The power of global collaboration

ReACH (Reproduction of Art and Cultural Heritage) is a global initiative spearheaded by the Victoria and Albert Museum in partnership with the Peri Foundation which explores how we could collectively re-think our approach to the reproduction, storage and sharing of works of art and cultural heritage in the twenty-first century.

Why now?

Officially launched in Paris at UNESCO’s headquarters in May 2017, the ReACH initiative coincides with the 150th anniversary of Henry Cole’s ‘Convention for Promoting Universally Reproductions of Works of Art’, which helped usher in a period where museums engaged actively in the creation of reproductions of examples of great art and architecture from around the world making the most of the technological advances of the time.

In response to increasingly destructive forces such as pollution, terrorism, conflicts or mass tourism, the objective of ReACH is to bring the global museum and heritage community together to explore collectively how our imperiled cultural heritage can be preserved, and to debate the creative opportunities that copying these works offers a global audience.

Today, digital technologies are changing the cultural landscape, offering new ways to produce, store and share museum and heritage assets. However, there is no clear methodology for how museums and heritage organisations should engage with these technologies. To complicate matters, legal protocols and procedures have not adapted to these new realities, and often act as roadblocks to new practice. The ambition with the ReACH initiative is to bring clarity – by highlighting best practices, debating pressing issues, and drafting a new declaration – and offer our community a useful roadmap for dealing with reproductions in the future.

What has been achieved so far?

With the support of key research partners – Factum Arte, the Louvre Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the State Hermitage Museum, the Vorderasiatisches Museum, the Warburg Institute and Yale’s Global Cultural Heritage  Initiatives – the core research activity took place between May and December 2017.

Through a series of five roundtable discussions – hosted in Washington with the Smithsonian Institution, in St Petersburg with the State Hermitage Museum, in Abu Dhabi with the Department of Culture and Tourism, in Beijing with the Palace Museum and in London at the V&A – we have drawn together experts from across the world (individuals as well as institutions, start-ups as well as public organisations, scholars, lawyers, curators and digital experts) and conducted an unprecedented global consultation, to broaden our collective knowledge, and to share this with others.

This has resulted in the production of the ReACH Declaration, a twenty-first century version of Henry Cole’s Convention which invites us to embrace with confidence advances in technology and connectivity to better study, share and preserve our cultural heritage.

What is coming up next?

The launch of the ReACH Declaration at the V&A on 8 December 2017 marked the beginning of a new phase of circulation and dissemination of this new text. We invite more people to join the initial signatories and pursue the ReACH dialogue opened at UNESCO. Indeed, what the past months have demonstrated is the new power of collaboration and the importance to work collaboratively to address those global issues that no individual or institution on its own could tackle.


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