Between March and July 2021, AWE organized a number of webinars that replaced previously planned physical meetings that could not take place due to corona measures.
Webinar Outdoor activities at bunker locations
On Thursday March 18, an Atlantikwall Europe capacity building webinar about outdoor activities at bunker locations took place. The session was at the special request of the European Commission, which wanted to know which activities were still possible in the context of European Bunker Day, now that bunkers could not be visited for the second year due to the corona measures in the various Atlantic Wall countries. to become. The question was not only how bunker locations could give the public access to their outdoor areas, but also whether they would still be able to tell their 'story' despite the restrictions.
All AWE partners talked about the current and expected COVID situation in their country and the related restrictions. This was followed by examples of how organizations could still give substance to the European Bunker Day, taking into account the corona measures. In Belgium, the emphasis was on storytelling and re-enactment, while France opted for a communication campaign to keep the public involved and thus bridge the difficult year of 2021 and already take a run-up to the European Bunker Day of 2022. In the Netherlands no activity was possible and the same was true for Norway and Denmark. Faro, the Flemish heritage organization, then showed how they were busy organizing the Heritage Day 'coronaproof'. The organizers of the Open Day of Forten Belt (the locations of the Antwerp Fortress Belt) and of the annual Westwall Day had moved their activity to the summer to avoid too many visitors in one place. Sessions in the break-out rooms showed that the current crisis also provided an opportunity for innovation, improving the locations (eg creating more walking opportunities, other ways to tell the story) or getting rid of overdue maintenance. Jersey Heritage Site Manager Chris Addy, as an AWE Partner, gave a presentation on the Atlantic Wall Heritage in the Channel Islands, with a particular focus on the forced labor involved in the creation of the Atlantic Wall in the Channel Islands.
Webinar Ethical Charter
The webinar on Thursday, April 22, 2021 focused on whether there is a need for an Ethical Charter for Bunker Locations, and if so, what its content should be. With the Venice charter of 1964 (for the conservation and restoration of monuments and city and village views), and the 2008 ICOMOS charter (Charter for the conservation and restoration of monuments and landscapes) as a starting point, AWE started the discussion about the relationship between the Atlantic Wall heritage and ethical principles. The contributions of the speakers addressed various aspects of an ethical charter. For Marcus Meyer, director of Denkort Bunker Valentin in Bremen, his location is a "crime scene" that cannot be reconciled with activities that could be done at other locations. Almar Seinen, curator of the successful exhibition 'Design of the Third Reich' in the Design Museum in Den Bosch, made it clear that controversial subjects can be treated very well, without this having to lead to wrong associations or reactions. All participants agreed that an Ethical Charter for Atlantic Wall sites was desirable. In the break out session, possible formulations of codes of conduct were discussed on the basis of five concrete topics. These were codes for re-enactment, European values, art and events, merchandising, shop and promotion, and education.
Ole-Jacob Abraham, vice director of Museum Vest in Norway, presented himself as an AWE partner and gave an overview of the most important Atlantic Wall sites in Norway in his contribution.
Webinar Digitization and Inventory of Atlantic Wall Heritage
On Thursday 20 May 2021, the webinar Digitization and Inventory of Atlantic Wall Heritage took place, a first attempt to find a common ground for European knowledge exchange. If we consider the remains of the Atlantic Wall as a common European heritage, it is therefore not obvious to strive for a joint approach for inventorying and sharing data, such as digitized files with (aerial) photos or descriptions of locations and objects. ? On the other hand, why would we want that? In other words: what can and do we actually want with that data?
Geert-Jan Mellink, board member of the Dutch Foundation for European Heritage Atlantic Wall, pointed out the possibilities that, for example, an inventory of Atlantic Wall objects has for professionals involved in spatial planning and area development. But how far do you have to go to map all one hundred thousand Atlantic Wall objects? And don't you provoke illegal activities if the locations of objects are exactly known? He also pointed to the existing mistrust between amateurs and professionals that stands in the way of sharing and exchanging knowledge and information.
Cyrille Billard of the French Ministry of Culture showed what an immense task the inventory of Atlantikwall objects and locations is. Since 2015, he has been working with other partners on the inventory and description of Atlantikwall sites in part of Normandy. In addition to a thesaurus, a GIS (geographical information system) has also been developed that can display locations and objects at different levels, such as floor plans and maps.
Birger Stichelbaum of Ghent University showed how digitized aerial photos can be turned into a dataset for the management of archaeological heritage and research. The dataset consisted of ten thousand digitized aerial photographs of Belgium from the 1939-1945 period, which were subsequently rectified and geo-referenced. The different map layers reveal not only physical objects but also soft structures such as trenches and bring about a new orientation from locations to landscapes.
The contribution of Pieterjan Deckers of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel was devoted to the interdisciplinary project MEDEA in which amateur metal detectorists collaborated with heritage professionals to unlock the collections of amateurs, often valuable for research, but not described or accessible. Where there used to be mutual distrust, MEDEA attempted to arrive at a form of 'citizen science'. The project shows that, although mistrust has not completely disappeared, cooperation between amateurs and professionals can indeed lead to concrete results.
Webinar final conference
On June 17, 2021, AWE's last activity, the final webinar, took place. During this virtual meeting, Mathieu de Meyer, project leader of Atlantikwall Europe and director of Atlantic Wall Raversyde, gave a bird's-eye view of the most important projects carried out. Successively the project itself, the European Bunker Day, the conferences, introductory visits, webinars and workshops were reviewed, as well as art exhibitions and the youth project.
The overview was followed by presentations by Geert-Jan Mellink and Marco van Baalen, both board members of the European Heritage Atlantic Wall Foundation, about the Atlantic Wall in the Netherlands and the European Bunker Day, AWE's most important event, respectively. Unfortunately, the successful 2019 edition could not be continued in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, with the exception of Belgium, where a Bunker Day did take place in 2021. The AWE partners have agreed to continue the annual European Bunker Day in the future.
Network coordinator Raf Deroo then gave a presentation about the (partly virtual) introductory visits to Norway, Denmark, Channel Islands, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. He signaled the beginning of an interest among the visited organizations in establishing a European network, but in addition to good cooperation between voluntary organizations and the authorities, he also saw a lack of overarching structures. He also concluded that commemoration everywhere is an important part of the message that locations convey.
This was followed by the presentation by Sarah Goderis, education and events employee at Atlantic Wall Raversyde, of the educational project and student exchange program Off The Wall with the accompanying teaching package and the documentary. Marc Pottier, acting director of La Fabrique de Patrimoines de Normandie, then talked about the photo and film bank Mémoire normande that was created thanks to AWE. The application contains a lot of material about D-Day and the Atlantic Wall from private collections of civilians in Normandy, and attracts about 17,000 monthly visitors.
In his contribution on the future possibilities for dealing with the Atlantic Wall, Hendryk von Busse (Artlantic Wall) emphasized the importance of this heritage, also in relation to societal challenges such as migration and the environment. The task is to make a good balance between 'festivalization' and everyday use of locations.
After a short introduction, Liesbeth Gellinck, project coordinator at the Flemish Land Agency, showed a short film of the recently renovated WWII ammunition and prisoner camp Vloethemveld, which is now a museum and an art-decorated meeting and memorial place.
Fien Leerman, communications and promotion officer at Atlantic Wall Raversyde, announced the winners of the 'Bunkerzoom' photo competition, which was held in the first half of 2021. The forty best of the five hundred submitted photos were shown during the webinar. The five winning photos were ultimately selected by the jury. Became winner? The makers of the winning photos received a GoPro camera.
Mathieu de Meyer then gave his vision for the future after Atlantikwall Europe based on the results of the AWE questionnaire that was completed by almost fifty respondents from all over Europe. The vast majority of them, 75%, were in favor of European cooperation and a UNESCO-like form of recognition. History and education were mentioned as the most important topics of cooperation.
The AWE steering committee will meet regularly until the end of 2021 to consider the precise (legal) form of the network and ownership. In any case, the barrier to entry into the network should not be too high. For example, participation in a European project is not a condition. Furthermore, De Meyer emphasized that he would like to involve both professionals and volunteers in the network and that Atlantic Wall Raversyde is interested in partners for new European projects. The AWE network will not automatically become part of this, but European programs could be used to strengthen the network.
From September, non-steering committee members will be involved in one or more working groups devoted to specific topics such as the Ethics Charter. Such an approach also fits well with the intended structural character of the network.De Meyer concluded by thanking everyone for their contribution to the project.