Inclusivity through the democratisation of culture sits at the heart of Europeana’s mission. The Europeana Foundation believes in supporting diversity and inclusion, as well as creating the space for a range of voices and opinions to be heard across our community.
That’s why in planning this year’s conference, Europeana chose a range of speakers and panelists to reflect a diversity of interests and opinions across the sector, with the aim of sparking positive debate and informed discussion about conversations taking place in our sphere, as well as reflecting wider discussions under way across business, academia and in society.
In taking up this challenge, colleagues were offended by the approach presented by one of the keynotes speakers at Europeana 2020.
At no point have we, as organisers, or the speaker tried to be deliberately provocative, but nor can we deny the passion that the discussion has evoked. We are sorry that we hurt people, and acknowledge that the approach chosen in the keynote was not the right way to move this discussion within our community forward. It is now for us as organisers to reflect on how to put the debate on diversity and inclusion in the correct context, creating the necessary time and space to explore the issues fully.
Some took the view that the debate itself was valuable. As a general rule, we do of course welcome debate as a necessary step toward progress in all aspects of our common endeavour. Indeed, Europeana is committed to ensuring that these discussions are had, and held in an inclusive way, hopefully inspiring informed discussions and providing a platform for progress on one of the issues of the day.
We believe that it is vital to keep listening, talking, and working together to forge a positive and inclusive dialogue with our community and with society at large. Looking to the future, we want and need to keep having those conversations. And this experience reinforces the need to create safe spaces for those to take place. Creating a shared vocabulary that helps us frame these conversations feels like a good step to take, and we will work with the Europeana Network Association to explore that further.
This is an open conversation, and we encourage all of you to take part. It may not always be easy or comfortable, but dialogue remains the best way to build understanding, compassion and progress in an increasingly fractious world. Let’s work together towards a positive change.
Europeana Network Association
Yesterday, Jitske Kramer’s keynote ‘Working Across Cultures’ at the Europeana 2020 conference,‘Crisis, Change and Culture’, triggered a fierce debate among the participants of the conference about cultural change and cultural exchanges, especially in the context of diversity and inclusivity. This debate not only happened during the keynote, but also in online discussions during the rest of the day. Many people were offended by the approach presented in the keynote. It turned out that the keynote didn’t connect in a sensitive way to the discussion that is currently emerging in the cultural heritage sector about the past and current relationships between countries and cultures, as reflected in the collections that are curated by our cultural heritage institutions. For many of us, this is still a new discussion, made urgent by changes in our societies. The ENA Management Board feels that, in hindsight, the approach chosen in the keynote was not the right way to move this discussion within our community forward. In 2020, the ENA published a Code of Conduct, in which we state that we value diverse perspectives, but that we also want to avoid causing offense and want to be respectful and inclusive. As co-organisers of the Europeana 2020 conference we feel that we haven’t lived up to our own Code of Conduct, and for this we apologise to those who were aggrieved by yesterday’s keynote presentation.
As the ENA Management Board, we consider the events of yesterday as a false start, and would like to move forward with the debate on cross-cultural connections in a more constructive way. This is an important and urgent topic for our sector, and we need to address it, although sometimes it may be uncomfortable to do so. The ENA Management Board strongly believes that Europeana is the proper platform to have these discussions on a European scale. The ENA is currently initiating a working group to address the topics of diversity and inclusivity in our community. A key element in their work will be how we, as an international and cross-domain cultural heritage community, can improve our skills to talk with and listen to cultures from across the globe, instead of talking about them from a European/western perspective. The ENA is a community dedicated to strengthening the role of digital cultural heritage in our societies, and that celebrates shared values and acknowledges and appreciates differences. So we are convinced that this community will embrace the challenges that come with such a transition and will persevere to create room for multiple voices to be heard and bring about real and positive change in our cultural exchanges.