The continued existence of a built landscape is dependent on there being enough people with traditional building skills to maintain and sensitively modify this finite resource.
In April this year the Heritage Council launched a survey into the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the heritage sector in Ireland.
Like other sectors of society, the heritage sector has faced closures, job losses, delays and increased home working as a result of the covid-19 restrictions. Some heritage sites have seen increased pressure from visitor numbers and many organisations have been busy developing new online content for those engaged in home schooling or cocooned.
The purpose of this survey was to help us to understand the impact that the covid-19 crisis has on the heritage sector in Ireland so as to advise the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The findings were presented to the Minister of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Heritage Council has proposed to Government a range of supports – including financial, capacity-building and advice – that can support the heritage sector in recovery.
Summary of Survey Results
510 survey workers in the heritage sector, including individuals, bodies and agencies, responded to the online survey, which closed on 6th May.
Two-thirds (66%) of heritage sector workers suffered loss or postponement of work due to COVID-19,
The survey found that, due to Covid-19:
• 52% of respondents had experienced temporary closure.
• 51% experienced postponement or cancellation of events.
• 46% experienced a lack of revenue streams.
• 20% experienced staff well-being issues.
• 17% believe their business / organisation would be unlikely to survive the next 12 months without major intervention.
• 75% of heritage organisations did not have a recovery plan in place.
"Projects have been put on hold because of closures"
"Since the shutdown, we have not been able to do fieldwork and consequently have no income, cash -flow."
"Temporary lay offs due to Covid-19 drop in revenue"
‘The Museum is closed and staff have been temporarily laid off (including me!)’
Some positive aspects emerging
Almost three-quarters (68%) of heritage sector workers believe that there will be a renewed appreciation for heritage following the lifting of Covid-19-related restrictions and 62% of respondents had created online content related to heritage during the pandemic.
When asked how the Government could support the heritage sector during the Covid-19 crisis, 80% of respondents cited flexibility around existing offers to grantees; 79% said assistance in honouring existing commitments; 72% said new funding streams; and 62% said promoting the value of heritage.
"Initial supports need to be fully funded grants - heritage organisations will not have matching funding capabilities until late 2021".
"I think that we need to demonstrate our worth. We need to impress upon our public leaders the value of our contribution to society; communities have been central to addressing this crisis, we will be crucial to addressing the aftermath as well."
"Connect the dots between environmental protection and heritage and tourism and wellbeing. Its all connected".
Commenting on the findings, Chief Executive of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan said: We are concerned about the impact Covid-19 has had on the sustainability of the sector, as evidenced in our survey. We are very conscious about the impact issues such as loss of income and cashflow difficulties can have in the short- and medium-term.
“Ireland is known world-wide for its heritage, and the sector is invaluable, not just to tourism and the wider economy, but to the general well-being of the country. We will continue to collaborate with our partners and will consider what types of supports might be needed to ensure the sustainability of the sector, as the country reopens, to ensure, as far as possible, that the employment it supports and its work in preserving Ireland’s heritage is not lost during the post-lockdown recovery. Advocating for additional supports for the sector will be a key priority for 2020 and 2021.”
She added: “The social restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19 have had a silver lining - a reawakening of interest amongst Irish people in our local heritage. Throughout the 2km and 5km restrictions, we have seen individuals, families and communities the length and breadth of the country taking the time to really explore their local heritage, looking at the local monuments, historical sites, waterways, landscapes, plants, trees, birds and animals, and we believe this will engender a long-term interest in our built and natural heritage.”