challenges related to mutual and colonial heritage. I could implement the knowledge that I gained on the concept of Mutual Heritage in my thesis. Furthermore, I was able to incorporate my theoretical knowledge on international organizations and relations into my work at CIE while practicing my writing and research skills. Important learning moments were: making a six month work planning with deadlines and expected outcomes, and outlining a general structure for the overview reports.
In general the internship taught me a lot about the functioning of a small independent non-profit organization in the field of (international) heritage cooperation. The team of the CIE is young and atmosphere is very dynamic. I was amazed about the enthusiasm of the people working at CIE. Despite a small budget and a limited number of fulltime employees, they are actively involved in many projects and committed to facilitating international heritage cooperation worldwide.