For the last four years Peter Davis has been working with colleagues in the Princess Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Bangkok, to explore ways of cataloguing, safeguarding and transmitting intangible cultural heritage (ICH). Carried out as part of a training programme for curators and heritage professionals in the Lower Mekong sub-region this research and teaching programme has explored questions about the role of the museums in relation to sustaining ICH in countries that have ratified UNESCO’s ICH Convention. The Netherlands has recently become a signatory to the Convention, a situation now causing huge interest in the country amongst museum professionals and Peter travelled to Amsterdam in April to recount his experiences in Thailand and elsewhere to a meeting at the Reinwardt Academie.
Some 40 people attended, including staff and MA students of the Reinwardt (the Netherlands’ only provider of museum and heritage training); other guests included Albert van der Zeijden (the Vice-president of VIE, the Dutch Intangible Heritage Centre), Ms. Riet de Leeuw (Senior Policy Adviser of the Dutch Ministry of Culture & Education), Marc Wingens, director of Gelders Erfgoed (a provincial Heritage foundation with ICH interests), Femie Willems of the Foundation for Cultural Participation and Steph Scholten (Director of Heritage Collections of the University of Amsterdam). Peter’s presentation was followed by a fascinating discussion about the ways forward for ICH safeguarding in the Netherlands, a country with a diverse ethnicity that demonstrates all manner of intangible heritages. It is evident that discussions and approaches are still very much in their early stages and already somewhat controversial.