As we all manage the lockdown, the restrictions placed on museums and parks will have a profound impact upon their use and the staff and volunteers that run them. Not only will the lockdown be a major financial issue, but the recovery of these vital local resources may be slow as funds are diverted to other needs and as staff and volunteers try to work out how to bring the public back.
The enforced break from my workplace does not mean that I am not working, it is a chance to learn and implement new remote teaching and learning methods, a chance to catch up on research long put on the back burner (anyone remember the D-Day map!) and to think ahead to what the future of heritage and culture could be in Portsmouth. As part of that thinking, it would be useful to think what, if any, the role of this heritage hub could be? What can the linking of heritage organisations do during this crisis?
It is important, in my view, that the significance of local heritage and culture is conveyed to the public, that the relevance of concerning and supporting local heritage is clear. Local heritage provides a key reference point, a node for defining local culture and, paradoxically, its resilience and dynamism over time. The spread of the virus and the reaction of both government and the local population will, rapidly I expect, become part of local cultural lore as well. Is it part of the remit of local heritage services to preserve this response? Is it part of our remit to canvass this response, or to reflect and compare this response with responses from the past? How did local populations deal with previous pandemics and epidemics? Will this help people cope with the current crisis?
After the current crisis is over then what could our hub do to help revitalise local heritage and culture within Portsmouth? The lockdown may be a chance to think in more strategic terms about local heritage and culture in general. About how the pieces fit together, or could fit together, to make a more coherent and co-ordinated whole. It may be difficult over the next few weeks and months, particularly for those who will be suffering financially during the lockdown, but this could be a chance to exchange ideas, to develop new projects and maybe, just maybe, aspire to produce a more coherent and inclusive heritage network.