An ASCE conference is only a start

Card game for children
From the discovery of the Flemish and Brussels funerary heritage to the publication of a book and the development of a card game for children.

The AGM and Conference 2019

The City of Ghent (Belgium) hosted in 2019 the ASCE Annual General Meeting & Conference. Although the presentations, the conversations between the participants and the discovery of the Flemish and Brussels funerary heritage were the main objectives of the organising committee, some two years later the return is much bigger than four wonderful and intense days.

International friendships were made and are maintained. A like on Facebook or Instagram, the sharing of fascinating posts, photos of each other's work and shared interests inspire us in our daily work, bind us internationally together and make us long for a return visit.

But there is more.

The Ghent ASCE AGM & Conference has also meant a lot for Flanders itself. People, organisations and cities who worked together on the conference got to know each other better and learned about each other’s work. We know better now who to contact with questions, ideas and concerns. An e-mail is quicker send and a phone call is easier made. Experiences are shared and more inventive solutions are implemented.

Publication of a book

Those contacts resulted this spring in a book that is pioneering for Flanders and fills a void: Memento Mori, In dialoog met de begraafplaats (Memento Mori: in dialogue with the cemetery). The book is based on the same ideas as the conference: use, shared use and re-use. But it goes further than that and looks at the design of the cemetery as a place for mourning, evolutions through time and the handling of our heritage as an obvious task for the cemetery manager. It has become a book about the place of the (historical) cemetery in our modern society. The cemetery as a space for the bereaved, the local resident and the visitor. The place to deal consciously with death, burial, last wishes, farewells and memories.

Without the ASCE conference, this book might never have become a reality. Initiators of the book are Lieve Destoop of the City of Ghent and Tamara Ingels of Intro Cultuur en Media / Grafzerkje. Several of the authors were speakers at the ASCE conference such as Nandy Dolman, Marc De Bie, Maarten Herbots and Hendrik de Bouvre or hosted a chair such as Joeri Mertens. The book was presented on the occasion of the opening of the 2021 Week of Discovering European Cemeteries (WDEC) in Flanders and Brussels.

It does not stop there. 

Activities during WDEC 

The Corona pandemic has taught us all to organise a variety of activities during the WDEC instead of the classical guided visits. Self-guided walks in small groups, family activities, a special attention towards children and online lectures became increasingly popular.

The city of Ghent, together with Intro Cultuur en Media, has therefor developed a card game for children called Speurneuzen (detectives). It's a game that allows parent and children to talk about death, burial and heritage in an active yet playful and fun way. The project is not site-specific and can be used at any cemetery. The Dutch cards can be downloaded and there even is a nice little box to fit the cards in. You can make the box yourself and it’s great fun to colour and decorate it together with the kids.

On the last Sunday morning of WDEC, Marc De Bie presented the aperitif lecture The origins of burial and family: a prehistoric perspective. From behind their screens, he took visitors on a journey to Belgian prehistory and the story of life, family and death in our distant past.

The impact of AGM & Conference

To say that the ASCE AGM & Conference 2019 has put funerary heritage on the Flemish map is perhaps an exaggeration, but it has certainly given it a boost and brought people and ideas together.

Altogether we now reflect, think and write even more passionately about the values of our common funerary heritage resting in our cemeteries.

Joeri Mertens
Heritage Flanders

You can access the original article HERE.