Museums, Cultural Organizations and Community Engagement
Working with the concept of a new model for regional development in cultural heritage, promoted by Eleusis 2021 Cultural Capital of Europe, HERITΛGE since its 6th conference has developed a three to five-year public program focused on community engagement. HerMa HUB 2019 was the first planned event, which managed to bring together more than 30 groups and citizen’s initiatives active in community engagement in cultural heritage from all over Greece, and facilitate their networking and collaboration. At the same time, it began an active dialogue between those groups with recognized academics and practitioners from all over the world, as well as representatives of state institutions from Greece. HERITΛGE continues, in collaboration with Eleusis 2021, to elaborate activities and programs to facilitate the engagement of local cultural groups and initiatives in the production of heritage knowledge, in view of the new planned date for the Cultural Capital of Europe, in 2023.
Public engagement programs constitute an important aspect of strategic planning for cultural organizations worldwide. Museums, archaeological sites, libraries, and archives set collaboration with communities among their priorities, whereas large institutions, like UNESCO, consider it as a fundamental pillar of sustainability. In southeastern Europe, it is mainly the museums that successfully organize public programs, educational activities, open lectures, guided tours, etc. However, theory and practice worldwide is now moving beyond the logic of outreach from the institution to the public, and turns its scope to increased participation of social groups and local communities in the design and implementation of exhibition practices and cultural heritage strategies.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has significantly altered the ways in which cultural heritage is created, managed and experienced. While we are yet to see its full impact in the heritage sector, some of its repercussions are already visible; closing down or significant restrictions in visitor access, an increased emphasis on digital access, big economic loss, redundancies and increasing repercussions on sectors, places, and communities depending on cultural tourism for their survival. In this shifting context, the role of community engagement acquires new content and new importance for heritage institutions worldwide. In responding to these new circumstances, we are initiating an online roundtable with heritage experts from around the world, as a first effort to understand the relationship of institutions to local communities before and within the pandemic, and discuss the future of community engagement for cultural institutions.
The conference will be conducted in English but we will provide simultaneous interpretation in Greek through the Zoom platform.