Portuguese museums have classically directed all the efforts of the education teams and programmes towards children. This is now changing, but as yet there is little research into the relationship between museums and their adult audiences. In a wonderfully interesting, and sometimes deeply moving presentation, Margarida shows us how post-Revolutionary Portugal has used the theories of New Museology to reposition its institutions as community centred sites.
Margarida wants to answer a number of questions in her research. Why are museums beginning to target adults? What are the results of this? To do this, she will use a number of case studies, one of which she presented to us.
The Museu do Trabatho Michel Giacometti in Setubal was founded after the 1974 revolution as a collection of material testimonies, stories and songs of the local people. It only opened as a museum in 1995, however, so is really rather new in the grand scheme of things. The three permanent exhibits provide the nucleus of the museum, and work to support the identities of local communities. The activities of the museum fit with can Mensche's ideas regarding the New Museology - community involvement, focus on social life and labour. The selection of the old fish cannery site as its location also fits into this frame, based upon its re-use of locally iconic and important space.
In 2003 the museum began a progamme of intercultural 'encounters' to build realtionships between the museum and its various communities. These were afternoon events, which revolved around community selected topics, curated and managed by experts, which then finished with a celebration. Tales of the Elf, currently running, asked community members to choose as story from Hans Anderson to produce a museological object that could be placed in the space. Many groups have been invited to contribute, including the elderly, the mentally disabled and prisoners. Their responses have, at times, beeing incredibly deep and emotional, and I found myself choked when Margarida read out a poem by one of the prisoners which he had written to go alongside the artwork.
Both process and production, as well as communication, I feel, create opportunities for learning and meaning making. Not only for the visitor either - for the museum has a chance to develop its links, skills, relationships and knowlegde.
Thank you Margarida. I hope your work goes from strength to strength.
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.