Centre of Excellence bringing the story about Middelburg to life
After doing a DNA mapping of the region to identify the cultural DNA - the cultural and historical offers and core values of Middelburg. This was targeted in an online inspirational session with multiple stakeholders to draw out storylines about the city and its offerings. It all boiled down to three storylines that will be used when shaping the content of the Centres of Excellence and telling the story of Middelburg.
Middelburg: Monumental and futureproof. This storyline is about the journey, history and quest for future destinations and possibilities. The city centre has almost 1100 monuments on less than 3 km², so easy to discover by foot in a day. Monuments which are not in use will deteriorate, therefore the municipality encourages commercial activities besides living. On the other hand, it is highly necessary to make the monuments sustainable. This is a great challenge that needs innovative techniques.
Middelburg: City of Freedom. The Four Freedoms Awards are presented in Middelburg in even years and in New York in odd years. The Roosevelt Foundation (Middelburg) and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (New York) aim to inspire people to keep the Four Freedoms (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear) alive, throughout the world. Many famous people have got a Four Freedom award, like Nelson Mandela, Angela Merkel and Malala Yousafzai. Furthermore Middelburg is a shelter city: it gives shelter to people who are defenders of human rights and therefore are in danger in their own country. Middelburg played an important role in slave trade in Dutch history. The municipality wants to turn this dark page around and make it positive by giving education about this past and stimulate initiatives like shelter city.
Middelburg: Centre of Walcheren. The city lies in the centre of the peninsula Walcheren. That’s how the city got its name. The city is also the administrative centre of the province. Every tourist who is on holidays at Walcheren will spent at least a day in Middelburg, especially when the weather hampers a day at the beach.
These storylines will be further developed but with a lot of the groundwork done it is now time to shape and fill the two centres with content.
- We hope that the physical Centre of Excellence will be ready in June and then we will keep working with the virtual centre and aim to have it up and running after the summer, says Jack.
The physical centre will be placed in Middelburg city centre by the central marketplace in a building that already host a tourist information office and a book shop. With over 600 000 visitors in the building each year the location is ideal for a Centre of Excellence that strives to bring forth all the offerings in the city. But the centre will not only be a place of storytelling and information, it will also work to strengthen the businesses in the city by connecting the cultural sector with other businesses that are struggling due to the pandemic i.e. cafés and restaurants. By cooperating both sectors can benefit.
The virtual Centre will also add new opportunities for the cultural businesses in the city. With innovation and added interactive features the virtual Centre of Excellence will open up the possibility to reach new markets and a wider audience. The virtual Centre can for example hold a ticket sale system for a digital live-concert or a live workshop with a pottery artist. - This will be a new channel for many cultural businesses and activities, the possibility to reach a new and wider audience and the interactive features will add a new width for many small cultural businesses, says Jack.
- And in times of Covid when no galleries are open, and no concerts can be held, we can see the need to find other ways to experience and display culture, he continues.
As summer comes and the two Centre of Excellence comes in place Jack can also see how the two centres will correlate and help to bring out the story, look, and feel of Middelburg even for visitors at the virtual centre.
- Many visits start online today with research and bookings, having the virtual centre to give the same look and feel as the physical one we hope that the real experience of visiting Middelburg can start online and attract people to also visit in person, he finishes.