The Director's word
I came back this morning from Kigali. I had the chance to accompany Yves Daccord, Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and to discover the daily work of an ICRC delegation. I also met several Rwandan and international experts from various fields, including culture and heritage. I would like to thank them sincerely for their warm welcome, the time they dedicated to me and our fascinating conversations. I learnt a lot. I come back from this trip humbled and full of ideas for projects and synergies between Rwanda and our museum.
I will come back to this. Right now, only a few hours after landing, I would like to talk to you about another subject. When I switched on my phone as I got off the plane, I read the latest news about the Coronavirus pandemic. It affects all of us, whether in Kigali or in Geneva, in all sectors of activity. Of course, my thoughts first go to the people affected, to the health professionals who are working tirelessly and to the many Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers around the world who are helping.
For us at the museum, the pandemic is having a significant impact on our attendance. Many groups had to cancel their reservations and the number of individual and family visits has decreased. For the health of our visitors and staff, we strictly adhere to the measures taken by Swiss public authorities and remain in constant contact with them to adapt to any changes in the situation.
Many colleagues in the cultural sector, in Switzerland and around the world, are dealing with similar or even more complicated situations. In Geneva, we were sorry to hear about the cancellation, quite reasonable, of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH), of which we are all very proud. Cinemas, theatres, museums, festivals, etc.: we are all directly affected, and I have a special thought for my colleagues and friends in Italy.
The Coronavirus storm will pass one day and until then, we will have to navigate carefully. As much as possible, I choose to see two opportunities. On the one hand, this pandemic pushes us to consider our business from a different angle. I am convinced that a museum is not just a place you go to. It is above all a point of view on content and a useful community tool. Let’s be agile and innovative in the ways we deliver our content and serve our visitors and audiences in these uncertain times. On the other hand, as cultural actors, we can seize this moment to show solidarity and support each other as much as possible. Precisely, we were all mobilized by the cancellation of the FIFDH in Geneva. Festivals and cultural institutions, including our museum, did not hesitate to support Isabelle Gattiker and her team in their efforts to propose a 2.0 version of their program within 48 hours. This is a fine example of solidarity and it is up to us to keep that momentum going.
Finally, while the impact of the Coronavirus is now at the heart of our conversations in the cultural sector, a few weeks ago, our Australian colleagues were dealing with the massive impact of bushfires. My contacts in Canberra were telling me how their museums were suddenly one of the only urban spaces where the air was breathable. We may be witnessing the birth of a new paradigm. These major upheavals, whether they are related to the environment or public health, will push the cultural sector not only to innovate but also to fully assume a role of which I am personally convinced: that of weaver of social bonds, of a space of solidarity and benevolence that offers tools for understanding the challenges we all face.