The first ever Ecomuseum Conference organized by the Greenlines Institute was held in Seixal, Portugal between 19 – 21st September. I was a delegate and observer to the proceedings for 3 days that included international museum professionals from around the world who expressed their views about the new generation of upcoming ecomuseums. The conference also included a day tour of all the local Ecomuseums of Seixal., and a sailing boat trip on the river Tagus!DSC00818


Museums by Communities

Cultural heritage is generated locally among people and in communities. It does not explicitly exist in objects and artifacts that communities create but rather subtly in intangible cultural elements of oral traditions, festivals, craft and memories of their past. These elements of heritage reside in everyday life, in the non-corporeal collecting traditions that are in the most part utilitarian, but also that have family value, knowledge of nature, and significance to local life. This real contact with culture in context and continuity cannot be genuinely replicated outside of communities nor staged by institutions. Public museums that engender spectacles out of artifacts and specimens do it so to draw together an encyclopedic world-view, a view understood only from a western perspective. This has often in most cases failed to emphasize intangible heritage and cultural traditions for posterity. A slanted history of cultures and civilizations can also be said to have resulted from the material based collection strategy of museums. As such, cultures and communities that were rich in orally transmitted heritage and non-material culture have been neglected for centuries. Museums carry no apparent vested interests in safeguarding the cultural traditions of local communities. More so of those that are not in their regional frame of historical, political and social understanding.

Thus local communities entail local systems of heritage guardianship and a local context of heritage necessitates a local level of custodianship. 

Effective communities that perform as resilient memory-banks often contain local interactive mechanisms within, to allow for such memories to be retained, mechanisms that the museum lacks. The aim of this research is thus, to create a methodology and mechanism by which local communities could chronicle and administer their intangible cultural heritage through participatory museums and through the use of new digital media to effectively function as on-site contexts for cultural heritage.

Keywords – Culture, community, intangible heritage, museums, interactive media, digital culture and society, cultural artifacts, heritage, performance, installations.