Originally published by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in German, Claims and Realities of New Museology is the first doctoral dissertation to analyze the effectiveness of new models for museums.
Dr. Herbert Ganslmayr 1937-1991
In connection with my work as a museum ethnologist at the Übersee Museum in Bremen I asked myself the question--prompted by Dr. Herbert Ganslmayr, Director of the Übersee Museum--whether and how local and regional museums as adult educational institutions could contribute to societal development, that is to coping with everyday life and to improving the conditions of life. In my exploratory research on this subject, which I carried out at the ICOM/UNESCO documentation center in Paris, I "discovered" new museology, a trend in modern museology in which the concept of the museum appeared to hold an answer to my question and which I have therefore made the subject of a detailed study within the framework of my doctoral work in the field of ethnology.
The new conception of the Übersee Museum and my practical work for the Übersee Museum form the basis of my museological background, which, together with systematic ethnology as a basic science for the study of culture, has determined the genesis and orientation of this work. My particular thanks go to Dr. Herbert Ganslmayr, who has had a decisive influence on my professional career, introduced me to museum work and finally stimulated and supported the present work. I wish to thank Dr. Ganslmayr for exposing me to new ways and new possibilities for working independently and gathering experience in the field of museology.
My very special thanks go also to Prof. Jürgen Jensen of Hamburg University, who was my supervisor until the time of my master's examination and who in this way has had a crucial influence on my studies as an ethnologist. I wish to thank Prof. Jensen for his interest in the present work and for his untiring support and constant readiness to advise me.
This work would not have been possible without my colleagues and interviewees in Quebec (Canada), the United States and Mexico. I wish to thank them for their interest, their extraordinary readiness to cooperate, their remarkable hospitality and the support they bestowed on my research work. My particular thanks go to René Rivard for arranging numerous contacts.
I wish to thank my friends and colleagues Dr. Sibylle Benninghoff-Lühl, Dr. Thomas Labahn, Johannes Sommerfeld (M.A.) and Dr. Andreas Köchert for their readiness to talk with me, their critical spirit and the important suggestions concerning the present work.
Special thanks go to Madame Anne Rafin, director of the UNESCO-ICOM Documentation Center in Paris, for her friendly and tireless help in obtaining literature. Moreover, I wish to thank Monique Bonneau and Clara Valverte for help with transcription and for proof reading the parts of the work not in German. I wish to thank my former teacher, Mr. Klaus Papies, and Dr. Thomas Labahn for their willingness to proof read the German manuscript.
From the beginning of this work in June 1984 until its completion I received a grant from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Institute for Educational Excellence, Division of Graduate Support). I wish to thank the Konrad Adenauer Foundation for supporting my work, and especially Mr. Konrad S. Krieger.
Finally, I wish to thank with all my heart my parents, my sister and my friends and colleagues, who stood beside me in word and deed in the course of this work and, in particular, found words of support time and again.
My particularly heartfelt thanks go to my companion in life, Jean-François Mercier, who has supported me in my work in every respect and whose kind and critical sympathy has contributed to the successful outcome of this work.
While I wish to thank all of the persons named for the various forms of stimulus they gave to the present work, I wish to state explicitly that I alone am responsible for any errors and omissions.
Hamburg, January 11, 1988 Andrea Hauenschild
Table of Contents
2. New Museology
3. Case studies
3.1 The ecomuseum in Quebec, Canada
3.1.1 Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, Musée Territoire
220.127.116.11 The Haute-Beauce
18.104.22.168 Conception and objectives
22.214.171.124 Structure and organization
126.96.36.199 Activities and programs
3.1.2 Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde
188.8.131.52 Montréal Centre-Sud
184.108.40.206 Conception and objectives
220.127.116.11 Structure and organization
18.104.22.168 Activities and programs
3.2 The neighborhood museum in the United
3.2.1 The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum
22.214.171.124 Conception and objectives
126.96.36.199 Structure and organization
188.8.131.52 Activities and programs
3.3 The integral museum in Mexico
3.3.1 Casa del Museo
184.108.40.206 First project
220.127.116.11.1 The Zona Observatorio
18.104.22.168.3 Conception and objectives
22.214.171.124.4 Structure and organization
126.96.36.199.5 Activities and programs
188.8.131.52 Second project
184.108.40.206.1 Pedregal de Santo Domingo de los Reyes
220.127.116.11.3 Conception and objectives
18.104.22.168.4 Structure and organization
22.214.171.124.5 Activities and programs
126.96.36.199.6 Evaluation3.3.2 Program for Development of the Educational
Function of INAH Museums
188.8.131.52 Concept and objectives
184.108.40.206 Structure and organization
220.127.116.11 Activities and programs
4. Claims and Reality of New Museology:4.1 Objectives
Comparative Analysis of the Case Studies
4.2 Basic principles
4.3 Structure and organization
4.6 Critical assessment
New museology1 is an idea of the museum as an educational tool in the service of societal development (de Varine 1985:4): "[...] the museum, for us, is or rather should be one of the most highly perfected tools that society has available to prepare and accompany its own transformation."
At the center of this idea of a museum lie not things, but people (cf. de Varine 1976b:127). Although it is described as "new"2 and must be considered a phenomenon of the seventies and eighties, new museology actually follows the tradition among museum people dating back to the nineteenth century of considering the museum as an educational institution in the service of society.
In 1971, at the Ninth General Conference of the International Council of Museums, Stanislas Adovéti, a philosopher and author from the People's Republic of Benin, with the approval of the Mexican Mario Vásquez, pointed out the precarious situation of the museum (cf. Adovéti 1972; de Varine 1978b:29). He believed that the museum as an institution would either have to change radically or lose its right to exist and sooner or later disappear.
Since then, in countless museum conferences, academic lectures and articles, critics have lamented the obsolete character of museums and have questioned the conception museums have of themselves and their right to exist. But, in fact, museums appear to be surviving the crisis. In place of the feared closing of museums, the headlines announce new openings. Here the question inevitably arises: Have museums changed so that they enjoy increasing popularity? One thing is sure: museum people, under the pressure of events and in reaction to vehement criticism, have awakened from their torpor and are trying hard to make changes.
1 The term "new museology" used here is a translation of the commonly used French and Spanish terms "nouvelle muséologie" and "nueva museologia."
2 In this regard, it should be noted that this idea was developed definitively by French museologists and is, in fact, relatively "new" in the context of centralized French museum work.
3 These changes are expressed, among other things, in the modified definition of the museum put out by the International Council of Museums in 1974 (ICOM 1974:1): "The museum is a permanent non-profit institution, open to the public, in the service of society and its development, which does research on the material evidence of man and his environment, acquires such evidence, preserves it, communicates it and, in particular, displays it for the purpose of study, education and enjoyment." [Emphasis added]
In his remarks on the "prehistory" of new museology (1978b:29), de Varine, Secretary General of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) from 1965 to 1974, noted the discouragement of museologists in the course of their attempts to change the museum, since all efforts to modernize the museum and achieve cultural relevance had failed to catch on:"[...] the most enterprising and innovative museologists throughout the world had lost their illusions: the museum as an institution devoted to tradition was in the course of dying, despite the efforts being made on all sides to invent a future for it."
De Varine (1978b:29) argued further in this regard that the modernization of museum architecture, display technology and research on target groups has led to a tremendous increase in costs and commercialization, without changing the quality of the museum visit and motivating city residents-with the exception of captive public-school classes-to increase museum visitation (cf. de Varine 1987b:1-2).
Dissatisfied with attempts to reform traditional museums, museologists in various countries looked for possibilities to change radically the working methods, content and structure of an institution that some thought outmoded. The purpose was to help museums achieve social meaning, less in the sense of recognition and increased attendance, but more in regard to the museums concrete contributions to everyday life. These considerations finally led to the creation and testing of new forms of the museum. Three parallel developments occurred, independent of one another and in separate social contexts: neighborhood museums in the United States, integral museums in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, and ecomuseums in France and Quebec (cf. chap. 2).
A consequence of the protest against and attempt to change established, stagnating, museum practice was the formation during the 1980s of an association of museum workers called the International Movement for New Museology (MINOM). The group consists of museologists who have joined together to explore ideas of the "new" museum as a democratic, educational institution in the service of social development (particularly at the local and regional level). Baron (1987:1) specifies the thrust of new museology as follows: "[...], this new active or community museology resolutely challenges the museum as an institution, the omnipotence and omniscience of the curators, the domination of the fine arts over all other disciplines, aesthetic pleasure as the essential criterion of an object's value, the absolute precedence of objects over life and the abiding nature of the history and values of an elite that turns to its profit the resources of the planet, the creativity of its inhabitants and taxes of its fellow citizens."
Of course, distinctions must be made, in particular, that the "new" museum does not see itself as an alternative to the established museum but as a supplement opening up new dimensions. Although a systematic and detailed comparison is not possible here, in fact, new museology shares much with traditional museology. Many modern museums-particularly local and regional museums, folk-art museums and natural history museums-follow ideas similar to those of new museology.4 What is new about the "new" museum lies less in its individual elements than in its overall concept.
The discourse of new museology is essentially cultural and political, not scientific. De Varine (1983b: no page no.) admits the difficulty of defining the essential features of new museology: "There are no established rules or models, just theories that have been immediately belied by practice." Correspondingly, questions related to the nature and theory of new museology have been avoided, as Michel Roy (1987:8) emphasizes: "These practices are characterized by a refusal to develop a precise museological model, a practice based on a precise theory. Exploration and experimentation are still underway."
It cannot be denied that relatively much of the available literature, which consists predominantly of short articles, has--with a few exceptions--a certain propagandistic character. A body of research, properly speaking, is next to nonexistent. At best, one can speak of a "body of thought," a "collection of ideas." The single longer work on new museology by René Rivard (1984a) makes no scientific claims and should be viewed as a general compendium of ideas on the subject. With the exception of the case studies of Gariépy (1986), Céré (1985) and Antúñez et al. (1976), there has been no comprehensive analysis of new museology according to systematic, empirical criteria.
A first attempt to relate the claims and reality of new museology to each other and to subject them to a comprehensive, critical analysis will be undertaken in the present research work. Basically I consider the changes in museum practice demanded by new museology, particularly with respect to local and regional museums, to be desirable and, through a scientific study of the relationship of theory to practice, I intend to produce a more precise definition of and solid basis for new museology. This work aims to make new museology accessible and comprehensible, clarify its problem areas and stimulate its practice in order to advance the museum as an educational institution and agent of social change.
4 The wide spectrum of discussions of so-called traditional museology is clear, for example, in the publications of the International Commission for Museology (ICOFOM) (cf. ICOFOM 1980, 1983, 1987; cf. also Sola 1987).
The plan of the "new" museum in chapter 2 is a theoretical construct, an ideal type, in which the claims of new museology are put to the test. The hypothesis that the "new" museum is feasible leads to testing these claims against the reality of museums generally classified as examples of new museology. For this purpose I carried out a series of empirical case studies (cf. Aleman/ Ortlieb 1975), which form the central element of the present work and are dealt with in detail in chapter 3.
The following museum projects were selected as case studies: the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, musée territoire, Haute-Beauce, Quebec, Canada; the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, Washington, D.C., the Casa del Museo project, Mexico; the Program for the Development of the Educational Function of the INAH Museums, Mexico.
These examples represent varied applications of new museology. Each project shows peculiarities that distinguish it from the others.
The principal emphasis was intentionally placed on a qualitative investigation of the individual aspects of new museology. Data derived from intensive structured, non-standardized interviews and research of the literature and documents.
All together I interviewed 35 persons for a total of 63 hours, recorded on tape cassettes. Transcribed word for word, the interviews produced 800 pages of written text. The questions addressed the development of the museum project, each country's system of museum practice and the personal experiences, assessments, views and judgments of my respondents. A wealth of material on new museology emerged from the interviews that differs considerably from the "official" discourse of publications and conferences.
Of course, the bulk of the data reflects the specific conditions of each museum during the period of investigation. However, an effort was made to clarify the course of the museum's development over a longer period of time. Current data were produced through interview questions related to the previous conditions of the museum being studied and by maintaining personal contact with the informants throughout the two-and-a-half year evaluation phase.
The representatives of new museology have made only limited attempts to systematize their prior experiences and develop definitions. 5 Since 1986, however, a working group of MINOM members (Jean-Claude Duclos, Eulalia Janer, Mario Moutinho, Girard Colling, Marc Maure) has published a paper outlining the principles of new museology. In it, Duclos et al. (1986) distinguish the objectives and means of new museology from its missions and functions (Duclos et al. 1987). As a first attempt (Duclos et al. 1986), the authors classified as objectives the following elements of new museology: a global view of reality; research that satisfies social requirements; action that is continually adapted to a population and its territory; and an approach, research and actions that contribute to individual and social development. The same work (Duclos et al. 1986) also identified the means of new museology as follows: collection, conservation, research (interdisciplinarity), exhibition and museum education (participation).
I will, therefore, attempt (of course, with no claim to "final truth") to specify the ideal type of the "new" museum, relying on the statements of practitioners of new museology.
With regard to the general definition of the museum as an institution, I consider that the following constituent elements should be distinguished: objectives "objectifs" or "missions" in Duclos et al. 1986; 1987), basic principles, and structure and organization, approach, and tasks "moyens" or "fonctions" in Duclos et al. 1986; 1987).
According to new museology, the "new" museum is defined by its socially relevant objectives and basic principles. Its work as an educational institution is directed toward making a population aware of its identity, strengthening that identity, and instilling confidence in a population's potential for development. In this regard, Maure writes (1985a:17): "A museum is a means, a tool available to a society to find, give form to, mark, demarcate its identity, i.e. its territory and its frontiers in time and space, with respect to other societies and other social and cultural groups."
Rivard (1984a:13f) and Taborsky (1978:22f; 1982:1-9, cf. Taborsky 1985) speak in this connection of identity as the totality of images that a group has of itself, its past, present and future. The role of the museum is, in the first place, to put a population in a position to visualize, be aware of and name these images, which are manifested at the material and non-material levels in everyday life. Taborsky (1978:23) speaks in this regard of the important role of the museum in the process of "positive imagizing.@" The business of museums must be to realize a population's right "[...] to imagize, to name, to define what objects are, as locally perceived; to define what the local needs are, and the objects which meet those needs."6
By identifying and naming the material and non-material elements that constitute their environment people realize their right to their own local and regional identity, they take possession of their world and gain a certain control over it (cf. Maure 1985a:21). Museums consciously take up the search for identity. However, the objective of the "new" museum goes beyond the formation of identity. The "new" museum wants to make a concrete contribution to coping with everyday life by pointing out problems and possible solutions. Museums as educational institutions can contribute to a population's consciousness of its neighborhood or region (cf. chapter 2) and act upon it in a formative way. Putting the theoretical model into words, de Varine (no year:4) described the "new" museum as a kind of people's university: "[...]: the place which can and must mirror the questions which individuals and social groups are asking themselves—not to supply answers, but to state the problems, point to alternatives, and offer materials and information to assist them to realize and decide what attitudes to take up."
By attaining the immediate goals of forming identity and coping with everyday life, the "new" museum strives to influence the integrated development of a region and its population (Document de travail 1984:4).
The radical expansion and application of the principles of public orientation and territoriality, as the fundamental principles of the "new" museum, follow from the goal of service to society (cf. de Varine no year:4).7 If a museum really wants to initiate identity-forming and development- relevant work within the context of a given population, it must orient itself to the local conditions and to the specific interests and needs of that population. The "new" museum may not isolate itself from society in a self-sufficient manner, but rather must open itself outward to society, in order to have an effect on the public.
The far-reaching orientation to the public for which the "new" museum strives, requires that its potential public be identified. Here the basic principle of territoriality comes into play. The "new" museum relates to a clearly demarcated territory and its population. These are defined by cultural and natural boundaries (for example, a city, a neighborhood, a cultural and geographical region), rather than tied to given administrative divisions (Rivard 1984a:50). The function of strongly defining the museum's relationship to its locality provides meaning to the public (Bellaigue Scalbert 1983:35). 8
Based on the objectives and basic principles of the "new" museum, representatives of new museology have developed a view as to what a museum—its structure, approach and tasks—should be, and this view will be examined below.
In order to preserve its experimental character and maintain the greatest possible openness to the constantly changing reality of people's lives, the "new" museum strives to maintain a low degree of institutionalization. Neither the spatial nor the organizational structure is fixed. Employees are engaged on the basis of time-limited contracts so that the staff may be continually renewed (cf. de Varine 1978b:37). Rivard (1984a:38) understands the "new" museum rather as a dynamic movement than as a fixed institution: "A fortiori, movement and institutionalization are opposed to each other, since movement itself will be threatened by death if it is 'put in a box', since in the long run this will remove its dynamism, its popularity, its centrifugal force."
In order to preserve independence, the "new" museum's budget depends, in so far as possible, on the resources of the region. That includes museum funds generated through contributions from local businesses and citizens. State subsidies make up the difference in the required budget (cf. de Varine 1978b:37; Rivard 1985b:204).
In contrast to the traditional museum, where activities are limited as a rule to the "Four walls" of the museum building, the "new" museum advocates a decentralized spatial structure. It marks its territory by creating so-called identification markers. The Document de travail (1984:4) states: "New museology proposes to remove barriers in different ways: to go into environments not favorable to museums, to extend the museum throughout an area, to make sporadic excursions into non-museum environments, to give shows before neglected publics, to distribute the museum throughout homes, families and other social and productive cells (hospitals, factories, people's houses)." Because of this spatial branching and splitting, the "new" museum is often referred to as a "fragmented museum."
5 However, Rivard (1984a) gives a good overview; some broad outlines also appear in the Document de travail (1984) and in the Groupe de Recherche en Patrimoine (1983). Stevenson (1987:31) and Lacouture (1987:21) compare traditional and new museology.
6 In his feasibility study for the museum of the Inuit in Inukjuak, Quebec, Rivard wrote (1985a:17): "A museum can play a vital role in helping a society to define its present reality, collecting the images that it readily has and exhibiting/communicating these images to the people. When the museum is actively engaged in presenting and discussing the present and local images—as some do—it is a prime method for helping a people to gain control over their activities, to clarify the issues of actuality, to discuss concerns, and to gather vitality and self-identity. With the help of an active museum/cultural centre, Inuit society can readily deal with its social and economic conditions. But the first step . . . is to imagize them. And the museum is able to involve people with imagizing not only the past but also the present and the future, with imagizing not only what is beautiful and traditional, but also social concerns, current existence, economic situations, society in general."
7 Cf. particularly the works of Rivard (1981, 1983b, 1984a, 1984b).
8 So that the "new" museum may avoid reactionary nostalgia for homeland and self-admiration, an additional element must be added to its sense of locality: openness to the outside, i.e. expansion of local and regional horizons through correlations and dependencies linking homeland to the outer world on the national and international levels. The representatives of new museology have specifically referred to the danger of idealization (cf. Hubert 1985:189).
A crucial element in the structure and organization of the "new" museum is that it offers the population an active role in shaping and participating in the museum (cf. Rivard 1984a:48-50). The work of the "new" museum is based on the knowledge and energy of the "living forces" of the population and thus includes the public in its various activities. Ideally the museum will be supported by the public itself and the population will at the same time be the actor and object of the museum's work (Rivard 1984a:16).
This form of museum work, which is distinguished by public participation, is described by representatives of new museology as "people's museography." 9 As to the position of the visitor, the Document de travail states (1984:5): "Collective memory, social subjects and creative movement completely change the concept of the museum visitor. Contemplation and intellectual pleasure are supplanted by the participation and involvement of the visitor, who in this way becomes an integral part of the new museum in place of being merely a guest. Through his knowledge and his living forces he is called upon either to participate in the museum adventure itself or to involve himself in the sociocultural and even economic development of his territory. He is no longer a visitor; he becomes a decision-maker, an actor, a museographer and an agent of multiplication."
The "new" museum has an organizational structure geared to the greatest possible inclusion and participation of the community. The museum is linked and accountable to an association of citizens who meet in a general assembly to approve the museum's annual programming. There residents choose representatives for the board of directors. The board advises the museum personnel between general meetings. The population is offered further possibilities for active participation by joining various working groups.
The team of museum employees (salaried and volunteer) consists in so far as possible of citizens of the neighborhood or region. They acquire the necessary skills through practical museum work, through participation in special courses in people's museology and through periods of practical training in other "new" museums. Scientific and technical personnel and the active public cooperate as equals in the areas of conception, programming, production and evaluation. There is no hierarchical decision-making structure within the museum.
Beyond the specific elements of structure and organization, the "new" museum-in contrast to the usually specialized traditional museum-is distinguished by an integrated and integral approach to reality. French-speaking scholars frequently refer to this element as the "system approach" (Maure 1977/78:33). Human activity is dealt with as part of a complex whole.
9 Rivard (1984a:84) defines "people’s museography" as ". . . a body of techniques and practices applied by a population to the conservation and enhancement, in a museum or otherwise, of the collective heritage of the community and its territory."
This "new" view of reality (cf. for example de Rosnay 1975; Morin 1977; 1980; Terradas 1983) requires an interdisciplinary approach to museum work. Maure (1985a:21) comments: "Another central aspect of these "new museums" is the importance accorded to the ecological perspective. The traditional specialization between different disciplines, such as art, ethnology, history, natural sciences etc., is replaced by an interdisciplinary approach that puts the accent on the relationships between man and his environment."
The work of the "new" museum is theme-centered, in distinction to predominantly object-oriented, traditional museum work. The themes to be addressed arise from the "collective memory" and from contemporary needs.
The approach followed by the "new" museum also includes not only recording, documenting, conserving, and investigating the past, i.e. the cultural and natural heritage, but also making the museum usable for coping with the present. This is done by giving the past value and viewing it with critical awareness. Conservation and development are not treated as antithetical, but as integral components of an evolutionary process (cf. Collin 1985:1).
In order to enhance its outward-directed effectiveness, the "new" museum actively engages and cooperates with a region's already existing institutions (cf. Rivard 1984a:58,61).
The tasks ("means" or "functions" in Duclos et al. 1986; 1987) that the "new" museum performs are set by themselves to achieve desired objectives. The descriptions of these tasks-collection, documentation, research, conservation, public programs-correspond to a great extent with those of traditional museums. But in the "new" museum, "continuing education" and "evaluation" are added to the list of tasks. However, fundamental differences exist in the interpretation of the tasks. Two of the primary functions of a museum are generally the collection and conservation of a given heritage. In the case of the traditional museum, these activities are directed to recording as completely as possible the available inventory of artifacts. In the "new" museum, the stress of collection and conservation activities is placed on the non-material cultural heritage. In this regard, the Document de travail (1984:3) states: "All knowledge, all historical and social perceptions, all testimony become subjects and objects of conservation."
Practitioners of new museology use the expression "collective memory" to define the totality of a group's non-material heritage. "Collective memory" comes from the work of Maurice Halbwachs (1950). In the "new" museum, only the material goods that possess information and communication value relative to the collective memory are collected and conserved (Document de travail 1984:3):"[...] material goods become part of the heritage only as a function of the needs of this collective memory, either to illustrate, or to keep a representation that is real rather than imaginary, or to seize the future."
Objects without meaning for the "collective memory" are not treated as part of the heritage. This means that identifying an area's cultural heritage is not determined in the first place by scholars, as is the case in traditional museums, but rather it is the population of a given region whose collective memory determines the heritage to be preserved. That which is alive today in human memory, significant and useful in the present determines the heritage (cf. Rivard 1984a:46-48).
The "new" museum does not conserve for conservation's sake, but proceeds from the requirements of the present (Billaigue-Scalbert 1983:38). Thus, the job of the "new" museum is first of all to collect, keep and study the elements of this collective memory, which is manifested in individual testimony. The "new" museum forms collections in the sense of placing objects in museums only to a limited degree. The emphasis of collection activity is placed rather on forming an extensive data-bank that records the natural and cultural inventory or heritage of a community and its territory (cf. de Varine no year:2f; Querrien 1985:199). Everything that exists is interpreted as part of a system of interactions that humans form with their natural and cultural milieu. The inventoried heritage is available to everyone. If possible, it is left in situ and kept in its original context. In this regard de Varine (no year:3) states as follows: ". . . this means that the museum as bank of things must burst its bounds to include-in spatial terms-the whole of its community; and the real things which it accumulates must not be in effect laid aside in a building dedicated to this purpose, but must count as virtually and scientifically belonging to the museum collection, though without having to give up their physical location or their usefulness."
Only a limited number of objects, which in some way are deemed representative, significant, aesthetically interesting, rare or delicate, are acquired and conserved. This assures that they are preserved and remain accessible as part of the public heritage (cf. de Varine no year:3).10Elsewhere (1979:83) de Varine describes the significance of the collection for the "new" museum: "The collection is composed of everything this territory has and everything that belongs to its inhabitants, both real and personal property, material or non-material goods. This is a living heritage, constantly changing and constantly being created, belonging essentially to individuals, families, small collectives, which a motivation and research team can use as needed for all kinds of actions. The acquisition of fragments of this heritage is not programmed and takes place in effect only in the case of abandonment, risk of alienation prejudicial to the community, voluntary gift or definitive use for another purpose. It is only a last resort and the collection proper of the museum, in the institutional sense, cannot be an end in itself." [emphasis added]
Just as collection and conservation refer to the needs of a given population, so too is research into the inventoried and conserved heritage not conducted as an end in itself. Research problems stem from social reality with solutions geared to coping with everyday life and shaping community. The starting point of research is the concrete social conditions and requirements upon which the research results finally act (cf. de Varine 1983a).
10 Regarding collection policy, cf. Veillard (l985).
In contrast to presentation formats that concentrate on aesthetics, a notion prevalent in traditional museums,11 "new" museums employ theme-oriented presentation means. Through the use of audiovisual materials and real or reconstructed "environments," objects are represented in context and make social references. They convey the meanings as interpreted from the standpoint of the population.
For citizens to be actors in the various spheres of museum work, the "new" museum uses museum-specific continuing education to prepare the population to perform museum tasks to which they are entitled and to do them independently.
Another task the "new" museum explicitly assumes for itself is evaluation: the continuing process of calling itself into question and scrutinizing its work. This is done to ensure that the museum will constantly adapt itself to changing conditions and needs of the population. Rivard (1984a:10) speaks about evaluation as opening the museum to criticism.
In summary, the model of the "new" museum as it emerges from the discourse on new museology can be represented as follows:
Schematic representation of the ideal "new" museum
Coping with everyday life
2. Basic principles:
Extensive, radical public orientation
3. Structure and organization:
Financing through local resources
Teamwork based on equal rights
Subject: complex reality
Linking the past to the present and future
Cooperation with local/regional organizations
The "new" museum is avowedly opposed to (while thoroughly acknowledging the progress made by modernized traditional museums) those traditional museums that remain untouched by a general reorientation and still consciously adhere to an elitist concept of the museum that neglects social relationships (cf. Baron 1987:1).
The "new" museum, then, is the counterpart of the elitist, traditional museum. According to de Varine (1978b:35) the latter has the following "sacrosanct" characteristics: ". . . high-priority respect for the imperatives of conservation, the notion of the masterpiece and the preeminence of the acquisition function, absolute obeisance to the classifications of the sciences and disciplines, particularly with respect to the human sciences, subordination of the public and its needs to the precondition of the performance of the museum's other functions, imperatives of security, notions of safety, good taste, scientific rigor, etc."
The traditional museum, which forms the point of departure for the criticisms of new museology, may be represented as follows:12
11 Lacouture (1983:3ff) ascribes the main reason for the elite character of museums to the aestheticized form of presentation of traditional museums.
12The attempt is made here to depict an "opposing model" to the ideal type of the "new" museum presented above, but without setting out more fully the details of the traditional museum. This would go too far in terms of the subject matter and framework of the present work. The outline that is a typification, clearly emphasizing the characteristic features. They are referred to for purposes of comparison in the evaluation of the case studies (see chapter 4). It should be stressed that this outline does not refer to the "modernized" traditional museum.
Schematic representation of the traditional museum
Preservation and protection of a given material heritage13
2. Basic principle:
Protection of the objects
3. Structure and organization:
Central museum building
Subject: extract from reality (objects placed in museums)
Orientation to the object
Orientation to the past
Varine (1983c:4ff; cf. Rivard 1984a:44ff) explains this innovative concept as follows: the conventional kind of museum consists of the following three elements: a collection in a building for a public. Many authors (cf. Rivard 1984a:44f) add a fourth element to this list: the specialists, who carry on the museum's work. New museology redefines these constituent elements (cf. de Varine 1983c:4ff; Nicolas 1984:1-2):
1. The collection is the totality of the heritage.
2. The building is the totality of the territory.
3. The public is the totality of the population.
Using Rivard's terminology (1984a:7), the "new" museum is ideally "without architectural barriers, without disciplinary barriers and without barriers to public access"--and therefore an "open" museum in the most extreme sense (cf. Sola 1987:48).
A question that is frequently heard from all sides is whether the "new" museum, with its high ideals, is unrealistic and utopian. De Varine writes (no year:5):14 "On the one hand, I believe that such a radical rethinking is the only possible salvation for the museum as a useful factor in the life of society in the modern world. Utopia is no danger as long as it is aware of itself and inspires positive action with concrete efforts. On the other hand, old and recent experience proves that the above museological principles are practicable and effective."
One of the tasks of my research is to investigate using case studies how the "new" museum has been realized in various social contexts and how these realizations relate to the claims of new museology, that is, to what extent are we dealing with "concrete utopias."
13 In the case of local and regional museums within an easily defined territory. However, territoriality is not a basic principle for traditional museums.
14 For the criticism of new museology, cf. chapter 4.
3. Case studies
3.1 The ecomuseum in Quebec, Canada
3.1.1 Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, Musée Territoire
18.104.22.168 The Haute-Beauce1
Haute-Beauce is a rural area in the southeastern part of Quebec. It is located in the southwestern hinterland of the Beauce region proper, which consists of flourishing small towns such as St. Joseph, Ste. Marie, Beauceville and St. Georges along the Chaudière River.
The Haute-Beauce region is physically separated from this center of small towns principally by its position on an Appalachian high plateau that reaches as much as 873 meters in elevation. Besides the traditional region of Beauce in the northwest, Thetford-Mines in the west, Lac Mégantic in the south and Sherbrooke in the southwest form the important zones of influence. The southern boundary is only a few kilometers from the U.S. border. Haute-Beauce comprises a total of 13 rural parishes: La Guadeloupe, St. Evariste, Ste. Clothilde, St. Hilaire, St. Benoit, Courcelles, St. Sébastien, St. Victor, Lac Drolet, Lambton, St. Romain, St. Honoré and St. Ephrem. In connection with the establishment of a mill street as a tourist attraction, there have been attempts made in the Haute-Beauce since 1986 to include the East Broughton parish in the area of the Haute-Beauce (cf. Des liens se tissent avec East Broughton 1987).
The 13 parishes named above belong to various administrative units: the federal districts ("comtés fédéraux") of Beauce and Frontenac, the provincial administrative regions of Quebec and Estrie and the four MRCs ("municipalités régionales de comté") of Beauce-Sartigan, Robert Cliche, l’Amiante and Du Granit.
A description of the region beyond this basic information is complicated by the fact that the creation of this territorial unity of Haute-Beauce is inextricably linked to the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. This is why the genesis and peculiarities of the Haute-Beauce region need to precede the activities of the ecomuseum.
1When the origin of statements is not specified more precisely in the following text, these are summaries I made of the available material. When I refer to certain persons by name, without providing further details, these are statements made in interviews by my respective respondents: Pierre Mayrand (1-18-85), Maude Céré (1-25-85), Denis Hovanec/Johanne Badeau (1-25-85), Luc Lafontaine/Lorraine Charest (1-24-85), Jacinthe Roy (1-31-85), Guy Baron/Paul Bolduc (2-1-85), Lucille Létourneau (1-31-85), Candide Dubord (1-31-85), Ginette Fortin (1-31-85), Monique Pomerleau (2-1-85). In distinction to the usual citations, all of the cited portions of interviews appear in bold face.
2The 13 parishes belong to 16 separate "municpalités."
The Haute-Beauce region, which properly speaking does not have its own center and has to be defined essentially by its location "between [...]" and "on the bank of [...]" (Fortin), did not exist before the establishment of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce or its predecessor, the Musée et centre régional d’interprétation de la Haute-Beauce. "Haute-Beauce" as a regional unit was created in the late 1970s and early 1980s in connection with the founding of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. Because territoriality is a cornerstone of the ecomuseum and no predefined territory existed, the initiators of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce gradually delimited and determined such a territory. The name "Haute-Beauce," which was little used until then, was given to a geographical and cultural unit that in their opinion—or better, according to their intuition—was identifiable. It was first used in 1957 by a geographer to indicate the area that nestles like a horseshoe in the curve of the Chaudière River (cf. Céré 1985:13). Although the name "Haute-Beauce" had not been widely used by the region’s inhabitants, it does reflect a tradition in the area to distinguish between the "upper Beauce" and the "lower Beauce."
But the recent association of the 13 villages in a territorial unit may be attributed in a very limited degree to the initiative of the population. Its association with a museum project was advanced by people who were more or less outsiders. Céré described the complex process as follows:
When the project was started in 1978, it was Pierre Mayrand who [...] began to do motivation work in the three nearby villages, St. Evariste, St. Hilaire de Dorset and La Guadeloupe, three very nearby villages. And he slowly created a more inclusive concept of the villages around there and at a given time he would go as far as St. Martin, St. Méthode. With experience and usage it was realized that 13 was the maximum it was possible to go to, because geographically this began costing too much, the transportation, moving, telephone, long distances. [...]. So, it was seen that this was the high plateau [. . .]. So, the part between the old Beauce and L’Estrie was included in the limits and it was decided not to touch the Chaudiére region or the L’Amiante region. It was really those 13 villages that are jammed together inside that geographic area.
Céré later referred to the problems of this kind of delimitation and the criteria underlying it. One selection criterion was the economy and efficiency of the museum’s work. A second was the geographical location of the 13 villages on the high plateau. Furthermore, a crucial factor for the territorialization (cf. Rivard 1984a:50) of the Haute-Beauce region was its commonality in historical and socio-economic terms. Despite the artificiality of combining the 13 villages (split among various administrative zones), the Haute-Beauce region is relatively homogeneous.
What unites the Haute-Beauce population is their common historical origin and traditions. White people only settled the high plateau around the middle of the 19th century. Traditionally, residents earned their living in agriculture, forestry and granite quarrying. Sheep breeding and wool processing also formed important industries. Even today the Haute-Beauce is predominantly rural—around 16,000 people live in the 13 communes (cf. Céré 1985:13).
In addition to agriculture, wood processing and the textile industry constitute important sources of employment (cf. Gariépy 1986:34-42 for the current economic structure). Family businesses are widespread. A total of 82.9 percent of the inhabitants earn their living in the region itself (Gariépy 1986:49). For a rural area, the unemployment rate compared to the rest of Quebec is astonishingly low. On the one hand, this may be explained by the existence of a large number of middle-class industrial businesses, but, on the other hand, also by the emigration of part of the working population, particularly those between the ages of 25 and 45, to the urban centers of Quebec and Montreal (Gariépy 1986:33 ff). The real structural weakness of the area and the consequences of the economic crisis, particularly in the textile industry, were thus concealed. Urban emigration due to the absence of suitable education and work opportunities represents one of the greatest problems facing the Haute-Beauce region. Moreover, respondents complained of an inadequate road system, relative isolation and neglect on the part of the provincial government (cf. the detailed account of the region’s economic condition and infrastructure by Guy Baron 1985).
Overall, however, this is a relatively prosperous region—far removed from poverty and squalor—in which life takes its usual course, free of disruptions. Gariépy shares this conclusion (1986:42), when she speaks of a "rural environment not faced with acute social and economic problems." She goes on: "The plateau of the Beauce back country, despite its relative isolation, appears to enjoy a certain prosperity."
How did the population react to the creation of an Haute-Beauce region? Did the amalgamation correspond to current consciousness and existing community needs? The awareness of a common heritage among the various villages appears part to have been awakened by the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce (beyond border and family ties that are common to all the parishes).
On the whole, however, Haute-Beauce is treated as an autonomous and meaningful unit, independent of the traditional Beauce region, with which the population identifies more and more. Céré noted that:
When the ecomuseum of the Haute Beauce was named, this had an extraordinary dynamic effect [...]. At first this word ‘haut’ flattered people’s ego; then they immediately told us that there was an impression of being born, or coming into the world, and this was really important to people. The name was a very important triggering element.
Rivard (1984a:86), following Edwina Taborsky, speaks of the "power to name." Yet it was outside motivators who exercised the "power to name," in order to offer the population a name and a concept. Céré expressly noted: "It was we who defended the position of the Haute-Beauce and in the end the people are connecting with it quite well." Gariépy (1986:52) also criticized the lack of community involvement in the process of territorialization and "naming."
Thus, Haute-Beauce as a regional unit less reflects the reality of the citizen’s everyday life than represents a new element that only gradually is winning social acceptance through various promotional techniques.
In the end, however, it should be emphasized that all the respondents—all persons who had already undergone a certain sensitization process—agreed without qualification that the merging of the 13 parishes made sense and offered the population previously unexplored possibilities for identification and action. The role the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce played will be addressed in the following sections.
The Musée et centre regional d’interpretation de la Haute-Beauce
In 1978 Bolduc put the collection up for sale. Rather than sell individual pieces to American antique dealers who were passing through, he preferred to dispose of the complete collection locally. The collection represents a unique testimony of the Haute-Beauce’s cultural heritage and Bolduc ascribed great importance to its remaining within the region. Thus, he tried repeatedly to get the Quebec Ministry of Culture to erect a history center, but unfortunately without success (cf. Le Comité Culturel de la Guadeloupe: no year). Bolduc got little support from his fellow citizens. With some exceptions the residents of La Guadeloupe and surrounding villages were unaware of the collection’s existence (Luc Lafontaine).
Therefore, Bolduc contacted an outsider, Pierre Mayrand, an art historian and museologist at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), who owned a second home in St. Hilaire de Dorset and had visited the small private museum several times (cf. Céré 1982a). Mayrand declared himself prepared to take on the development of a project that combined keeping the collection in the region and erecting a museum or interpretation center. He described the basis for his decision:
There was a general context conferred on it, a political context as well, from the fact that there were now in Quebec people who were very up to date on ecomuseology and who wanted to experiment with it on the ground. Because what is ecomuseology actually? It’s experimentation for the purpose of stepping in and experimenting. And, second, there was the fact that I was available and circumstances were such that I was able to take a concrete interest in that region.
Mayrand took the first steps in 1978 as a solo effort. From the first, he strived to create a cultural institution that would be of benefit not only to a single place—La Guadeloupe—but to an entire region yet to be defined. In the initial phase, Mayrand scouted around and found recruits for his project through newspaper articles and contacts with municipal officials. He formed a small committee with interested locals and outsiders.
In 1979, after a year of promotion, Mayrand and the committee officially founded the CRIHB (Centre régional d’interprétation de la Haute-Beauce) Corporation, in order to provide a legal basis for further action (cf. Musée et centre régional d’interprétation de la Haute-Beauce 1979). The corporation decided to establish a museum and interpretation center3 with a regional orientation and in this connection to keep the name "Haute-Beauce," which Mayrand had introduced, because this was something that could create a dynamic in the region and permit us to achieve our goal (Mayrand).
Through an intensive house-to-house public-relations campaign, CRIHB sought to gain the support of the population for the acquisition of Bolduc’s collection and for the establishment of a museum. In accordance with the concept as developed by Mayrand, "the museum would be an organization concerned with the present and future as well as the past; its role would be to reveal the identity of that particular part of Quebec" (Stevenson 1982:7).
By the end of 1979 some partial successes could already be counted (cf. Report of the Musée et centre régional d’interprétation de la Haute-Beauce 1982a): the Haute-Beauce museum and interpretation center was created as a "focus for the identification and promotion of the region," (Stevenson 1982:8). For a token rental of one Canadian dollar per year the parish allowed the corporation to use a historic presbytery in St. Evariste, the geographic center of the Haute-Beauce. An agreement was reached with Bolduc to purchase the collection for a price of $60,000 (Can.) payable over a period of five years. According to Mayrand:
This was an extremely serious, extremely important agreement, it was the main test of a certain kind of credibility in the area, to see if the organization was capable of keeping on in the area.
3Up to this time, there had been no talk of an ecomuseum. For Mayrand, however, the following was clear from the beginning: It was the ecomuseum that we wanted to get to at the end of the line.
And the museum did receive the expected and necessary support of the population during this initial phase. In a large-scale door-to-door promotional campaign, $27,000 (Can.) was collected within the region for the museum and interpretation center. For Mayrand (1980:15) this money was "the symbol of success, of a collective effort," which covered the first installment to purchase the Bolduc collection and pay for the renovations and furnishing of the museum building. The project also received a government subsidy (Mayrand). In this way the population made a considerable contribution to the establishment of the museum, which was considered by many to be an indication of an existing need and active approval.
With the exception of the prominent people who served as representatives of the population during the initial phase, the potential general public did not play a part in the conception and creation of the institution. The population’s only activity (or passivity) was limited to "sensitization" or "motivation" and subsequently to the donation of $27,000 (Can.). The great majority of citizens knew nothing of the formation phase, most of them becoming aware of the Museé et centre régional d’interprétation de la Haute-Beauce only over a period of time when it became an accomplished fact. All respondents agreed the museum and interpretation center did not arise from a citizen initiative. Lucille Létourneau, the current vice president of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, commented:
[...] it was not the whole population [...], one must not say that. This came from a small part of the population, because there were people involved at the beginning who were also part of the population, but always under the direction of Pierre Mayrand and Maude Céré. [...]. Maude Céré and Pierre Mayrand were really the masters of the work, I believe, at least the conceivers of it.
Although the idea of a museum had already been conceived and implemented in a preliminary way by a citizen of the Haute-Beauce, the Musée et centre régional d’interprétation de la Haute-Beauce goes back to an idea of Mayrand who played a key role in bringing it about. Ginette Fortin confirms this: if there had been no Pierre Mayrand, [...] it wouldn’t be there, there would be no story to tell.
Here is an interesting paradox. Although the museum did not stem from a citizen initiative, the question of whether it was imposed is categorically denied. Lucille Létourneau stated:
No, oh no, not at all, because there was a group of people who joined onto their idea right at the first, [...], the surrounding parishes were quickly won over to this idea. No, this was not imposed. Of course, not everyone was sensitized on the same day [...].
Basically, the respondents did not question the leading roles of Mayrand and Céré, who were the ones who had the necessary knowledge, experience, awareness and relevant contacts to drive the project forward. Létourneau:
As with anything else, someone has to take the lead. For my part, I think that the population follows rather than innovates.
I will return to the problems of this position in connection with the subject of "participation." First, however, the organizational development of the Musée et centre régional d’interprétation de la Haute-Beauce will be pursued further.
Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, musée territoire
After five years of building awareness in the Haute-Beauce, Mayrand and Céré succeeded in officially founding the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. This for them had been the aim from the beginning. But, at first, it was not discussed openly and in the end met resistance. It was not possible to consummate the founding of the ecomuseum without some losses: it was preceded by the resignation of the museum’s advisory board, which held a more traditional concept of a museum and distanced itself from the attempts to found an ecomuseum.
The museum founders first introduced the term ecomuseum in 1982. This was done to ensure the museum was dynamic and not become—like many traditional museums—in a state of static self-satisfaction. After a long debate, the resistance of the advisory board manifested itself more and more strongly. Mayrand decided to organize a counter-initiative for the purpose of founding the ecomuseum. He recalls:
I stepped in and proposed to all the groups that had been sensitized in the other villages that a parallel body be created. Thus, in my own body I created a parallel body so as to be able to change the power relationships and, if necessary, reverse the other bodies and create the ecomuseum and the regrouping associated with the ecomuseum.
By October 1983, Mayrand had mobilized the ecomuseum supporters to such an extent that it was possible to call an extraordinary meeting of the members of the corporation of the museum. During the meetings, the articles of incorporation were changed and the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce was founded, (Mayrand; cf. Musée et centre régional d’interprétation de la Haute-Beauce 1983a; 1983b).
Despite the best intentions not to let the museum and interpretation center degenerate into a lifeless place for storing objects, doubts do arise regarding the practices described above. Certainly those present at the extraordinary meeting had the right to express themselves and vote; and, in fact, the majority approved of the ecomuseum. Democratic appearances were thus observed, but it should not be forgotten that this required intensive efforts of mobilization and persuasion. The people, by themselves, would not have thought of the idea of the ecomuseum, never mind take a stand against the board. This conclusion is also indicated by the two following statements:
This did not arise from the needs of the local people nor from an idea of the local people. (Guy Baron),
and, in Paul Bolduc’s view:
This did not arise from a need, but it happened at just the right moment.
The concept of the ecomuseum is an approach that is alien to the general public. Even Céré noted that most people did not know what it meant. Although the initiators knew the problem very well, they made no effort to explain the nature of an ecomuseum to the affected community. They should have gradually familiarized citizens with the concept of the ecomuseum through participation in the museum’s programs. Céré on this subject:
You don’t spend your time making the theory with other people, you do concrete and specific actions.
René Rivard expressed himself similarly:
They should not get involved in the definition. . . . It is preferable in my opinion, with regard to motivation, to get organized for doing concrete things. And this is the whole thing, the dynamism of what makes people understand in action.
"Learning and knowing through experience" is not a method that should be rejected on principle, but here it is accompanied by the fact that the residents of the Haute-Beauce practically started out by buying a "pig in a poke," when they agreed to the founding of the ecomuseum. The question arises here as to whether it is possible to come to a responsible decision within the framework of a democratic decision-making process when the concept to be discussed and approved is not understood. I believe that this is not possible, which means that this decision was a sham democratic one. Agreement was reached on a matter that indeed seemed attractive to its supporters, but which was not widely understood by those affected by it.
Until 1983 supporters acted to popularize the new museological concept among the citizenry. However, the people directly involved only had a vague and fragmentary understanding of the workings of an ecomuseum. What the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce really is—leaving aside the problematic establishment phase—and how it is to be classified, can best be judged from its objectives, structure and operations.
22.214.171.124 Conception and objectives
As its bylaws state (Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce 1983a:2), the museum is intended to contribute to "better conditions and better life of the region corresponding to territory of the Haute-Beauce." In this regard Denis Hovanec clarified:
The objectives were to sensitize the people, make them aware of themselves, their environment, their territory, their problems, their needs, and finally to attempt to work together collectively to respond to these needs in order to bring about better development.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce views itself as a people’s university, which can engender a learning process and bring about social change through citizen involvement in a variety of educational activities. First of all it should be stressed that the objectives of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce and the way it views itself are molded decisively by two key persons, Céré (educator, museologist and art historian) and Mayrand (museologist and art historian). The two borrowed its elaborate educational concept from the "pedagogy of liberation" of Paolo Freire and his followers.
Consistent with the ecomuseological approach, the Ecomusée of the Haute-Beauce does not wish to be a fixed, static educational institution, but sees itself as evolutionary and part of a dynamic process. Céré (1985:1) refers to a "laboratory of didactic experimentation in a rural environment" that strives for social change while continually changing itself and adapting to changed conditions (cf. the functional model "triangle of creativity" in chapter 126.96.36.199).
The educational process that the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce strives for is directed less to the unilateral communication of a given content than to "learning through participation," "learning through experience," "learning through action"—synonyms for the central point of view that Céré (1985:62), citing Edgar Faure, summarized as follows:
Henceforward, education will no longer be defined with respect to a determined content that is to assimilated, but will be conceived of as it really is, as a process of being which, through the diversity of its experiences, teaches one to express oneself, to communicate, to question the world and always to improve.
The implication of this Céré (1985:61) summarized as follows:
The ecomuseum has taken the side of self-teaching rather than that of education in the unique sense used by specialized museums, which are anxious to democratize Knowledge, to spread the good word of Culture. We have opted rather for the demanding challenge of working in osmosis with a population so as to enhance its knowledge and its cultures with a view to regional development.
The overall educational activity of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is carried out ideally on two levels: first, to generate on the individual level self-respect, self-confidence and the aptitude for self-determined action, and second to affect the development of the region. According to Céré:
There is individual development, where each person can find his place and develop, can use the museum as a personal spring board, but this is also a tool of regional development. I believe that for me these are the two great objectives of the ecomuseum.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce basically strives to educate the population through its active participation in the museum so that it can answer the questions: "Where do we come from?," "Who are we?" and "Where do we want to go?" The first two questions refer to the objectives of identification—to create a sense of territorial identity by considering a community’s history, its cultural and natural heritage and by linking its past and present. The third question, however, raises the issue of future prospects or goals and its corresponding strategies for action. Both elements—identification and future-oriented thought and action—make up a comprehensive development process.
During the identification phase, the cornerstone should be laid for the next stage. Identity building should include the acquisition of certain work skills. Through active participation in the ecomuseum, the population is supposed to learn to reflect, to work collegially, to plan, to draw up a schedule of what is due and what is owed, to act on the basis of this schedule as a function of the planning that has been done (Céré) and finally to take responsibility. In this way the population can use the ecomuseum as a tool, so that identification can lead to initiative and self-determined action directed to molding the future (Mayrand):
It seems to me that development is very closely linked to the people’s autonomy, to their basic capacity to make these decisions and not to wait for others to impose them, to be capable of taking their own matters into hand and not having them imposed or fabricated, rather than saying "let’s wait for the government to give us something before starting".
What does development mean for the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce? Céré:
It is when one departs from everyday life to make an improvement in the quality of life on the individual level and then on the level of the region.
An important element here is contact with the outside world, which imparts security and an impulse to innovate. (Céré):
It is important to develop oneself, to find other persons, to exchange, to see how things work elsewhere, to look for new ideas, and to act so as to evolve in society for oneself and for the region.
On the subject of development, Mayrand observed:
For me development is expressed in terms of initiative. . . . These are not isolated attempts at development, these are attempts that are interconnected and that basically make it possible to achieve a certain number of objectives so that a region is able basically, for example, to improve the quality of its life.
Despite a certain vagueness, development is generally equated with an improvement in living conditions. The quality of these improvements and changes is to be defined—in accordance with the approach presented here—by the population itself! In sum, one can state that in the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce the concept of the "ecomuseum of discovery" (borrowed from Georges Henri Rivière) and the concept of the "ecomuseum of development" (borrowed from Hugues de Varine) are combined. The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce understands its role to be not only the mirror of the population, but a tool of its self-determination and development for the inhabitants of the Haute-Beauce.
The following section will show whether and how the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce can realize its ambitious objectives. The determining question to which particular attention should be given is: Can this institution, created in the Haute-Beauce by outside specialists, become an instrument of collective action accepted by the population as its own? Or does the structural weakness noted in the museum’s origins run through the entire project?
188.8.131.52 Structure and organization
The administrative headquarters and service center of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is located in a former presbytery designated a historic monument since 1983—in St. Evariste, the geographic center of the Haute-Beauce region. A characteristic feature of the ecomuseum is its decentralized spatial structure. The museum is represented in the territory of the Haute-Beauce by several so-called "antennas," or associated groups (cf. chapter 184.108.40.206). The antennas, together with the administrative and service center, form the ecomuseum.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is a private museum. It is a nonprofit corporation, which through intensive motivation and recruitment campaigns, particularly in the initial phase, had over 1,700 members (family membership!) at the time of this study. Although in the beginning outsiders were also accepted into the corporation, the membership was basically confined to the citizens of the Haute-Beauce. Membership must be renewed every year by acquiring a membership card. The annual membership fee of $2 (Can.) is within everyone’s means. In addition to membership fees, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is financed both through contributions by the population and by local and, in exceptional cases, outside businesses (44.3 percent, 1981-1985, Gariépy 1986:75) and through subsidies (55.7 percent, 1981-1985, Gariépy 1986:75).4
The fact that the separate villages of the Haute-Beauce belong to various administrative units confers the advantage that the museum can apply to four different administrative districts for grants to carry out its numerous activities. Since the museum is recognized as an "organisme volontaire d’éducation populaire" (OVEP—a voluntary public education body), it also receives grants from the provincial ministry of education. For example, it received $21,000 (Can.) in 1986-87 to carry out continuing-education programs. Because the activities of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce are widely diversified, it can apply for project-related grants from various other ministries (agriculture, environment, hunting, fishing and leisure, science and technology, energy and resources).
Until 1983 the staffing of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce was financed mainly through job-creation measures (for example, "Canada au travail"). Even today the museum falls back on job-creation measures. As a rule, the contracts have a duration of six to eight months, followed by several months of unemployment. During this time the employees receive unemployment benefits, which makes it possible for them to continue their employment for the museum with virtually no change—until the beginning of a new period of job-creation measures.
By taking advantage of various government job-creation programs, it is at least possible to place the same people under contract time and again and thus a certain degree of continuity is guaranteed. However, the period of unemployment is a burden on those involved. Guy Baron, for example, expressed his frustration and a feeling of being exploited as a consequence of years of selfless, unremunerated employment for the museum (cf. Baron 1987:11).
Since September 1983, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has been a government-recognized museum, i.e. one accredited by the Ministry of Culture of the Province of Quebec (cf. Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce 1984b:1).5 Since then it has enjoyed a regular annual subsidy of $68,000 (Can.). The granting of this subsidy is conditioned on the contribution of an additional 30 percent of this amount by the citizens of the Haute-Beauce. Through this subsidy the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce now has a regular budget to ensure that basic functions are carried out. Basically the money is used for the salaries of the director (on a 12-month basis) and two employees (on the basis of eight months a year). Although the latter still live from unemployment benefits for four months a year, this guaranteed annual subsidy provides a certain safeguard.
Up until now, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has not felt the government influence that might be associated with the subsidy. Despite this, Baron refers to the subsidy as a "half-poisoned gift." A problem is the amount of energy needed for proper management of the large amounts of money and for implementation of the corresponding activities (for example, organizing workshops and renovating exhibit spaces). Hence, at times, the burden of work has shifted onto the service center. In this way not enough time remains for decentralized promotion in the region, i.e. work with the users and the public.
The core staff consists of around ten persons who work regularly at the museum and perform definite functions. At the time of the study, paid employees consisted of:
Director (Maude Céré)
Bookkeeper and technician (Luc Lafontaine)
Motivator (Denis Hovanec)
Two researchers (Guy Baron, Jacynthe Roy)
Two graphic designers (Johanne Badeau, Paul Bolduc).
4Not included in this number: a) a subsidy of $154,000 (Can.) in 1983 for the construction of workshops and exhibition space, and b) a subsidy of $180,000 (Can.) in 1985 for the Maison du Granit project.
5As grounds for this step the Minister of Culture at the time, Clément Richard, in an interview, stressed first of all the model character of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce (Doter le Québec d’institutions muséologiques de prèmire importance 1983/84).
However, in addition to the employees, volunteers from the population are supposed to be included increasingly in the management and direction of the museum and its various activities. This is done in order for them to begin the learning process and some day take over management of the museum. On this subject, Mayrand commented:
By definition and in accordance with our objectives . . . administrative and organizational education was one of the priority objectives. In order to be independent, these people needed to take themselves in hand, to set themselves objectives and to be capable of managing the objectives collectively, something they had never done.
For this purpose the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has a complex participation structure. The population (in the sense of the participants) may influence the museum through various kinds of decision-making authority set out in its corporate statutes (cf. Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce 1983a).
Once a year a general membership meeting ("assemblée générale") takes place, with an average participation of 100 to 150 persons. These meetings are used primarily to review finances and report on museum activities. In addition, the general framework for future projects is laid down in coordination with the members who are present.
An important characteristic of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is its decentralized structure.6In some localities linked to the museum, local committees or "associated groups" or "antennas," had already come into being before the founding of the ecomuseum on the basis of local initiatives. Others were formed only on the initiative of the museum: the Tourism and Cultural Action Committee in St. Hilaire, the Tourism and Cultural Committee in St. Sébastien, the Cultural Committee in Lac Drolet, the Heritage Society in Ste. Clothilde and the Crafts House in St. Honoré. With regard to the establishment of the committees Céré noted:
Well, in some cases, when there is already a sociocultural committee in place, it is that committee that becomes the link to the ecomuseum, but sometimes it is just a few individuals who get together and create a small nucleus. After a few activities, when it becomes strong enough, its incorporation is brought about, its independence. What would be desirable is that there be 13 completely independent committees.
These committees are formally independent of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. They apply for subsidies to carry out local activities and reach their decisions independently at local meetings. The membership informally chooses one to three members to represent their village on the users’ committee ("comité des usagers"), which is a critical component of the structure of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. The formation of the users’ committee was proposed by Mayrand in 1983 at the establishment of the ecomuseum. The committee meets at least once a year, preferably before the general meeting, and the number of participants can vary from 15 to 50 (Mayrand), because, in addition to the selected representatives, interested observers are also permitted to attend. In addition to the representatives of the population, the director has an official seat on the users’ committee. An elected chairman presides over the committee. The users’ committee is a point of contact, or interchange, between the ecomuseum and its users, and because of that, it is a place of intensive motivational work. Within the framework of the meetings (Céré):
. . . the exhibitions are planned, the subsidy requests are planned, the 13 villages are brought up to date, the latest word is given on what is happening in the intra- and extra-regional bodies, the cultural councils, the development councils. Information is shared in this regard. . . . It is with them that all our programs are determined.
In addition, the users’ committee nominates five members of the ecomuseum’s board of directors ("conseil d’administration"). They constitute one representative for each of the five zones into which the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is divided (Les Vallons, Le Grand Lac, Le Grand Plateau, Les Crêtes, Le Coeur; cf. Baron 1986).
The rest of the members of the twelve-person board of directors are chosen by the annual general meeting, with the exception of the director and one representative of the parish of St. Evariste7who is automatically entitled to a seat. The members choose the president, two vice presidents, the secretary and the treasurer of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. In addition, both the employees of the museum and a number of permanent observers are entitled to take part in the board meetings, but without voting rights. The board of directors meets around five times a year and from two to 25 persons take part in the meetings (Mayrand).
The main task of the board of directors is to manage the museum’s financial affairs. In addition, as official representative of the members, the board influences the development of programs in the spirit of the recommendations expressed by the members’ meeting. In this process, the museum workers and the executive committee make concrete proposals in the first place.
6After the research phase concluded (1985), some structural reforms were carried out in the ecomuseum. These will be explained at the end of the present chapter (220.127.116.11).
7In connection with the rental of the parish’s presbytery, St. Evariste was given the right to send an official delegate to the board of directors.
An executive committee controls day-to-day operations, prepares for the meetings of the board of directors and develops concrete proposals. It consists of five to six persons (Mayrand), . . . who finally develop the work material, prepare the documentation and who are strongly supported by the workers themselves. The leading member of the executive committee is Mayrand, the initiator and present president of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce . . . who is often something of the great thinker, who sees things more in the long term—evaluation of Denis Hovanec, which is shared in principle by all the other respondents. The other members of the committee are the two vice presidents, the secretary and the treasurer—thus, the same persons who hold board positions. The museum director participates in the meetings of the executive committee by invitation, but does not have the right to vote. The basically participation-friendly structure described in this section addresses a quite important element of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. The various activities and programs of the museum are simultaneously the result of this structure and the means for its implementation and change. This connection is clear in the model of the "triangle of creativity of the ecomuseum of the Haute-Beauce" (cf. Rivard 1984a:43; see figure below).
Céré (1985:12) explains in this regard: "The creation process of the ecomuseum began with an interpretation initiative taken by specialists. Its power of diffusion made it possible to sensitize the population to the ideas of identity and appropriation of the heritage-action in order to be able to release clearly the sense of territorialization. Thanks to the techniques of creativity, the ecomuseum was produced. Through a phenomenon of retroaction, this population itself can now interpret what it is and determine the directions of its development."
The triangle of creativity of the ecomuseum of the Haute Beauce:
Ecomuseum Creation Territory
Overall, Céré (1985:56) is correct in speaking of the structure of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce as a "participation structure." From a formal perspective, the museum does have a democratic structure. Many paths exist for the population to participate at various levels of museum activities and to use the ecomuseum as an instrument for its purposes. Public participation is a crucial element of ecomuseology, in general, and occupies a prominent position at the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. Problems associated with participation, however, have emerged at the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, which require detailed discussion.
In regard to participation, doubts exist on the efficiency of the museum’s democratic decision-making structure, because strict limits have been placed on real participation—up to the present time, in any case. Hovanec and Létourneau maintained that potential citizen participation in the museum’s activities was limited from the outset. Because the population largely consists of agricultural and forestry workers, these have relatively little free time.
For those in other occupations with more free time, a large number of local groups exist they can join. St. Sébastien alone, a village with a population of 200, has nine institutions of this kind, in which some of the same people tend to participate over and over. The situation posed a certain obstacle for the formation of a local committee of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce (Hovanec).
The core group of active individuals includes 25 or 30 persons who regularly participate in the ecomuseum’s varied activities, i.e. in conception, research, education and programs (Hovanec). I believe emphasis is placed on participation in the sense of "letting oneself be included" and less on independent activity stemming from one’s own initiative. Exceptions, however, are occasionally found at the level of the local committees.
While the local population has a certain autonomy, at the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, the volunteer staff I interviewed (with one exception) stated they take action only when the initiators request them to perform specific tasks. Ginette Fortin, for one, said:
Maude has always asked me when there was something to do, she would call and say "can you help us" and I would go there.
When they have needed help and I was available, I would go there, perhaps to organize various activities, perhaps to help with something big, but I would do what I could.
For Létourneau, volunteer work at the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce appears to be synonymous with readiness to help out:
In the museum they have their employees, but it happens that motivation work has to be done at a certain time, or there are people visiting, things like that.
Candide Dubord, on the other hand, is not convinced that it has to be this way. She stated:
You participate to help them . . . but our participation . . . it’s going to be partial. . . . I wouldn’t feel that it belongs to me and that it is my area of work and I have to do it.
She later vented her displeasure with this unsatisfactory state of affairs:
You feel you’re put on the shelf to be taken off when there is a need and then put back on right afterwards.
Now the question naturally arises why people remain in this passive position? The reasons are complex and varied for the interested citizens themselves. First of all, the work of the ecomuseum, its tasks and possibilities, have not yet penetrated the consciousness of the population of the Haute-Beauce (cf. chapter 18.104.22.168). In this respect, Hovanec said:
The rest of us say this is a tool for the population, but the people don’t know it’s a tool. It’s like with me, if I have a tool, but I don’t know how to use it. The situation is a little like that for the people, I think. They know that the ecomuseum does things, you can participate and they actually do, they set out to, and they do more, but this is still not something they feel more strongly than that.
The assessment that the population lacked the necessary knowledge and capabilities in order to take initiatives itself and have people from its ranks occupy leading positions was by and large shared by the volunteer staff who were questioned. In statements such as, "I am not a specialist" (Létourneau), ". . . none of us are experts or specialists . . . we don’t have the education" or ". . . I don’t think that there is a formula yet for taking on that duty and carrying it out adequately" (Létourneau) a feeling of subordination is clearly expressed. This contradicts the partner-like, egalitarian working conditions that the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce boasts about. Ginette Fortin assessed their capabilities differently than did Létourneau:
It takes someone like that to run this. You cannot improvise around there. You have to have knowledge, these aren’t small matters. Take me, I wouldn’t be capable, even if I wanted to, I think that I couldn’t keep that up for long.
The population discharges its responsibility by delegating it, from an unjustified sense of inferiority, to specialists whose authority enjoys almost unlimited recognition. Those questioned expressly emphasize how necessary it is to be guided by persons in authority for anything to happen.
The lack of responsibility keeps the population in its relatively passive position, which can be gathered from Dubord’s statement:
He [Mayrand] is the one who has an interest in this moving forward, whereas it isn’t the rest of us, we just help, it isn’t our work. We’re not the boss. That means that when we’re not our own boss, we help when we want to. . . . Since this is not our own responsibility, we wait, we wait until we’re told and, if the others are tied up with something else, nothing moves ahead.
Those who try to influence decisions after participating several times frequently feel overtaxed or simply overrun. They have too little prior information and too little available time—the agenda is too extensive—for them to discuss thoroughly the project proposals and carefully weigh their decisions. With regard to the lack of information, Lorraine Charest believes the people would really like to be fully informed, but they do not try sufficiently hard.
Occasionally, however, the day-to-day work governed by events and time pressure result in participants’ expressed wishes being disregarded or they are simply not consulted. Hovanec identified one of the basic principles of the ecomuseum and its attendant problems:
. . . that things are done in the rhythm of the people, according to what the people want, and this, I think, may often be the greatest problem, particularly with respect to specialists and thinkers. For my part, I find that they are frequently perhaps a little disconnected from the people’s everyday life and this is what causes there to be a danger at a given moment that the thinkers are finally at too great a distance from the population.
This problem further justifies the cautious reserve of the population. Proposed projects, even if based on identifiable needs, far exceed in kind and extent the imagination and capabilities of those concerned.
Caution also characterizes many residents of the region for another reason: The fact that the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce project was created by outsiders and will be further advanced by them obviously gives cause for skepticism.
A further problem in the acceptance of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce results from the fact that the staff—with the exception of Jacynthe Roy and Luc Lafontaine—does not consist of locals (Mayrand):
The main characteristic is that the majority of those people do not come from the region, which currently poses a problem.
Another difficulty appears to lie in the fact that the staff of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is made up of volunteers and paid employees. Therefore, a difference in status results that is reinforced by sociodemographic characteristics. In distinction to the initial phase, in which a predominantly volunteer staff was employed, a core group of permanent employees has existed since 1983. On the one hand, the formation of a staff of professional employees certainly has advantages in terms of efficiency, but on the other hand it has led volunteers to feel superfluous and without responsibility. "Let the ‘others’ do it: they know more and they’re better able to!"
As already indicated above, this inequality is reinforced by sociodemographic characteristics. The paid employees are persons 28 to 35 years of age, some of whom have a university education in the fields of geography, art history, history or teaching. The division by sexes is rather balanced. The group of volunteers, on the other hand, is predominantly women 45 to 60 years of age, with little or no higher education. This reflects the common stereotype that cultural affairs are a matter for housewives (Fortin).
Through intensive and regular contact and active exchange of information, it may be possible to achieve convergence and perhaps create a common basis. Some time has passed since the intensive sensitization phase and the museum has turned to other priorities. Thus employees note with regret that the museum has departed too far from its basic principles.
Hovanec, for example, said:
I find it’s like we’re in neutral. I find that people have even been a little overtaken by events. There was the first period, the sensitization was going on, the people were being made to understand a little about what was happening [...], but we are dedicated to being a development ecomuseum [...]. Sometimes people find this interesting, but frequently they are reticent, afraid, often you even have projects that are beyond them. [...] maybe you are no longer concerned with people following the movement. [...] I find there has been a distancing from the popular will, from popular participation.
Luc Lafontaine echoed these sentiments:
I find that more attention should be paid to our users’ committee. I think that the ecomuseum is above all for the population. There are big projects, but in the end they don’t touch the population.
In the meantime this "being in neutral" seems to have been overcome. There was a change in the museum’s management in early 1986. Gradually the president of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, Pierre Mayrand, made a renewed effort to activate and involve members of the corporation, whose numbers had shrunk from 1,700 to around 800, and recruit new members (cf. Le conseil d’administration de votre musée 1987).
In connection with this initiative, the ecomuseum’s structure was changed to create five new committees, each chaired by a member of the executive committee:
—Development committee (Pierre Mayrand)
—Program committee (Guy Baron)
—Finance committee (Rénald Lessard)
—Committee for the establishment of the Maison du Granit (Jacques Fortin)
—Personnel committee (Lucille Létourneau)
These committees meet about twice a month. The chairmen are required to find people to participate both from the board of directors and the interested population.
Although the users’ committee is formally still in existence, it no longer functions de facto for lack of initiatives on the part of the "users." The new structure is intended to motivate people to participate. A project created by the development committee, for example, strives for a radical decentralization of resources and responsibility (cf. Mayrand 1987). This project was first presented to various local groups in the form of a working paper in February 1987 and later was submitted to the members for their approval within the framework of an extraordinary general meeting. In addition to the director of the service center, two other directors were named in the region (Denis Hovanec and Guy Baron), so that the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is now led by a directors’ group (without a corresponding change in the bylaws). The two additional executive positions are supposed to be occupied by alternating representatives of the various villages on a rotational basis. The division of the territory of the Haute-Beauce into five zones was abolished. Instead, the local committees are given greater autonomy and now directly name five members of the board of directors from their ranks (Pierre Mayrand, conversation of 8-7-87).
It was not possible to evaluate the result of these new initiatives by the time the present work was concluded. However, the implementation of unrestricted public orientation, through involvement of the population, is coming about in a slow and cumbersome manner. Hovanec stressed (in a conversation of 1-7-87) that the same persons still cooperate actively in the new committees, while new interested persons can be recruited from the ranks of the population only with difficulty. He furthermore described present participation as extraordinarily fragile and seriously questioned whether an effective bridge can ever be built between the ecomuseum and the population.
In any event, one should not expect direct success from the new attempts at mobilization. On the basis of years of endeavors, Hovanec came to the conclusion that the population may see no reason for a concerted action like the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce and feels no need for mobilizing innovative forces because, in principle, things as a whole are going all right from its point of view.
In any case, the introduction of effective participation and self-management is a lengthy operation consisting of very small steps.
22.214.171.124 Activities and programs
The various activities and programs of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce are based on a concept of overall cultural action, that is, on action that embraces the changing relationship of humans to their physical and sociocultural environment, linking the past to the present and the future. Historical reflection—given relatively great emphasis—is the point of departure for coping with the present.
In contrast to the traditional museum, the main area of work of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is not collection or conservation, but rather the motivation of the population of the Haute-Beauce, i.e. public-directed educational action for the purpose of coping with the present and the future. All other areas of work are subordinated to motivation. The basis for the museum’s educational program is not created simply through collection, conservation, documentation, research and public programs, but rather motivation is partly carried out within the framework of these working processes by involving interested citizens in them.
An element common to all areas of work of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce—in distinction to the traditional museum—is the secondary importance of objects. The collection, conservation and presentation of objects are not ends in themselves, but communicators of content and sources of motivation, as Mayrand underscored:
The priority, if the object is used, is never the object. In my opinion it exceeds the object, it goes beyond the object. The object frequently becomes an accessory . . . and this is not in any pejorative sense, but this is truly a link toward the other thing that is important and that is the human being.
The museum has a single collection, the collection of Napoléon Bolduc referred to above. It consciously desires to acquire no other collections. The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce seeks rather to stimulate the population to preserve in situ and care for works, objects, buildings or natural spaces that are of significance to the region’s heritage (cf. Trudel 1984:111).
Although the museum does not wish to expand its collection, it does carry on collection activity by systematically bringing together the records of the "collective memory." In separate interviews the citizens of the Haute-Beauce are asked about their life memories. The so-called "collective memory" is then produced from the comparative, theme-related analysis of the interviews. In this way the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce devotes itself to the everyday history of the Haute-Beauce, an area that is ignored by official historiography. Popular history focuses on their perception of the direct everyday world and their specific regional identity.
One of the initiatives that served to stimulate local historical research and thus to generate an awareness of everyday history and identity was the "Ancestral Home" program. In each of the various villages working groups explored the history of the oldest family still living in the house of its forebears. Céré explains:
This awakens awareness of the quality of the habitat for the village as a whole. The people have to make a search, for which of the families is the oldest. Once they have chosen it, this awakens the awareness of others as to the value of the architectural heritage of the local people’s environment.
Exhibition activity, one of the main functions of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is also guided by this basic thought. First of all, the administrative and service center in St. Evariste, the museum proper, houses a kind of reception room, the so-called interpretation center. There, a museum educator ("animateur") presents basic information on the Haute-Beauce region using maps, illustrations and oral explanations. This leads in turn to the permanent, special and open-air exhibits and local interpretation centers.
The first permanent exhibit of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce comprised the entire Bolduc collection, which was presented in the various rooms of the former presbytery (cf. Ethier 1981). On display was a representative cross-section of the regionally specific, everyday material culture of the 1920s and 1930s. By confronting their past, visitors (or "users") were supposed to encounter part of their identity (Céré 1985:22f):
This collection of one thousand six hundred ethnographic objects thus becomes the triggering element or pretext permitting the population of the Haute-Beauce to express its feeling of belonging and of pride.
In addition to the permanent exhibit, thematic special exhibits are regularly carried out in the museum’s main building in St. Evariste. These are listed below in chronological order:
Initially exhibits were constructed with the active participation of interested citizens, based on a course in "people’s museology" to be given every year but which actually has occurred only twice. They were taught by Céré: first in 1981 in connection with the exhibits "The woman through baptismal clothing" and "The maple with open heart" and second in 1983 during the exhibit "How the citizens of the Haute-Beauce have appropriated their everyday environment." The three-month course consisted of a theoretical and a practical part. Over the course of six evenings, the following topics were discussed (Céré conversation of 1-22-87):
1. "Christmas traditions in our families" (December 1980)
2. "The woman through baptismal clothing" (spring to autumn 1981)
3. "How the citizens of the Haute-Beauce have appropriated their
environment" (spring to autumn 1982)
4. "The masterpieces of the Haute-Beauce" (spring to autumn 1983)
5. "The symposium on animal art" (spring to autumn 1984)
6. "The ecomuseum celebrates" (summer/autumn 1985)
7. "The language of the tool" (summer 1986 to spring 1987)
8. "The world is small: family portrait" (summer to autumn 1987)
9. "Gallery of exploration" (summer to autumn 1987)
In addition to acquiring basic museological knowledge, participants carried out practical work related to specific exhibit projects.
—Introduction to museology and the history of the museum
—The cultural and natural heritage ("patrimoine")
—Exhibit design and production
—Motivation, museum education
Two persons from each village who had been selected in open meetings took the courses. Participants functioned as multipliers, forming working groups in the village and passing on their newly acquired museological knowledge. Thus, the courses were an effective means of sensitizing the population to the possibilities offered by the ecomuseum.
In 1984 a subsidy from the provincial ministry of culture allowed the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce to renovate its lighting system, install a security system to protect against fire and theft and acquire equipment to control temperature and humidity (cf. Trudel 1984:113). The renovation also created a larger exhibit space for showing the Bolduc collection. A selection of objects—small in comparison to the previous permanent exhibit (550 out of 1,600)— was installed in so-called "environments," from which the visitor is separated by plates of glass. Four subjects were treated in these scenic exhibits: "keeping order," "work," "the hearth," and "rest." They provided the visitor with an overview of everyday life in earlier times.
Although the population was consulted through the users’ committee and had the opportunity to make specific proposals, the results did not meet expectations. Involved citizens were disappointed and felt deceived because they realized that although their proposals were heard, they played a minor role in the actual shaping of the exhibit. The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, which in principle intended to relate to the real life of the citizens of the Haute-Beauce and views itself as a mirror of the population, did not achieve its purpose with this exhibit. Dubord expressed the sense of disappointment:
I did not find that year’s exhibit attractive and I did not send anyone to see it. . . . They say that this represents us, . . . this does not represent us at all, at all, at all, these are not our ideas, this is not the way we see this. . . . Maybe it’s because I don’t understand their idea, but you cannot say the people wanted this and that this represents the people. That is not true.
In connection with the newly formed permanent exhibit, Létourneau makes a distinction between the needs of the "people from here" and those of the "real" public. Although the new exhibit is "beautiful," it does not speak to the local public, it is not faithful to the public because of its intellectuality. She questions whether the programs of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce must necessarily have a professional character, knowing from her experience that activities and exhibits of a folk character are far more popular with the public than the cold and displeasing sparkle of professional exhibits. Maude Céré, one of those principally responsible, admits mistakes were made.
In order to reawaken the interest of its public and once more include the population in its actions, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce in 1987 organized a number of courses and project-related workshops in the area of people’s museology (cf. Les ateliers de l’Ecomusée 1987). The gradual inclusion of citizens in specific work processes is seen as the best means for a radical public orientation. In order to make exhibits interesting and accessible to the public, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce also carries out a number of motivational activities (cf. Hovanec 1987). Several examples that follow illuminate this area of the museum’s work.
Within the framework of the educational preparations for the first permanent exhibit, Céré put together two companion collections of materials, the so-called "educational packages," which were used to carry out motivational work in the schools of the Haute-Beauce (cf. Céré 1982b; 1985:25-33; Céré/Audet 1981, Locas 1982). Each of these consisted of a transportable mini-exhibit packed by hand, in the form of a triptych. The first version, intended for the fifth and sixth grades, called "The presence of man through the object: the hand," consisted of a box that opened to form a three-part mini-exhibit.
The first wing of the exhibit contained several key words on the theme of "museum," which students were encouraged to discuss. Reproductions of museum objects were attached to the second wing to clarify what work is performed with the hand. The third wing showed examples of what the students themselves could do with their hands. The second version, "The perception of objects through the Napoléon Bolduc collection," was similarly constructed for the first through fourth grades and was aimed at having the students familiarize themselves with museum objects by testing their powers of visual and tactile recognition. Motivation work through the use of the educational packages in the schools was supplemented by museum visits and subsequent evaluation lessons. A total of 1,735 students took part in the program.
Overall, Céré evaluated this educational program as being relatively costly. The high level of expenditure and the realization that a program of this kind had to be repeated every year in order to maintain interest led the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce to refrain from large-scale direct cooperation with the schools for the time being.
An important part of the museum’s exhibit-based educational activities are guided tours. This motivation work was carried out partly by volunteers and partly by paid museum employees. The volunteer activities played a significant role particularly in the initial phase, for example, in connection with the exhibit "The woman through baptismal clothing."
Despite this positive experience, motivation work by the volunteers led to organizational problems. In the meantime, employees of the service center had taken over the museum’s educational service, while the responsibility for motivation work in the local interpretation centers continued to fall on the volunteer staff.
An important part of the supplementary program involved the organization of round tables to reinforce exhibit themes, for example, in connection with the exhibit "The woman through baptismal clothing." Using the exhibit as a point of departure, citizens discussed various questions related to women, such as childbirth and family life. The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce used events of this kind to go beyond historical contemplation to confront issues related to the present and prospects for the future.
An exhibit-related activity emphasized by many other museums—mass-audience (as opposed to scholarly) publications—is relatively underdeveloped in the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. Catalogues, brochures and leaflets with supplementary information have been produced only rarely. Here a public-relations innovation should be noted: since 1987, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has published a quarterly bulletin, Muséambule, which is sent gratis to some 6,000 households in the Haute-Beauce and is intended to keep the public up to date on the museum’s activities (Muséambule 1986:1).
Another means for making the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce known and popular to the population was the organization of celebrations and social evenings, both of which were generally well received.
However, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce doesn’t demonstrate its closeness to the citizens only in the area of public relations and exhibit-related activities. A more elementary component of an open, decentralized museum is its representation in all parts of the territory, as Céré (1982a:216) explained: ". . . decentralization is necessary so that the people will feel clearly that the museum belongs to them, that it is their tool, that there they can create, realize themselves, develop, recognize themselves. The museum has to be everywhere at once."
Within the framework of the decentralization program, called "Creative Haute-Beauce, territorial museum," the museum set up small open-air exhibits (cf. Musée et centre régional d’interprétation de la Haute Beauce 1982b; Céré 1983, Renaud 1985). The purpose was essentially to show the population that the museum is not confined to St. Evariste, but rather that the ecomuseum is an undertaking that is geared to the entire region and that each person has a place in it (Céré). The open-air exhibits should be seen less as exhibits than as monuments or identification objects to mark the territory. Mayrand (cited by Devallon 1986b: 106) characterized the exhibits as "a form of expression, conceived and carried out by a collective, in an open-air space, representing the history and aspirations of a population and making the environment dynamic." The first exhibit of this kind was opened in 1980 in St. Hilaire de Dorset.
In 1981 the two "gateways" to the Haute-Beauce region in St. Romain and St. Victor were marked with appropriate plaques. Other open-air exhibits were set up in 1982, for example "at the foot of the hill" in Lac Drolet and "angular stone of the Haute-Beauce" in St. Sébastien. Up to 1984 the exhibits that followed were:
—"From landscape to folklore," Ste. Clothilde
—"The vales of progress," St. Ephrem
—"Plateau of maple," St. Benoit
—"Plateau of agriculture," St. Honor
—"The wind in the sails," Lambton.
The activities in the individual villages were supplemented by a comprehensive special exhibit ("exposition de synthèse") in the museum in St. Evariste: "How the citizens of the Haute-Beauce have appropriated their environment."
When visiting the open-air exhibits, as I did in 1984 in connection with "the first international workshop on new museology and ecomuseums," one gets the impression that these are relatively static monuments whose current utility is not so readily obvious— with the exception of marking territory, as referred to above. In fact, this aspect is treated by the initiators as being of secondary importance. Of more fundamental significance is not so much the end product as the working and learning process that leads up to it (Mayrand). In the case at hand, this is the sensitization of the population and the accompanying territorialization of the Haute-Beauce as a region within the framework of becoming aware and stimulated by dealing with a specific task—the marking of territory. Besides forming a regional awareness in the participants, setting up these exhibits also served the purpose of learning certain basic techniques, which were the carriers and germinators of the future, leading toward other actions much more important than these" (Mayrand).
There was no doubt that interested citizens of the various parishes financed and constructed the mini-exhibits themselves. The question arises, however, whether the exhibits were conceived independently, as the initiators maintain. Whether the open-air exhibits were imposed or desired and conceived by the population must remain an open question.
A further means of decentralization were the so-called "antennas" and associated groups, which have already been addressed. Small local interpretation centers supported by their respective local associations, they have no permanent collections. Objects on exhibit are lent by the population on the spot and, after the exhibit is closed, are returned so that their owners and users can preserve them in situ.
The first antenna, established in 1983 in St. Hilaire de Dorset, was the "Maison des Gens de St. Hilaire." Although associated with the ecomuseum, it is wholly owned by the tourism and cultural action committee.
On the one hand, it houses a small permanent exhibit on the village school, the "école du rang." In addition, various special exhibits are held in this interpretation center, their themes mostly exploring the local collective memory. A more important task of this local interpretation center is genealogical research. The tourism and cultural action committee in St. Hilaire has drawn up the genealogies of the most important local families and made them available to the general public in a small exhibit in the Maison des Gens de St. Hilaire. Not only was genealogical research carried out on the spot, efforts were made to contact former residents of the village who had moved away.
There are other local interpretation centers in Ste. Clothilde and Courcelles. The latter—the expo-train in Courcelles—consists of a restored railroad car intended to house annual special exhibits on themes "associated with the railroad in central Quebec and its economic and social impact on the region’s population and landscape" (text of exhibit, recorded in October 1984).
Baron stated that because the interpretation center was created without the involvement of the villagers, their lack of understanding expressed itself in the form of vandalism.
The Maison du Granit is to be another antenna on a larger scale (cf. Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce 1984:1), "a polyvalent interpretation and cultural center, a major tourist attraction, an ecological, cultural and commercial showcase" (cf. Céré 1987). After those responsible had launched the idea of the Maison du Granit, village meetings took place in those parishes involved in the project, St. Sébastien, Lac Drolet and Ste. Cécile de Whitton (in the area adjoining the Haute-Beauce).
The site of the Maison du Granit, a former granite quarry, was determined a long time ago. A subsidy of $180,000 (Can.) was already promised to the museum in January 1985. The planning phase was completed in January 1987 and thus the implementation of the Maison du Granit interpretation center may now be followed with interest.
An important characteristic of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is its opening toward the outside, that is, the formation of a widespread network of contacts with institutions and persons within and beyond the Haute-Beauce. In this way new perspectives and horizons are opened up to those involved and the danger of chauvinistic nostalgia for the homeland is lessened.
In the course of this external orientation, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has set up a program of partnerships and exchanges with two other ecomuseums: the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde in Montreal and the Ecomusée Breton du Coglais in France. An active interchange has developed with the French ecomuseum, in particular. Apart from its obvious sensitization effect, this interchange has also considerably expanded the personal horizons of the participants.
In connection with the museum’s regional orientation, collaboration with other institutions is of particular significance. The character of the institutions envisaged, as specified in the ecomuseum’s statutes (Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce 1983a:2), extends from "cultural, touristic, educational and recreational bodies of the region" to "administrative and economic authorities of the region, in particular . . . the regional county municipalities and the ministries responsible for the development of the agroforestry region." For example, cooperation with the cultural institutions of the traditional Beauce region takes place within the framework of the Société du Patrimoine des Beaucerons (Heritage Society of the Beaucerons) and the Réseau des musées de la Beauce (Network of Museums of the Beauce), which was founded at the initiative of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce and includes, in addition to the ecomuseum, the Musée Marius Barbeau in St. Joseph and the Musée et centre d’exposition Méchatigan in St. Georges (cf. Trudel 1984).
In the economic area the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has thus far cooperated with the following institutions, among others:
—Conseil de Développement de la Chaudière (Chaudière Development Council)
—Municipalités régionales de comté (Regional County Municipalities)
—Union des producteurs agricoles (Agricultural Producers Union)
—Syndicats de production de l’acériculture (Maple Production Trade Association)
—Associations féminines (Women’s Associations)
—Association touristique du pays de l’érable (Tourism Association of the Land of the Maple).
The continuing cooperation between the ecomuseum and the Paysmage Company is intensive and fruitful. This is a group of young people who are concerned with nature preservation and the development of tourism, the action group for the discovery of the landscape in Quebec (Baron). Baron, a Paysmage worker and the main cooperating partner with the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, outlined the objectives of the group as follows:
. . . one of its objectives, the main one, was to make it more possible for the largest possible number of Quebecois, also for people from the region, to enjoy the landscape, to enhance its value. The best way of protecting it is to enhance its value, for people to find it beautiful, to profit from it.
For example, a park in the center of Courcelles and a trail on Mont St. Sébastien were established in cooperation with Paysmage. A further aspect of the ecomuseum’s public orientation, which is already clear from the various cooperating partners listed above, is its diversification of activity and perspectives. Although the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is primarily a cultural institution, it does not shy away from economic development. On the one hand, the museum and local interpretation centers create a limited number of jobs.
On the other hand, the museum endeavors to make people familiar with the producers of the region to increase sales of local products. A first initiative of this kind was the traveling exhibit, "The maple with open heart," which appeared in shopping malls and at agricultural fairs, for example, the International Maple Products Festival. Producers cooperated in the exhibit and also carried out promotional work at exhibit sites, where visitors learned about the overall development of maple culture from the past through the present and into the future (new technologies, effects of acid rain). The exhibit did not limit itself to technical aspects but also examined ecological, economic and cultural factors. Céré characterized this approach as "ecosystemic."
In general, the emphasis of the ecomuseum’s economic-related activities is related to tourism. The museum’s varied offerings are geared to making the Haute-Beauce an interesting destination for visitors. In addition to the local public, to which the museum is primarily directed, it also aims to stimulate weekend and short holiday visits. Museum workers associate the discovery and understanding of their own region with endeavors to open it to others.
A first initiative in this connection was the establishment of the "integrated tourist routes through the countryside." The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has developed a network of self-directed walking and driving tours that enable visitors to familiarize themselves with the main attractions of the Haute-Beauce (cf. Trudel 1984: 112). A walking tour was laid out for each of the five zones of the ecomuseum. The starting point for each is the service center, where the visitor receives a short introduction into the region’s characteristics. A project to create a regional park in the Haute-Beauce with hiking and cross-country ski trails was being planned.
For local people queried, tourism and the hope of a regional economic revival are two of the main motivations for their work with the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. They see tourism as an alternative to the declining forest industry. However, the ecomuseum does not wish to encourage tourism on a large scale. Rather it is seeking a form of "adapted" tourism, a small-scale tourism, as René Rivard remarked:
They do not want these to be people who burn up the miles, who don’t talk to anyone, who do not respect their environment.
Monique Pomerleau characterized the ecomuseum as "a new form of tourism."
The restoration and conversion of a historic mill into an interpretation center form the core of a project to create a tourism center in Ste. Clothilde, a village of 600 inhabitants. These measures are to be supplemented by the establishment of cultural walking routes and cross-country ski trails, presentations of plays and musical dramas in the mill, the creation of overnight accommodations, campaigns to beautify the village, etc.
The preceding overview gives a representative cross-section of the various activities and programs the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce provided during its seven years of existence. Problematic aspects have already been referred to in individual cases. To conclude this case study, I will indicate how the those interviewed valued the "overall cultural action" of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has not carried out a systematic evaluation of its effectiveness. In the meetings with museum workers, personal impressions and comparisons provided some assessment. However, those in positions of responsibility and the paid employees, in particular, consider that it is necessary and desirable to carry out evaluations.
In practice, however, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce does not have the time, money or appropriate specialists to critically evaluate its activities. In order to bridge the current gap in evaluation studies, Hovanec proposed to hold round-table discussions with visitors in order to obtain some direct feed-back:
. . . maybe this is not a scientific evaluation, but at least you will find yourself together with local people discussing this, and that will make it possible to find out their perceptions.
A current assessment of the activities of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce can be made only through a comparison of the statements of individuals I questioned. With respect to the effectiveness of the activities and programs described above, a distinction needs to be made between two levels: the individual and the social. At the individual level, the ecomuseum makes a real contribution to the individual participant. For example, Lorraine Charest speaks of a "personal opening" and of the "great personal satisfaction" she has derived from her work in the museum. Ginette Fortin believes:
There is an enrichment all along the line.
Guy Baron remarked:
The ecomuseum, in my opinion, is a body that has enabled a certain number of people to place a value on themselves and to express themselves and feel good inside their skin.
Maude Céré said something similar:
There are women who would say, ‘I woke up this year, I did guided tours for whole bus loads, I was capable, I could express myself well, I wouldn’t tremble, everything worked out fine, my ideas were clear, and it’s the ecomuseum that made it possible for me to do that.’ When you can say that, you tell yourself this is a success, it’s fantastic.
Up to now the effect of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce on social development has been limited. Hovanec said: For me, the five years that have passed have not really been socially relevant, in the sense of improving or changing a lot of things. However, the beginnings of social changes can be found in the area of territorialization of the region, that is, in the creation of a regional cohesion. People from the region who were questioned stated that, since the ecomuseum opened, they had become more familiar with their own neighborhood and significantly more knowledgeable about the region.
Expanded geographical knowledge and cooperative work in the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce have instilled in participants a regional awareness and feeling of mutual belonging, as Denis Hovanec states. All of those asked expressed themselves positively and without reservation about the new regional cohesion.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce gives the population the possibility of discovering itself, the cultural and natural heritage of the region worth preserving and local and regional values. It affords the opportunity to become conscious of the specific regional identity of the Haute-Beauce. Guy Baron made this clear:
. . . this was the first time that the world of Courcelles saw itself. This is a world that had never seen itself. They watch television, but they have never seen themselves. They see the world of Montreal, but they have never seen themselves. I think that the ecomuseum makes it possible—and this is its great success—it makes it possible for people to see themselves. And they don’t like to see themselves poor and forgotten in some corner, [...], they like to see themselves with a certain pride.
The emphasis of the activities is placed on imparting value to the population and its region. The exhibitions consequently lack critical perspectives. Those in positions of responsibility stressed that, at first, before taking up more provocative subjects, all the themes were consciously chosen to strengthen the population’s self-awareness and confidence. Hovanec remarked:
. . . it is certain that the first five years revolved around giving value to the heritage and all of that, but this is a mechanism for triggering other things. In the end it was necessary to begin with something very prosaic, something truly very close, in order to develop more afterwards.
Maude Céré states further:
First it was necessary to make exhibits that the people liked. [...] it is important to start with relatively simple subjects that the people like, and then to slowly evolve.
Thus far the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has not carried out critical, problem-oriented exhibitions and activities. Problematical points are dealt with "in passing" in order not to be provocative.
According to Baron and Paul Bolduc, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has been too past-oriented up to now. They feel that the emphasis should be more on the present and the future, and thus, open up new perspectives.
In order to increase its impact on the region’s social development, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce would not only have to orient itself more toward the present and future, but also have at its disposal more human and financial resources as well as stronger backing from the population.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce receives an average of 6,000 visitors a year. Around 50 percent of the visitors can be attributed to the local and regional public. As discussed in detail above, there is a core of 10-20 persons who work with the museum continually. Grouped around this core are some 250 supporters who occasionally work for the museum in a wide variety of areas. By reaching this level of participation the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has produced an excellent result.
The volunteers whom I questioned state unanimously that they became increasingly involved through their participation in the ecomuseum’s activities, finally assuming roles in the various committees and, particularly at the local level, carrying out their own projects. It should be emphasized, however, that women such as Ginette Fortin, Lucille Létourneau and Monique Pomerleau should be counted as part of the museum’s active core, its "guiding spirits" (Létourneau). These are women with an exceptional amount of initiative and readiness for action who understand how to put things in motion. This explains why the local committees in Lac Drolet, St. Hilaire and Ste. Clothilde—the committees within these women’s field of action—carry out numerous activities and enjoy relatively good popularity with the local people. However, Céré states:
But things aren’t that way in all the villages, for example. There are still people who expect the ecomuseum to come to them to do something.
Overall, those surveyed agree unanimously that the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is still not well enough known in the region and that an increase in the active participation would be extremely desirable. New initiatives in this direction and the problems connected with them were referred to earlier in the previous chapter. One critical problem should be stressed again: the dominance of Mayrand and Céré with respect to the initiation, planning and organization of the various activities and programs of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. Jacinthe Roy on this subject:
. . . Many people—and even us, if it comes to that—identify the ecomuseum with Maude and Pierre. There is no doubt that they are the ones who started it, but they should take themselves in hand and disengage a little more.
And Létourneau on the same subject:
They run things well. In the end they are the parents of the project, they are the ones who have moved this forward [...]. Since it is their dream, they are the ones who most want it to advance.
If the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is to make real progress, the population must cut loose from the umbilical cord and take the museum’s future into its own hands. It cannot be foreseen at this time whether this will happen. It appears the way to autonomy is still long and arduous.
Great efforts have been made since the establishment of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. Something has been achieved, but there occasionally is doubt whether the ecomuseological concept can be realized 100 percent (Hovanec). On May 16, 1987, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce invited citizens and specialists associated with the museum to a round-table discussion in order to take stock and in this way impart new impulses. The discussion reflected quite realistically the central problem of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce: participation and, in that connection, relationships between the museum and the community. In conclusion, let us cite a reflection by Mayrand (written comments on the interview, December 1986), in which he makes clear that the development of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is an open question, the answer to which should continue to be pursued attentively. According to Mayrand, it is increasingly apparent:
. . . that ecomuseology is a process that is continually in question, that the ecomuseum is realized in steps, that these steps do not follow a linear progression: there are breaks, moments when things stop, leaps forward, undercurrents, work that is sometimes long and imperceptible. This is why one should avoid making summary judgments. . . . The ecomuseum is a path one must constantly return to, a building of which it is difficult to foresee whether it will have a roof, even whether there is a need for it. The ecomuseum is an open question for a population.
The dynamics and openness of the ecomuseological concept will become clearer in the next chapter where the example of the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde will demonstrate the adaptation of the ecomuseum to an urban context.
3.1.2 Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde
126.96.36.199 Montréal Centre-Sud1
The present-day Centre-Sud, consisting of the parishes of Ste. Marie and St. Jacques, is Montreal’s oldest working-class district, called by its inhabitants the "Faubourg à m’lasse" after the sugar factory (Méthot). Proximity to transportation routes (St. Lawrence River and railroads) was the decisive factor in establishing a wide variety of industries, for example beer, rubber, sugar, textiles and wood (cf. Maison du Fier-Monde 1985a: 10f). In the19th- and up to the mid-20th century, Centre-Sud was a lively and expanding cultural and industrial center—the heart, so to speak, of French Canadian Montreal (cf. Desrosiers/Lafleur 1981:66f; Soucy-Roy 1977).
In the last 30 or 40 years, however, a serious reversal has taken place in Centre-Sud (cf. Gonzales/Joseph 1984): businesses and cultural institutions have closed or moved. The declining economy of Centre-Sud has had social consequences. Between 1966 and 1980 the population decreased approximately 50 percent; today it totals 37,000. Twenty percent are unemployed and welfare recipients, 26 percent low-income workers, and twenty percent pensioners (Desrosiers/Lafleur 1981:11; cf. Centre St. Pierre 1984). The unemployment rate in Centre-Sud is double that of Montreal as a whole, while per capital income is half (Binette). Its poor socioeconomic position creates pressing problems for inhabitants, as cited by Binette:
The most elementary needs—paying the rent, eating, finding a job—these are the urgent problems. There are so many unemployed, so many welfare recipients, that is the number one problem. What do you eat this weekend? . . . The problems are not five years from now, the problems are right there, today and tomorrow. They are immediate problems.
Centre-Sud is a dead or dying neighborhood of the underprivileged, ruled by unemployment, poverty, loss of orientation and resignation.
While the area had to struggle against economic and social decline, its selection as the site of highway and large construction projects further affected its viability, destroying a significant part of the residential area and closing schools, markets and businesses. According to a brochure of the Maison du Fier-Monde (1985a:14): ". . . the strategic position of Centre-Sud as a communication axis was to cost the area dearly, part of it being sacrificed to transportation."
The present-day Centre-Sud is bounded by two main highways on the north and south, by a railroad line on the east and by the university and Montreal’s business and trade center on the west. However, the city is not only the neighborhood’s boundary; it also threatens further destructive advances into the residential areas of Centre-Sud in the forms of elegant office and bank buildings and their occupants, who require businesses, restaurants and living space.
Citizens of Centre-Sud have introduced countless initiatives in the past 15 to 20 years in order to counteract these tendencies toward the destruction of traditional living spaces and estrangement of residents from their neighborhood. These measures attempt to counteract the effects of the prevailing catastrophic socioeconomic situation in one way or the other and to support the population in reclaiming possession of its neighborhood. Binette speaks of approximately 50 so-called "community groups" in the neighborhood today (cf. Maison du Fier-Monde/Habitations Communautaires Centre-Sud 1982; Bottin Pop. . . 1983).
The Maison du Fier-Monde, a neighborhood museum
The Maison du Fier-Monde project began in June 1980 through the citizen initiative "Habitation Communautaire Centre-Sud" (cf. Binette/Cloutier 1983:5), intended to establish residential cooperatives ("coopératives d’habitation"). However, the organization did not deal merely with the creation of favorable housing conditions, or, as Binette says:
. . . a place where you live well is not only a house, it includes something else.
Sociocultural institutions were needed to breathe new life into the neighborhood. Hence the idea of creating a neighborhood museum, an idea proposed by outside social workers and so-called "animateurs" (motivators) active in the citizen initiative (Desrosiers/Lafleur 1981:12).
It is important to note here that although the origin of the Maison du Fier-Monde belongs in a certain sense to a citizen initiative, the project goes back to the efforts of a small group of people who occupy a special position in the community as a result of the know-how they acquired through their education. Méthot remarked:
Take me personally, I would not have put it in a favorable light, because I would not have known how. Naturally, at the conceptual level, there is someone who lived in the neighborhood, who had done higher studies, he had traveled, who had thought at a certain moment that perhaps, with all there is in the way of objects of value in the neighborhood at the individual level, buildings, everything else, it might be possible to make a museum. . . . This happened to us at a certain moment, something was put down on paper. . . . After that, it was accepted by the Habitations Communautaires.
The result was that a group of interested citizens founded, together with the leading members of the Habitation Communautaire Centre-Sud, a so-called "museum committee." The planning committee developed the first ideas and proposals for the establishment of a neighborhood museum in consultation with outside historians and museologists (cf. the working paper Projet du musée de voisinage. . . 1980 and Compte Rendu. . . 1980; Quelques Notes. . . 1980; Notes de Parcours. . . 1981; Maison du Fier-Monde no year). As justification for this way of proceeding, the working paper states (Projet du musée voisinage. . . 1980:4): "Ideally, the project should be prepared and directed by the citizens of our neighborhood. But one should have no illusions: it will not be the great mass of the citizens who are interested in the project from the beginning. And this is normal! A man who has lost his pride cannot find the way out by himself. Particularly if this lack of pride is reinforced by the shame of living in a neighborhood of ‘poor people’ [. . . ]. In the initial phase of the project we will therefore need outside help to demonstrate the need for the project and its feasibility. Once this demonstration is made, we will request the acceptance of the citizens. It is certainly at this stage that our fellow citizens will begin to participate."
The objectives of the Maison du Fier-Monde were formulated as follows in the initial phase of the museum committee (Desrosiers/Lafleur 1981:14):
Through the creation of an ecomuseum, to make the presentation of heritage into a tool of education and collective action;
To create a commercial space (public market, restaurants, shops) where the population of the neighborhood could meet;
To create a space that will serve as a rallying point for meetings of all kinds."
At the beginning of the museum committee’s work2 a document on the history of Centre-Sud (1840-1960) was prepared with the financial support of the Quebec Ministry of Cultural Affairs. This was to serve as a basis for further planning. It was published in December 1980 (Les Habitations Communautaires Centre-Sud 1980). In the spring of 1981 this document resulted in the first historical exhibit on the eating and dress habits of neighborhood residents: "Du march‚ d’hier au musée de demain" (From yesterday’s market to tomorrow’s museum). This first public appearance of the Maison du Fier-Monde was a great success.
Also in 1981, there appeared a publication in which the museum project was explained in detail (Desrosiers/Lafleur 1981). In December 1981 another exhibit was opened—a traveling exhibit called "La Maison du Fier-Monde" organized by 20 "people’s groups." The planning committee was simultaneously a promotion committee. One of its most pressing tasks was to make the Maison du Fier-Monde project publicly known and accepted by Centre-Sud citizens.
The Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde
In May 1982 the museum was renamed the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde,3 because the basic principles of ecomuseology—identification with a territory, participation of the population and decentralization—roughly corresponded to those of the Maison du Fier-Monde. The Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde explained this fact in leaflets distributed to the public: "The Maison du Fier-Monde is interested in the past and bears witness to history, which is done in order to take control of the future. Thus, the Maison du Fier-Monde offers a mirror to the population of Centre-Sud. The Maison du Fier-Monde is a museum that belongs to the citizens; it therefore speaks to everyone. It is a meeting place where the population expresses its experiences. This is what an ecomuseum is!" (Maison du Fier-Monde no year, leaflet II). "Essentially and in distinction to the traditional museum, the ecomuseum maintains organic ties to its environment. Concretely, this means that the very life of the ecomuseum, its exhibits, its activities and its overall choices are a function of the environment in which it was created, of the history of that environment, of its characteristics, its concerns, its foreseeable future etc. [. . . ]." (Maison du Fier-Monde no year, leaflet I).
However, renaming the Maison du Fier-Monde neighborhood museum the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde was based not only on conceptual correspondences with ecomuseology. Binette presents further grounds:
We are a true ecomuseum [. . . ]; we meet the criteria. Except that you can certainly say that there are also strategic advantages [. . . ] that is, joining the Association of Ecomuseums in Quebec, to participating in that whole movement that is developing [. . . ], that is the thing to do to a certain extent. If the train is passing by, you get on it. Thus, there are also reasons that are really of a strategic nature.
188.8.131.52 Conception and objectives
The Maison du Fier-Monde was intended to be a meeting place for the population of Centre-Sud, a place to confront the past and to analyzes and discuss. It is one of the few educational institutions in Quebec that deals exclusively with labor history.
The name Maison du Fier-Monde (House of the Proud People) is to be understood programmatically. This museum sought to engender pride and self-respect among neighborhood residents. By imparting knowledge of their historical roots, the Maison du Fier-Monde wished to empower the citizens of Centre-Sud and control their future in a spirit of self-confidence. In analyzing the neighborhood’s history, the Maison du Fier-Monde helped citizens carve out "identification markers," that is, clues to a sense of belonging and responsibility.
Here, history is not pursued for its own sake, but rather to connect the past to the present and future (Fontaine). History and cultural heritage are seen as tools of future development. A position paper (1984a:1) refers to the nature of the Maison du Fier-Monde as a tool: "The Maison du Fier-Monde, at the same time a tool for recalling the past and an opportunity for meetings and public events, is the favored means of showing the way forward in order, on the one hand, to arouse in the citizens of Centre-Sud a true pride in belonging to a neighborhood with such a rich and generous past and, on the other hand, to give these same residents a unique opportunity to participate fully in the future of their neighborhood."
One speaks of the future of the neighborhood, not development. Indeed, the term "development" does not appear in the discourse of the Maison du Fier-Monde workers. When asked, they said it was difficult for them to define development positively because measures for so-called neighborhood development in the past worked only to their disadvantage and contributed to their neighborhood’s destruction.
Disregarding the word’s negative connotations, Binette and Méthot express themselves hesitantly regarding what development of the neighborhood might ideally mean. According to Binette, development must be based on the needs of those who have to struggle with direct existential problems. For Méthot, development in the interests of the population of Centre-Sud means first of all a concrete improvement of basic living conditions for those whose income is permanently below the poverty line and particularly for single child-rearers. Méthot described these families’ distress:
. . . the lowest rent in Centre-Sud is $270 a month.4 Heat and light are not included, so that brings the rent up to $300-350 a month. If the woman or man who is alone with two children gets $600 a month and half of it goes to pay the rent, the heat and the electricity, nothing is left to eat on. Nothing is left for recreation, nothing is left to clothe the children, to clothe themselves, but nevertheless they need a minimum of clothing.
The Maison du Fier-Monde wanted originally to make a contribution to improving the living standard of part of the population of Centre-Sud by creating jobs. In its initial phase, consideration was given to integrating the museum into a complex of businesses, restaurants and a market (cf. Desrosiers/Lafleur 1981; Notes de parcours. . . 1981). However, this ambitious plan had to be discarded because of the constrained financial situation, and in fact the museum itself had to fight continually for its own survival. The possibilities for the Maison du Fier-Monde itself to create jobs was extremely limited (cf. chapter 184.108.40.206), so that no impulses in this regard can be expected from the Maison du Fier-Monde.
Nor does the provision of concrete offers of help to the population figure in the acknowledged objectives of the Maison du Fier-Monde. It does not view itself as a social welfare or charitable institution:
The mandate is not to solve short-term problems or severe problems. (Fontaine).
There are further reasons for this. In the first place, the Maison du Fier-Monde had to avoid entering into competition with already existing service groups. On the other hand, the Maison du Fier-Monde, with full insight into the need for such services, was convinced that excessive support was not in the citizens’ interest.
Thus, the Maison du Fier-Monde avowedly wished to contribute only indirectly to coping with the concrete problems of everyday life and neighborhood development. Through its work in the area of building awareness, it sought to create the prerequisites for local control over future development. Citizen-related development implies for the workers of the Maison du Fier-Monde (Binette) . . . the milieu taking charge of the milieu.
220.127.116.11 Structure and organization
Since 1984 the Maison du Fier-Monde has had its permanent headquarters in the former St. Eusèbe Elementary School,5 where various citizen initiatives have formed the Carrefour St. Eusèbe (the St.-Eusèbe Crossroads). In addition, the Maison du Fier-Monde is represented in the Centre-Sud neighborhood by two so-called "antennas": the rue Olivier-Robert and the Polyvalente Pierre-Dupuy (cf. chapter 18.104.22.168).
The Maison du Fier-Monde is a private museum not recognized by the government. The establishment of an independent association (literally, a "corporation") of 60 to 70 citizens accompanied the renamed Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde (cf. Maison du Fier-Monde 1982g). Some of the requirements for membership are that the members be citizens of Centre-Sud, if possible, or at least that they show a special interest in the neighborhood, and that they be of age. The association’s bylaws (Maison du Fier Monde 1982a) established the structure of the association and the principles of its decision-making hierarchy. The society meets once or twice a year in a membership meeting, which is attended by an average of 25 to 30 persons. The bylaws (Maison du Fier-Monde 1982a:2) states: "The general meeting of the members is the supreme authority of the corporation." In addition, projects are also proposed and discussed by the museum workers and (to a limited extent) by the members. Finally, decisions are reached on projects for the following year (Maison du Fier-Monde 1985b).
In addition, the membership meeting chooses a museum board ("conseil d’administration," literally "board of directors") that is mandated with making decisions on the association’s business in behalf of its members: "The board of directors shall exercise, [. . . ], the powers delegated to it by the general meeting, [. . . ]" (Maison du Fier-Monde 1982a:5). The board is accountable to the membership.
The museum board consists of a chairman, the deputy, a secretary, a treasurer, an adviser and the coordinator of the Maison du Fier-Monde (the only non-elected member of the group). Elections are held once a year for only part of the board membership. The chairman’s and deputy’s terms of office are two years (Méthot). In addition to the actual voting members of the museum board, each museum worker and each member of the society has the right in principle to take part as an observer in the meetings of the board.
Immediately after the association was formed, the board met every week to set all the machinery in motion for the first time. Since then, meeting frequency has settled down to once a month. The board deals primarily with administrative matters (Binette), related, for example, to obtaining and managing project resources, recruitment of museum workers or finding a permanent home for the Maison du Fier-Monde.
The board recruited a coordinator to represent its interests and decisions in everyday relations with the other museum workers and report back to the board. At present the coordinator not only receives and carries out orders and makes reports, but also makes many decisions, either independently or in consultation with the workers. The museum workers attend staff meetings at least once a week, at which they discuss all current matters and develop proposals for the board. At the time of my research, the staff consisted of a motivator, a researcher, and a coordinator.
The personnel situation of the Maison du Fier-Monde is lamentable, mainly due to lack of financial resources. Because the Maison du Fier-Monde is not accredited by the government, it has no regular annual budget, but is essentially dependent on project-linked subsidies by the federal and provincial governments and on job-creation measures.
The peculiarities of job-creation measures have quite specific personal consequences for the workers of the Maison du Fier-Monde (Binette):
The three people who work here, Berte, Anne and I, are actually not workers, we are unemployed. We are volunteer unemployed persons within an organization for 40 hours a week. Because we are unemployed persons within an organization, our unemployment insurance benefits are raised to an amount that is rather interesting, but the fact remains that we are unemployed and are considered to be actively seeking employment, just like any other unemployed person.
The financing of the Maison du Fier-Monde through projects and job-creation measures creates a great deal of insecurity with regard to the museum’s continued existence. It is more and more uncertain how the museum will be funded a half year from now. In 1983-84, the museum went through a serious crisis that resulted from financial difficulties. From May 1983 to February 1984 the museum had no permanent paid employees. Binette on this subject:
And at that time it was on the verge of completely failing.
Since they have been employed at the Maison du Fier-Monde, René Binette and Bertheline Méthot have worked two-thirds of their time on the basis of temporary contracts and one-third on a volunteer basis without pay. This has been possible only because of their extraordinary motivation and readiness to contribute.
Their personal experience with unpaid employment makes them refuse to systematically involve volunteers: It must be said that the word "voluntary" is itself not a word that we like a lot, nor is it a philosophy that we like. [. . . ]. We don’t try to go looking for people in the neighborhood.
Unpaid employment is essentially limited to the five members of the museum board and the two main members of the staff (periodically). Apart from this hard core of colleagues, who work without remuneration at various levels and invest a lot of time and work in the Maison du Fier-Monde, the museum does not intend to extend further the unpaid employment of its members. In view of the constrained social and economic position of most of the residents of Centre-Sud, Binette and Méthot felt that it was exploitation to let people work regularly without adequate pay.
Binette demands rather formation of a permanent, paid staff and, in this respect, also reflects the position of the museum board. The institution needs a team of permanent employees to assure continuity and coordination of the work of the Maison du Fier-Monde. Binette says:
It takes a minimum of paid permanent staff to be able to do a lot of things. [. . . ]. It takes a team of paid people to bring the people together. Because volunteers are ready to give you an evening, a day, a weekend, perhaps two weeks of vacation, but they do not want to do the whole thing from A to Z. It takes paid people to do the dull things, the things that nobody wants to do. That is normal, those are our jobs [. . . ]. People are interested in mounting an exhibit or putting up a mural, that is an extraordinary experience, but that takes at a minimum someone who can coordinate all of this.
A further reason for the small number of volunteers is a certain cautious, waiting reserve the population has toward this new institution. Méthot says:
Maybe one day they will be ready for it, but at the present time they are still very fearful, because the Maison du Fier-Monde is young, it is too young for them.
Concern about including the citizens in the work of the Maison du Fier-Monde and about integrating the museum into the life of the neighborhood is one of the essential characteristics of the Maison du Fier-Monde. Méthot says:
What is important for me is to make the history of the neighborhood with the people of the neighborhood, for them and with them.
Where the inclusion of the citizens in the work of the Maison du Fier-Monde is concerned, what is understood is not so much regular unpaid employment, because of the reservations referred to above, but rather the various forms of citizen involvement that Binette and Méthot refer to as participation, which they specify as follows (Binette):
There are people who are members of the Maison du Fier-Monde who come to the general meetings, who participate by giving an interview when the oral tradition is being recorded, by giving their photographs, by being promoters of the Maison du Fier-Monde in their circle, by coming to the exhibits. For us these are different levels of participation. The goal is not to bring people to give so many days a week or so many days a month.
First of all participation is to be found at the decision-making level, that is, participation in the membership meeting and the museum board. However, participation in the board, in particular, requires an expenditure of time and work that de facto only a few citizens of the neighborhood are able to make. Anne Fontaine, who was secretary of the board for a period of time, observed:
. . . what is the most difficult thing there, no matter what the group is, is to mix your life with volunteering. If you do things as a volunteer, that’s o.k. at first, but in the long run it is tiring, it demands a lot [. . . ]. This is a problem with participation. In any event it is hard for me to combine your life at home, another job, volunteer work here, other activities and your family.
Méthot described the extreme case:
. . . it is hard to participate when you are hungry. It is hard to participate when you know that tomorrow you may not have food to give to your children.
Furthermore, Méthot said the citizens of Centre-Sud are generally not sufficiently sensitized to commit themselves actively to the work of the Maison du Fier-Monde.
Even if these obstacles are overcome and the citizens participate, their actual influence on events is limited. Because of their involvement in everyday matters and their continual presence, the coordinator and employees have a relatively strong position on the board and at the membership meeting. In practice the content is predominantly determined by the employees. Practical experience makes employees familiar with arguments, hypotheses and the potential for solving problems. This gives them a head-start when it comes to the museum board and membership, which means that initiatives and proposals come less from the community (that is, from the members of the association) than from the museum staff. Thus, although the population formally has all possibilities of participating on the basis of the association’s structure, its real participation at the level of initiatives, proposals and decisions is relatively small. Binette remarked:
If you are there all day, 35 hours a week for a certain number of weeks, it is certain that you have a power that is real.
Despite these limitations, the membership meeting remains the official organ of participation of the Maison du Fier-Monde. An effort is made to make the meetings as attractive as possible to induce membership involvement.
A broader level of participation that differs from attending meetings involves making photographs, documents, objects and interviews available to the Maison du Fier-Monde.
In this way residents supply the raw material for exhibit projects, for example, but without participating further in their conception and implementation. In the end, it is the Maison du Fier-Monde workers who are the ones to produce something from this material and present the finished product to the population.
Although the population contributes in some way to the exhibits, it still remains a consumer with respect to the end product. But according to Binette, a simple museum visit is a form of participation:\
. . . there is also another level of participation. This is quite simply to come to the Maison du Fier-Monde, to see an exhibit and afterwards, around a cup of coffee, to discuss what was seen, to talk about what the neighborhood was, of what it has become and where it is going. . . . There are so many ways of participating, at a minimal level, that is, to come once, to come see what the museum is.
22.214.171.124 Activities and programs
The activities of the Maison du Fier-Monde include research, collection and documentation, as well as communication through exhibits, sound-and-slide shows and neighborhood tours, in which educational guides from the museum play a special role (Binette; cf. also Maison du Fier-Monde 1982c; 1982f; 1983c; 1983d; 1984a; 1984d; 1985c; 1985d; 1985e; 1987).
Museum activities are basically oriented toward imparting knowledge to the public. Research, collection and documentation are not ends in themselves, as in many traditional museums, but relate to an exhibit, a sound-and-slide show, a neighborhood tour, a publication, etc.
The Maison du Fier-Monde does not have a collection in the traditional sense. Objects are not housed in a museum setting, but are lent by the citizens to the Maison du Fier-Monde for exhibits. The collection proper consists largely of photographs and written documents that citizens have made available to the museum. The museum collection will find its way into the documentation center of the Maison du Fier-Monde, which is under construction (cf. Maison du Fier-Monde 1983a).
Research and collecting at the Maison du Fier-Monde emphasize the so-called "collective memory," the commonly experienced history of the neighborhood’s residents, the collective life history of the neighborhood, so to speak. Basically, the Maison du Fier-Monde endeavors to have this narrated history inform its programs so that visitors can identify with their content.
Up to now, research has been carried out by various persons within the framework of job-creation measures. Citizens rarely take an active part, that is, participate in the studies as researchers. Frequently the research breaks new ground, since up to now who has been interested in the history of a French-Canadian working-class neighborhood? Thanks to the research carried out by the museum, a piece of everyday history is written down and a piece of the "culture des autres" (the other people’s culture) is saved from oblivion.
In 1987 the Maison du Fier-Monde began a long-term research and exhibit project in cooperation with the University of Quebec at Montreal. The goal was to prepare a systematic history of industrialization in Centre-Sud (cf. Maison du Fier-Monde 1986a), for which the community was to play an active role in researching and writing.
The Maison du Fier-Monde parallels the approach and experiences of Sven Lindquist (1978; 1983; 1985), who has conducted popular historical research in Sweden. The work of the increasingly numerous history workshops in the German Federal Republic also provides some interesting ideas in this connection. At the moment, the organizers are primarily interested in how these groups function in detail, how they work (Binette, conversation of 11-20-86). The Maison du Fier-Monde is seeking, in the form of a systematic educational program, to introduce the citizens to the methods of historical research so that they will be in a position to research and write their own history under the guidance of the museum. Johanne Lemieux says (1987:15):
"Within the framework of this project, we are focusing on a research and education methodology that will enable the residents and workers of the neighborhood to produce their own knowledge of their history. In this way, the citizens will be able to participate in all the stages of research and writing."
The research material—the historical evidence—is not well ordered and readily at hand in a museum or documentation center of labor history, but rather is found in the streets, houses, drawers, attics and minds of the residents of Centre-Sud. The main task of this new research project is to encourage the population to discover these things for themselves and make them usable in an exhibition or other program.
The most important tool for the Maison du Fier-Monde is the exhibit. A total of six exhibits have been mounted since it was formed:
1. "From the market of yesterday to the museum of tomorrow" (4-24 and 25, 1981)
2. "Maison du Fier-Monde" (12-12 and 13, 1981)
3. "Rue Olivier-Robert" (May 1982)
4. "Workers’ housing" (May 1983-December 1984)
5. "Between the factory and the kitchen" (December 1984-November 1986)
6. "A trip to Centre-Sud" (opened 4-9-87).
A particular characteristic of the ecomuseum relates to the physical and social environment of the neighborhood, to such an extent that its activities partly go beyond the four walls of the museum proper . . . so that decentralized actions are performed throughout the territory (Binette). Therefore, besides the exhibits and activities that accompany the exhibits, neighborhood walking tours form a significant offering of the Maison du Fier-Monde. There are three tours:
1. Visit to Centre-Sud
2. The beautiful streets of the neighborhood
3. A walk around St. Anselme
Two maps give an initial overview and the itinerary of the tours (Maison du Fier-Monde no year [a], leaflet I; 1985a:62f). Accompanying brochures published by the Maison du Fier-Monde furnish more detailed information (Maison du Fier-Monde 1982e; 1985a).
These walking tours not only track down the hidden beauties of the neighborhood, they emphasize the social dimension of the mute witnesses of history, which are presented in the form of streets, houses, factories, churches, schools, parks, etc. Basically the history associated with one building or another is sought. What did this or that mean for the residents of the neighborhood? What effect did it have on their daily life?
Moreover, history is not pursued here for its own sake, but rather functions as an instrument for coping with the present. The point of departure is the present, the image of the neighborhood today and its current problems. Apart from historical buildings, the program also includes structures and institutions that play a decisive role in the history and present-day reality of Centre-Sud residents, that is, primarily, the large construction projects and social institutions referred to earlier.
The so-called "antennas" are of significance in connection with the presence of the Maison du Fier-Monde in the neighborhood. At the same time, they can relate to groups associated with the museum and to their programs. Méthot compared the Maison du Fier-Monde and its "antennas" to a tree:
For me, it is as if I had a large tree and that there were branches on it. A tree that does not have many branches is not very strong, it is sick. The more antennas there are, the stronger the tree.
In 1981 the rue Olivier-Robert became the first "antenna." Some of its residents, under the guidance of a resident historian, got together to research the history of the street, in part, by analyzing documents, but more by questioning the people who lived there. The results appeared in the form of a public exhibit and a sound-and-slide show. In addition, the history of the neighborhood also finds its way into a wall painting that artists have put up in cooperation with the residents of the rue Olivier-Robert. The painting not only beautifies the external appearance of the street, but also makes concrete references to the historical, present-day and future reality of the residents’ lives. On this subject, Cloutier/Binette state (1983:10): "This mural is thus in a certain way an immense mirror in which the people recognize themselves and in which they are proud to recognize themselves. For the Maison du Fier-Monde, which uses territorial identity to remake, and pride to re-find, the keystone to the future of the population of the Centre-Sud neighborhood, it is easy to understand that the execution of this mural is an important gesture that directly records its steps to restore value to the past and the present."
Another "antenna," the Polyvalente Pierre Dupuy secondary school, established close contacts with the museum. Both antennas serve to create links between the neighborhood and the Maison du Fier-Monde.
However, the action plan of the Maison du Fier-Monde for 1985-86 (Maison du Fier-Monde 1985e:3) stated that recently links to the antennas had been neglected, because the programmatic emphasis lay in other areas. It has not been possible to include the antennas in decisions at the level of the museum board. The Maison du Fier-Monde has other priorities for the immediate future.
Binette explained (11-20-86) that while close ties with the museum’s surroundings were important—for example in connection with the history project—creating official antennas with representation on the board was of secondary importance. He stated further:
The people are interested in participating in activities, but are they interested in sitting on a board of directors? Power belongs to those who do the job.
It should also be noted that all resources—time, work and money—must be used to make the Maison du Fier-Monde functional, productive and known.
Publications make up an important aspect of public-relations work. On the one hand, they are intended to be easily read, in order to reinforce an exhibit’s themes, for example, but on the other hand, they serve as a motivational tool (Maison du Fier Monde 1984b:5) within and outside the context of school lessons (cf. e.g. Barrette 1986b). Thus, these materials are used not only by schools and youth groups, but also in other citizen initiatives, provided they deal with appropriate themes (Binette, conversation of 11-20-86).
Another aspect of public relations work is publicity in the form of invitations, posters and leaflets. In this connection, the employees of the Maison du Fier-Monde consider it important to adopt a uniform design or lay-out, thereby giving the museum a long-term public image and supporting its recognition. The Maison du Fier-Monde also draws attention to itself in the media (cf. Maison du Fier-Monde 1985f), particularly in the neighborhood newspaper La Criée and on the radio. The Maison du Fier-Monde increased exposure through celebrations at exhibit openings, the issuance of a publication and holding a membership meeting.
Finally, cooperation with other citizen initiatives and groups active in the neighborhood provides the Maison du Fier-Monde with a certain neighborhood presence. Occasionally the museum organizes evenings of discussion or entertainment with other community groups. Moreover, it supports these groups when their activity corresponds to the objectives of the museum. (Binette, Méthot).
Publicity is not intended to increase visitation senselessly higher. The Maison du Fier-Monde is clearly uninterested in attracting "casual customers" who would improve attendance statistics. The entrance to the St. Eusèbe School does not even have the smallest sign that indicates the presence of the Maison du Fier-Monde on the third floor. Seriously interested visitors must already know where they can find the museum.
The audience the Maison du Fier-Monde wants to attract is clear: in principle, all interested members of the public, including neighborhood residents and outsiders. Participants on neighborhood tours have been primarily strangers, that is, non-resident visitors; although the tours were intended to make local residents more familiar with their neighborhood. Binette believed it was a problem of motivation. The residents of Centre-Sud are given unlimited priority by the Maison du Fier-Monde. Binette noted:
The Museum of Fine Arts does not address itself to the people who live around the Museum of Fine Arts. No kind of museum addresses itself to the people around it, while here we are defined in relation to a neighborhood.
Within the neighborhood, the Maison du Fier-Monde targets a variety of population groups, with students constituting about half of the visitors (Binette, conversation of 11-4-86). With respect to the makeup of the public, Binette stated:
Our exhibits are seen both by elderly persons and by nursery schools, it is the type of motivation work that changes. A visit to an exhibit is carried out in one way with nursery schools, in another way with the elderly, in another way with secondary schools, in another way with a women’s group. The way of motivation is very flexible inside. [. . . ]. People are not left to tour the exhibit just any way [. . . ]. We are not a museum where you buy your ticket and take the tour.
Méthot is in charge of education and interpretative materials for exhibits. As a housewife, mother and former waitress, she has no formal training in cultural work but has acquired the necessary knowledge through years of work on various citizen initiatives (Méthot). Her work includes leading visitors through the exhibit, answering questions, giving explanations. In connection with that, she motivates visitors over a cup of coffee to tell their own exhibit-related stories, share them with others and become aware of how their lives are conditioned by history. Both exhibits and motivation work strive to put individual experiences in their historical and social context.
Apart from mandatory final reports to a project’s financial backers (cf. Maison du Fier-Monde 1983c; 1983d; 1984d; 1985c), the Maison du Fier-Monde makes no systematic evaluation of its activities.
However, the employees of the Maison du Fier-Monde endeavor to assess, as fully as possible, the success or failure of their efforts to meet the needs of the public. Measures of success include the degree to which the museum is known and attendance figures. In a survey of neighborhood groups conducted by the local newspaper La Criée (circulation 25,000), the Maison du Fier-Monde enjoys the highest degree of recognition, about 15 percent of those asked (Binette).
Considering the circumstances, the number of visitors is satisfactory. About 150 persons attended the last exhibit opening—"Between the factory and the kitchen" (Binette). In total, about 3,700 persons visited the exhibit (Binette, conversation of 11-4-86). Regarding this number, it should be noted that the Maison du Fier-Monde has no casual public. With few exceptions, visitors—either groups or individuals—make an appointment and are led through the exhibit by the motivator. Hence, the visit has a quality that is often not possible in larger museums with larger attendance. Often visitors not only look at the exhibit, they also view the sound-and-slide show on the history of workers’ housing in Centre-Sud and take a neighborhood tour (Binette, conversation of 11-20-86).
Another gauge of success are the personal reactions workers encounter as a result of direct contact with visitors taking the guided tours. In the course of conversations with museum visitors it is possible to determine their impressions of what they were shown. Méthot explains:
. . . people recognize themselves, and they talk and talk and talk about the things that are there. . . . They wanted to talk about them. I was able to ask two questions and they talked, simply talked, I never asked each of them to talk in turn, they would all talk together, they would tell each other about it. . . . But this stirred them up. When they were shown how this took place during the years they were exploited. When they are shown the exhibit about women, they realize how they have been exploited and they want to say it. I find that this produces gasps and cries on the spot, that’s what happens and you don’t have to do anything else.
And, of course, this accords with the objective of the Maison du Fier-Monde to be primarily a meeting place, a place where ideas are exchanged, where people recognize themselves in their shared history, where they discover their own qualities and strengths and begin to be conscious of future possibilities.
Anne Fontaine stresses that no short-term changes in living conditions result from dealing with everyday history:
. . . they’re not going to leave here with a job. These aren’t things that are going to straighten out their problems.
Méthot also expresses something similar:
History doesn’t give them something to eat, but at least it gives them pride every time they come to see an exhibit.
She observes further:
This re-awakens their pride. They are content, they are happy to talk about it. This makes for a pride they did not have before and they say: "You are proud, you didn’t think about being proud." This is where the objective of the Maison du Fier-Monde has its appeal, because our objective is to re-awaken pride and I think we have done so.
On the other hand, Binette admits self-critically: It would be pretentious to think that we have really changed things in the neighborhood, let alone change the course of history.
All in all, the Maison du Fier-Monde, through its various activities, has attained the original objective that it has kept throughout the six years of its existence (Maison du Fier-Monde 1985a:3): "The Maison du Fier-Monde wants to reveal the history of the neighborhood to its residents. The main reason is to enable the citizens to understand the current situation of the neighborhood in light of the past, but without being a devotee of the past, since the Maison du Fier-Monde aims to take charge of the present and future of the neighborhood for those who now live there. We want to revive pride in the Centre-Sud neighborhood and create a place where the citizens can meet."
Further work in this direction is supposed to be done in the course of continually consolidating the institution and expanding its offerings. The museum hopes the population will play an increasingly active role in the direct study of its own history. The first steps toward this end may be found in the three-year project to study the industrialization of Centre-Sud (see above; cf. Maison du Fier-Monde 1986a).
_______________1 If the origin of statements is not further specified, they are summaries I have made of the available material. When I refer to Binette, Méthot or Fontaine without further information, they are René Binette (2-6-85), Bertheline Méthot (2-7-85) and Anne Fontaine (2-7-85).
2 With respect to the activities of the initial phase, cf. Echéancier 1981; Maison du Fier-Monde 1982c, 1982d, 1982f; Projects et taches 1982.
3 Hereafter, the name "Maison du Fier-Monde and the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde are entered under "Maison du Fier Monde."
4 Dollar amounts refer to Canadian dollars.5As long as the Maison du Fier-Monde has existed, those responsible for it have been concerned with creating an appropriate permanent residence for the museum. The negotiations have broken down time and again and the failures have had to be borne. A detailed account of this is given in the "Bilan du project de l’école Plessis" (Maison du Fier-Monde 1984c).
3.2 The neighborhood museum in the United States
3.2.1 The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum
In 1967 the renowned Smithsonian Institution established the first neighborhood museum in the United States, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum. It is located in the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C., an area inhabited primarily by African-Americans.
The founding of Anacostia dates back to the American Civil War (cf. Hutchinson 1977), after which the federal government assigned the wooded and hilly land on the outskirts of the district to the freed slaves who had fled to Washington (cf. Marsh 1968; Thomas 1972). Until World War II Anacostia was basically a rural community (Thomas 1972).
Isolated from its white neighbors, a small, stable African-American community developed, both socioculturally and physically (cf. Marsh 1968:12). Then, as now, the Anacostia River separates the community from the rest of Washington. Although bridges have been built connecting it to the rest of the District of Columbia, the river continues to represent a psychological barrier. Anacostia is . . . across the river—hidden away and remote from ‘official Washington’ (Thomas 1972).
After the end of World War II, Anacostia experienced considerable population growth and with it accompanying changes. People displaced from other parts of the city by urban renewal programs in the fifties found homes in Anacostia. (Thomas 1972). Seventy-seven percent of housing in Anacostia today consists of apartment houses, in contrast to 20 percent apartment houses in the rest of Washington (cf. Kramer 1973). For the most part, housing units are in deplorable condition and, according to Thomas (1972), lack the most essential public facilities (cf. Department of Urban and Regional Planning 1973): "Many apartment complexes were erected on inappropriate and unsuitable sites without adequate planning for sewage, streets, sidewalks, recreation areas, transportation or erosion control. [...]. Many apartments are very badly maintained. Garbage and trash are often handled in an unsightly and unhealthful manner. Rats and cockroaches are still a major problem."
Anacostia today, with more than 100,000 residents, is one of those predominantly African-American urban centers of North America (92 percent, according to Rebecca Welch, a historian in the research department) in which slums and great social and economic problems define everyday life. Although a not insignificant portion of Anacostia’s population can be classified as middle class, Anacostia, if not a slum, is on the whole an underprivileged neighborhood, many of its residents living on the fringes of society. With regard to the socioeconomic situation of Anacostia’s residents, Edward Smith believes: I think a major concern in this community now is simple survival.
Apart from poor living conditions, unemployment is one of Anacostia’s greatest problems. Over half the residents are of working age, between 18 and 65 years old (Thomas 1972). Because of the low level of training and education, Anacostia primarily has an unskilled and under-qualified work force, for which there is little demand in Washington.
Soon the Washington municipal subway system will connect Anacostia to the rest of the city. Some people interviewed hope this will spark an economic revival. But for the present, as Thomas says (1972), "Anacostia’s five frustrations—housing, unemployment, education, drug abuse, crime"—are still all too present. The poor social conditions, that is, the combination of inadequate housing, poor education and unemployment, are determining factors for the resulting problems, such as drug abuse and crime, which arise from feelings of hopelessness (Thomas 1972).
So how did a museum come to be founded in this neighborhood, which clearly lacks the essentials of institutional development? What does such a museum stand for and what special tasks has it undertaken in the poor conditions referred to above?
In contrast to the Maison du Fier-Monde, which exists in a similar socioeconomic context, the first impetus for founding a neighborhood museum in Anacostia came from outside, that is, from the Smithsonian Institution, located in downtown Washington, D.C.
According to Newsome/Silver (1978:182), the highest concentration of "museums, nature centers, parks, botanical gardens, and historic sites" in the country can be found in Washington. But most of the traditional institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution, have long failed to direct their services to a broad public embracing all strata of society. In the mid-sixties, criticism of the elite character of traditional museums and of the associated discrimination against a significant portion of the population intensified. John Kinard (after Vuilleumier 1983:94), the founding director, summarized the charges against established museums: "[...] they stand accused on three points: 1) failing to respond to the needs of a great majority of the people; 2) failing to relate knowledge of the past to the grave issues confronting us today or to participate in meeting those issues; and 3) failing to overcome not only their blatant disregard of minority cultures but their outright racism which is all too apparent in what they collect, study, and exhibit and in whom they employ."
Seeking to change this situation, a conference on museum and education took place on August 1966 supported by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Office of Education (Marsh 1968:11f). The discussion centered on how the enormous educational potential of the more than 5,000 American museums could be effectively used (cf. Larrabee 1968).
One of the first persons to take the initiative was S. Dillon Ripley, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In November 1966 a report he delivered at a conference in Aspen, Colorado, appeared in Washington newspapers. In recognition of the museum’s growing social and political responsibility, Ripley (cited in Marsh 1968:12) recommended to the gathered museum people "to try taking their museum to the people." The background of Ripley’s efforts is explained as follows by Caryl Marsh, who played a decisive role in founding the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum:2
I think it was a very personal thing of Mr. Ripley’s. [...]. The Smithsonian was referred to as the nation’s attic. So the ideas were to get the stuff out and make them available to people. And I think, during the sixties with the general social ferment and the pressures for civil rights, a man like Mr. Ripley was influenced by all this and he thought that it would be a good idea for museums in general to make some effort to move out into the community. [...], he thought that these museums on the Mall were very big and very formal and very restricted and he wanted to loosen things up. And he suggested among other things to take the museums to the people.
The Smithsonian undertook the first efforts in this direction in Washington, D.C., and publicly expressed its interest in providing so-called mediating agents at the local level, which were to perform the role of a mediator between the population of a given area and the sponsoring institution—in this case the Smithsonian. Kinard (1973:12) calls this kind of institution the "mediatory museum," a category which also includes the Anacostia Museum.
Marsh and Charles Blitzer, the Assistant Secretary for History and Art of the Smithsonian Institution, surveyed various parts of the city to identify interested citizens and find a suitable location for the mediatory museum. They did not carry out this work without resistance from the established Smithsonian staff, as Marsh recalls:
[...] basically, the people on the Mall, the curators and the administrators, they thought it was a terrible idea.
However, the Smithsonian staff’s acceptance of this project mattered little. Of greater concern to Marsh, based on her experience as a social psychologist, was orienting the future museum to the interests and needs of the envisaged target group:
[...] I was thinking more about the nature of the relationships that had to be established among groups of people to make this new institution acceptable and to make it an institution that was controlled by the users rather than by the government.
In the course of innumerable conversations Marsh had with representatives of the various social groups and institutions, her ideas of the museum gradually took shape. An important step in this exploratory phase was a meeting with a group of African-American employees of the Smithsonian Institution (predominantly security and cleaning personnel). Marsh describes this meeting as follows:
We sat and talked and I told them about the idea of a museum that would reach out beyond the Mall and I said, did they think that there would be any interest. And they were very enthusiastic, they thought it was a good idea, it would be useful. And I said o.k.: "What would it be like?" And so in trying to figure out what it might be like, they began to ask questions. The first question was: "Who would control it, who would the director be?" So I said, well, the director would be whoever the people in the neighborhood choose. They didn’t really believe me, but I wasn’t sure myself at that time, but it was what I would recommend and let’s see what would happen. Then they said, well, what would happen, if on a hot day children came and they were barefoot and they weren’t properly dressed. So I said, well o.k., what do you think should happen, what is the correct thing to do? Well, they said, if they were orderly and as long as they had shirts on, that would be all right. What they were afraid would happen was, that children who were very poor would be turned away. And so I said, no, that’s important not to do, because it has long been a tradition in Washington that when the schools would take a bus full of children to a Smithsonian museum, they would not permit children who were not well dressed to come into the bus.
Several areas of Washington expressed interest in being the site of the planned museum. After the Smithsonian Institution held round tables and negotiations with numerous representatives and community groups of these areas, the choice fell on the Anacostia neighborhood, with the support of the Greater Anacostia Peoples’ Corporation (cf. Kinard 1968:3). Marsh observes:
[...] they said that Anacostia deserved the museum, because it didn’t have street lighting, it didn’t have schools, it didn’t have playgrounds, it didn’t have sidewalks. So they said: "We deserve the museum."
Although the initiative came first from the Smithsonian Institution, the establishment of a neighborhood museum in Anacostia was not a unilateral process. From the beginning it was the intention of Ripley to involve the population in the process of creating the museum. Ripley himself (1972:182) said: "Involvement can only be created if it is their museum. It must have the active participation of the people who live there." Thanks to the project coordinator Marsh striving tirelessly to bring the museum close to the affected population by having an active exchange with relevant community groups, the population of Anacostia took an interest and actively helped in the project, at least initially.
After selecting Anacostia as the site and subject matter of the "neighborhood museum," intensive planning began. Every citizen taking part in these sessions automatically became a member of the advisory committee of representatives of the more important segments of Anacostia’s population—citizen and youth groups, tenants’ committees, schools and the police (cf. Marsh 1968:12; Kinard 1973:13), as well as others Marsh classifies as very responsible middle-class people. In early 1967 the advisory committee met for the first time to discuss the implementation of the Anacostia neighborhood museum.
Planners found a suitable site for the museum in an old abandoned movie house, the Carver Theatre, renovation of which had active community participation (Marsh 1968:14): "Under the overall direction of the Smithsonian’s Office of Exhibits, beginners and professionals of all ages worked side by side during the summer of 1967, stripping the interior of the old movie theater, scraping, plastering, painting, laying the new floor, making curtains and transforming a weedy [...] vacant lot into an outdoor exhibit area. As the formal opening date drew near, the building occasionally stayed open all night and the neighborhood residents stopped by to help with the installation of the exhibits."
The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum opened in September 1967. To what extent this museum, initiated by outside representatives of the white cultural establishment, has integrated itself into the neighborhood and how this at first empty hull of the neighborhood museum in Anacostia was filled with meanings, structures and activities, will be discussed in the following sections.
126.96.36.199 Conception and objectives
Unlike the previous Canadian examples, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum has been in existence long enough to examine its accomplishments and trends. Its objectives and the way it sees itself have changed constantly during its 20 years. The crucial steps in this process will be sketched below.
Originally, planners conceived the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum to be a mediatory museum. As an experimental demonstration of the "outreach" concept (Museums Aid Citizens 1970:10), it was intended to mediate between the traditional, established Smithsonian museums and the African-American public they did not reach. That is, it was supposed to help break down barriers to access and create interest in visiting the large museums located only a few miles away. By functioning as an outpost, so to speak, of the Smithsonian in a marginal urban community, the museums and exhibits of the large Smithsonian museums were to be brought nearer to people living in Anacostia (Anderson):
And a decision was taken, it was an experimental decision, let’s open a kind of storefront museum, one that has no collections of its own, but one which could exhibit in a neighborhood in Washington the kinds of things that we are doing down here on the Mall and maybe begin to attract local residents who otherwise would never go to the museum. Perhaps, if they get into the Anacostia Museum they may even start coming downtown and see the rest of the Smithsonian.
Toward the end of the 1960s, the objective of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum shifted under the strong leadership of its director, John Kinard, so that the concept of a mediatory function with respect to the Smithsonian receded more and more into the background. In contrast to the Smithsonian, in whose national museums African-American cultural representation was practically nonexistent, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum devoted itself increasingly to the needs and life of its African-American neighbors. It offers a reappraisal and presentation of African-American history and culture as well as the history and current situation of Anacostia. These thematic missions have assumed prominence in the way the museum sees itself. Kinard’s arguments (1972a:155f) clarify the importance of the changed concept: "The neighborhood museum exists to serve the people of the area of which it is a part [...]. The neighborhood museum concerns itself with an analysis of the community and its history. It poses such questions as where did we come from, who are our heroes, what is our heritage, who are we as a people? What have we done to better ourselves and the community in which we live? What are our social, economic, political, and educational assets and liabilities? [...]. So we must begin with where the people are in the circumstances in which we find them. The urban industrial centres have their own history. In Anacostia it is one of crime, drugs, unemployment, inadequate housing, sanitation, rats, to mention but a few of the problems [...]. The museum must be a living institution. It must provide a place where neighbors are encouraged to meet and talk; call attention to urgent problems; inspire people to do the best they can, sponsor programmes in the performing and visual arts; and participate in the development of a variety of interests from alcoholism and local archaeology to ornithology and urban planning."
Anderson, at the time of this study, also stressed the special role of the Anacostia museum as a neighborhood-related educational institution:
An educational resource for Anacostia means telling people in Anacostia about their own history, about how they can improve their lives, what they can be doing for their neighborhood, where it came from, what it is now, where it might go.
In addition to providing knowledge and skills, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum aimed to increase feelings of self-worth among residents. Examination of African-American history was intended to generate self-awareness and self-confidence so that current and future problems could be tackled and solved. The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, thinking of itself as a "mechanism for change in the inner city" (Kinard cited in Museums Aid Citizens 1970:11), wanted to contribute to the solution of current socioeconomic problems and to the development of the neighborhood by conveying knowledge, perspectives, identity and confidence in the population’s own capacity to change. But although most museum employees sought to improve living conditions in Anacostia, concrete economic development was not included in the objectives of the museum. It could demonstrate possible solutions and actions, but refrained from actually organizing and coordinating them in a directed way. In this respect, Kinard (1972c:2) stresses: "The Anacostia Museum is neither a missionary project nor an idealistic effort to eradicate poverty but a serious attempt to create a museum that reflects the achievements and failures, the aspirations and hopes of a people who are defined by geography."
He stated further (interview for program "Contrechamp," Radio Canada, 10-10-84, St. Evariste, Quebec): "The people can pick and choose. [...]. It’s not for us to push and shove them around. It’s for us to offer them opportunities that they can understand, and a unique understanding of what the problem is, then people can make their own decisions and get the credit for making their own decisions."
By limiting itself in advance to goals indirectly related to development,3 the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum’s effectiveness as an instrument of community development was minimal, while the urgent problems of the neighborhood grew worse over time. Mayo, for example, states that in Anacostia the problems of 15 or 20 years ago are still rampant: unemployment, housing problems, crime and addiction. Regarding the latter, Mayo believes:
We cannot survive the drug problem, the drug problem is overwhelming, it’s totally out of control.
Edward Smith assesses the situation similarly:
This community still has the same problems that they talked about in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In light of this relative ineffectiveness to shape political ideas, Smith believes:
I would say what we really need is a shot in the arm economically to solve many of the problems that we are dealing with. [...]. My whole argument would be that most of our problems are economic.
When asking what the museum’s current objectives are, so long after the civil rights struggles of the sixties and seventies, one notes decisive changes in its goals and self-perception, changes that reflect the altered context of contemporary history. The question is hardly one of social problems and development, or even of relevance to the neighborhood. Retreat appears to have been sounded; answers to pressing problems turn out to be correspondingly meager:
I would hope that people who come here leave with a heightened awareness of African-American history and culture. (Zora Felton); I think people ought to have some sense of who they are and where they came from. (Rebecca Welch); I think that anything a community can do, that improves the level of awareness of history and culture, is important. It’s important for them to have a real insight in the history. . . . I think it gives them role models, people they can look up to. (James Mayo)
The museum’s turnabout from being an instrument effecting social changes to a "cultural stimulus" (Smithsonian Institution 1986:102) is all too clear. The generally held objectives of increasing and imparting knowledge lack concrete references to the reality of the life of Anacostia’s population and already point to the new way that the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum promises to go, namely that of a "National Museum of African-American History and Art." This problem will be addressed again in the following sections. But first we need to see how the above-mentioned conceptual changes have affected the structure and organization of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum.
188.8.131.52 Structure and organization
At the time of this study the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum had two buildings: the converted and renovated Carver Theatre, centrally situated on King Avenue, and a branch in Fort Place that it opened in 1975. This branch, some distance "up the hill" from the main building, is surrounded by middle-class residences. By 1987 the Fort Place building had expanded to include a new exhibit and office complex. All the museum functions were consolidated in a single location (cf. Smithsonian Institution 1986:102; McQuaite 1987).
As part of the Smithsonian Institution, the unique Anacostia Neighborhood Museum is a semi-governmental institution. Initially it—along with the Smithsonian’s publications service and its TV and radio services—was part of the administrative responsibilities of the office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Services. In 1983-84 it became part of the History and Art Division. This shift afforded it some degree of recognition as a museum, while at the same time set the course for its possible evolution into a national museum.
The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum finances itself through a fixed annual allotment from the Smithsonian, as well as through project-related subsidies from the Smithsonian and other donations (cf. Kinard 1968:25). Anderson speaks of a regular annual allocation of almost one million U.S. dollars. Rebecca Welch stresses that the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, in contrast to other similar institutions, has . . . an economic base that is much more secure . . . because we have better funding as part of the federal government’s funding of the Smithsonian.
Thus, as a consequence of being a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the Anacostia museum has a relatively large staff for a local museum: 18 at the time of this study. Apart from the administration (the director and secretariat), which forms a separate unit, the museum consists of three departments: research, exhibition design and production, and education (cf. Anacostia Neighborhood Museum). The structure of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum is made clear in the following organization chart:
Office of the Assistant Secretary for History and Art
Office of the Director————Administrative Services
Research Department—Exhibitions Department — Education Department
Production Branch — Design Branch
In the Research Department, multiyear exhibit research projects are directed by historian Louise Hutchinson. The Exhibition Design and Production Laboratory conducts workshops where graphic designers, photographers, carpenters, printers, etc., create exhibits under the direction of exhibit designer James Mayo. The Fort Place building houses, in addition to the exhibition and administration spaces, the museum’s education department, where Zora Felton organizes and implements exhibit-related activities.
The presence of the above-mentioned departments, personnel, and technical equipment, makes the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum substantially different from other small museums in the country.
Moreover, for work the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum cannot do, the extensive services of the Smithsonian Institution are available (Welch). Although firmly integrated into the Smithsonian Institution, the museum has shown independence in a number of respects. For example, all leading positions are occupied by persons who have worked there from the beginning and have neighborhood connections. For instance, the director, John Kinard still resides in Anacostia (Newsome/Silver 1978:183).
Because many staff members during the museum’s first years resided locally and participated in numerous neighborhood initiatives beyond their museum work, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum is frequently characterized as a "community-based museum" (Welch).
The relatively close ties between the museum and the neighborhood were further strengthened by the fact that the population of Anacostia could and did participate, first in the conceptual and initial phases, then through the founding committee, and the official advisory committee which began in 1972 (Newsome/Silver 1978:184). The function of the advisory committee was to receive ideas from the population and introduce them into the museum’s work (cf. Smithsonian Institution no year:71ff). Numerous interested citizens volunteered at the outset in the museum’s various departments. Apparently, in the early years, the Youth Advisory Council of local children and youth, played a special role in cooperation with the population (cf. Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1972:47-49).
But all this has changed. The closeness of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum to the citizens has considerably diminished, and with the best will in the world one can no longer speak of it as a "community-based museum." Mayo believes:
It’s community based, because it started here and I think it’s roots are here,
but these roots appear to have gradually dried up.
Today most of the employees of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum live outside of Anacostia, with the exception of the key personnel named above. Things stand similarly with the about 15 (Welch) to 20 (Mayo) members of the advisory committee, whose influence has apparently fallen off drastically.
Anderson believes that the committee has not officially met since he assumed his position in 1983. For him the present-day advisory committee is an embarrassing farce. Also from the viewpoint of the Smithsonian Institution (Anderson), there is too little community participation. It can also be inferred from the statements of the employees in the museum’s three departments that they have no interchange with the advisory committee and that the citizens have no influence on their substantive work, either as decision makers or as participants.
Although there is no exact information regarding the decision-making process, informant statements indicate its hierarchical character. Possibilities for resident and staff participation must be characterized as extraordinarily limited.
With respect to the staff’s influence on the museum’s current activities, Welch indicates that employees go to the director with proposals from which he selects what he personally considers appropriate:
Our director decides what exhibitions we do and the staff does them.
Mayo points out that previously this was quite different.
Why and how this change took place remain open questions. However, the changed decision-making machinery could be further strengthened by providing the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, as the Smithsonian Institution wishes, with an advisory body partly made up of outside scholars.
On the basis of what has thus far been said about the structure and organization of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, its experimental nature ceased a long time ago. Originally planned as a democratic neighborhood museum, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, in its twenty years of existence, has evolved into an established cultural institution with fixed structures. It is, therefore, closer to the traditional museums of the Smithsonian Institution than to the " écomusées" or "museos integrales" with which it is always associated by representatives of new museology. Although for a long time the museum retained "neighborhood museum" in its title, recently "Anacostia Museum" has supplanted it in the museum’s official publications. This occurs, for example, in the catalogue for the Anna Cooper exhibit (Hutchinson 1982:XIV) and in a leaflet for the "Out of Africa" exhibit (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1979). When the museum moved to its new building in 1987, its name officially changed to "Anacostia Museum" (McQuaite 1987:1), ". . . because the museum serves a public beyond its immediate environment and has obtained a national and international reputation."
Respondents confirmed and did not view unfavorably the change of direction from an experimental neighborhood museum to a traditional museum. At the time of my research, serious consideration was being given to moving the museum from its original building on King Avenue and having all the departments located in Fort Place. In the meantime, this has taken place. Visitor complaints on the crime associated with King Avenue were cited as one of the reasons for the move (James Mayo; cf. Rodriguez 1984/II). The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, once problem-oriented and committed to the community, has become the leisure-time sanctuary of the new Anacostia Museum. Now, it is beautifully situated in a park with picnic tables and benches. The museum is distinguished primarily by its pleasant outside appearance and setting: no noise, no dirt, no heat and . . . no more life, just the worshipful, sterile atmosphere of a proper museum.
Long-term plans of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum include erecting a new museum near the anticipated Anacostia subway station, to provide better links to downtown Washington (James Mayo). Together with the National Park Service and a military museum, the Anacostia Museum is envisioned as forming part of a museum island that will be the equal of the traditional museums on the Mall.
It must be asked whom this is supposed to serve. Certainly not the citizens of Anacostia, the neighborhood public in the first instance. The outward changes are only a reflection of the profound shift of emphasis within the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum. The neighborhood museum is beating a retreat from a problematic area. By moving to Fort Place, it cut itself off both spatially and structurally from the Anacostia population. Whether its activities and programs have also lost their explosive force and relevance to the citizens will be explored in the following section.
184.108.40.206 Activities and programs
As a "branch" of the Smithsonian Institution, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum was originally planned not to have its own collection nor perform the collection activity of a traditional museum. All exhibits consist of loans from the Smithsonian or other institutions. Welch stated:
We don’t have a mandate to go out and collect, we don’t have an acquisition budget, we don’t have any official authority to build a permanent collection.
The internal division of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum into the three departments named above shows clearly that the present emphasis of the museum’s work is in the areas of research, exhibits and education.
In its initial phase the museum established the Center for Anacostia Studies, devoted both to research into the history of Anacostia and its present-day problems (cf. Thomas 1972). The center cooperated closely with the Anacostia Historical Society, founded in 1974 and independent of the museum. The museum’s research department has greatly expanded in recent years through the employment of several historians, which has given research work as a whole a more professional character (cf. Hutchinson 1975).
Each research topic relates to a concrete exhibit project. Increasingly, the research department has devoted itself to subject areas that go beyond the local horizon or may be only remotely related to Anacostia. Rebecca Welch observes:
. . . there is a difference between our early focus, it was very much more community oriented. [...], the kind of activity brought into the museum was really focused on the people who lived here rather than taking a topic that is of national importance.
Welch cites the increasing institutionalization as the reason for the changed orientation of the topics dealt with by the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum:
. . . when you have a research department, that means that you are going to build in topics of projects for which research is required as opposed to perhaps the kinds of projects that are community-service oriented which don’t require the same kind of research component.
But the establishment of a research department alone cannot explain the shift in thematic emphasis, since nothing prevents its focusing on neighborhood and problem-related research. It seems to me that the crucial factor is the influence of the newly employed scholars, who did not have any community orientation.
The scholarly orientation of the research toward exclusively historical themes without local reference was accompanied by new research methods. Based on the example of the exhibit "The Anacostia Story," Welch explains the earlier practice as follows:
"The Anacostia Story," I know, was very much pulling from the community in terms of records and information and oral history and there was an oral history project here at one point.
An extensive oral history project constituted part of the exhibit series "The Evolution of a Community" (cf. Thomas 1972). Present-day research practice, however, relies increasingly on traditional sources and methodologies to the exclusion of the citizens of Anacostia. In fact, "The Anacostia Story" of 1977 was the last exhibit to use local resources to tell a local story.
Under the changed conditions, developing a theme takes about two or three years (Mayo). Because of the time-consuming scientific preparation of the exhibits, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum today mounts far fewer exhibits than in the past. In contrast to about eight exhibits a year in the initial phase, for some time now the museum has produced only one exhibit a year (Mayo).
Between 1967 and 1984 the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum mounted 52 exhibits (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum Exhibits and Events 1984; cf. also Kinard/Nighbert 1968; 1972, Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1972; 1977a; 1982a).
Exhibit themes fall basically into four areas:
— Current problems in the neighborhood
— The history and culture of Anacostia
— African-American art in general
— African-American history in general.
Rather than discuss each exhibit individually, several have been selected for their exemplary value.
When we consider the original objectives outlined in section 220.127.116.11, it appears logical for the museum to focus on present-day problems in its exhibits. One outstanding example is "The Rat" (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1970f).
In the late sixties, a group of children tending the museum’s small zoo called attention to the devastating effect of rats on the community (cf. Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1970f:3-5). To provide visitors with information on rats—their behavior and the health threats they posed—and on possible steps to combat this problem, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum created the exhibit "The Rat" in 1969, in cooperation with concerned local residents (cf. Kinard/Nighbert 1972; 1973:13). Zora Felton explains (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1970f:5): "The exhibit is the effort not of any single individual, but of a community to cast a harsh and proper light on rats and to expose to increased public scrutiny and action this curse that affects other communities such as ours across the country."
The exhibit on rats is mentioned repeatedly as a prime example of socially relevant, current and problem-related museum work and is considered to be evidence that the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum even today can make a contribution to improved living conditions. It was intended that others of a similar nature should follow, according to Kinard (interview for the program "Contrechamp," Radio Canada, 10-10-84, St. Evariste, Quebec): "[...] we have tried to do a number of things with regard to [...] urban problems, the problem of drugs, crime, unemployment and the whole lot that you find in cities."
Kinard refers here to the second part of the exhibit "The Evolution of a Community," which had the subtitle "Urban Problems" (cf. Thomas 1972; cf. Kinard/Nighbert 1972:105f). A list of museum exhibits, however, includes no other exhibit title that refers to the above-mentioned problems. Nor does Kinard’s article (Kinard 1985), in which he calls the neighborhood museum "a catalyst for social change," cite any other specific examples.
When asked to what extent and in what form the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum has dealt with current problems, apart from the exhibits "The Rat" and "The Evolution of a Community, Part II," no one could (or would) reply. Therefore—with the reservations referred to—I conclude that these two exhibits, which took place 18 and 15 years ago respectively, were the only exhibits that attempted to address pressing, current neighborhood problems. Exhibits that were originally planned on subjects such as "Unwed Mothers," "Consumerism," "Roaches and Flies" and "What People Can Do to Improve the Community" (Smithsonian Institution no year:42f) did not, in the end, materialize.
On the other hand, the subject of "the history and culture of Anacostia" was represented relatively strongly up to 1977. In addition to the exhibit "The Evolution of a Community, Part I" (cf. Thomas 1972), the exhibit "The Anacostia Story" may be cited as an example. Using numerous documents, this exhibit presented the history of Anacostia from 1608 to 1930. It began with the original Indian inhabitants and proceeded through the arrival of the white settlers and slave owners, the Civil War, the first black settlers, to the development of Anacostia in the 20th century, with particular emphasis on the social history of the African-American population. In this regard, Kinard notes in the preface of the exhibit publication (Hutchinson 1977:X): "This catalogue is designed to include accounts of the little known men and women of achievement rather than to exclude them. It has been written to inspire a sense of pride and to heighten the aspirations for dignity and self-assurance of every person, no matter his station in life."
Although the exhibit dealt primarily with events prior to 1930, present-day references appear. Thus, Hutchinson writes at the end of the catalogue (1977:137): "Today, Anacostians continue to petition (and maybe pray) for a better delivery of municipal services. Now, as then, they are concerned about land speculators and land use; the quality of education; adequate health care and care for the aged; and the preservation of community history and pride. For people who have an awareness and a sense of yesterday will have a tomorrow."
In addition to the historical exhibitions, several art exhibitions were mounted that were also devoted to Anacostia, for example "John Robinson. A Retrospective" (cf. Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1976), "Phil Ratner’s Washington" (cf. Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1978) or "Here, Look at Mine! John Robinson/Francis Lebby" (cf. Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1982b). They featured artists whose work is closely related to Anacostia, stressing, among other things, the community’s aesthetic, positive contributions.
With exhibits on "African-American art in general" that go beyond the local Anacostia context in terms of coverage and featured artists, the museum is addressing primarily a local audience. Of particular importance in this regard was the collaboration with the D.C. Art Association, an artists’ group "dedicated to foster and promote visual arts through community involvement" (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1974). Since the late sixties, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum has cooperated with this group to occasionally exhibit works by D.C. African-American artists. By presenting art that traditionally belonged in elite galleries and established museums and showing it in the neighborhood as a form of creative analysis of the present, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum wishes to take away art’s elitist character and make it something everyone can experience and possibly apply.
The opening exhibit of the new Anacostia Museum, "Contemporary Visual Expressions" (cf. Driskell 1987, McQuaite 1976b), was also devoted to Washington artists. With this exhibition, the museum both revealed present practice and emphasized the kinds of exhibitions that were to be expected from the new museum.
The exhibits on African-American history, which are particularly stressed in the museum’s exhibit schedule, are also detached from the direct reality of everyday life in Anacostia. They are aimed increasingly at a supraregional audience (Welch, Smith), while still endeavoring to make new areas of knowledge and experience accessible to local residents.
At the time of this study, the museum was preparing an exhibit on African-American history and had just shown "Climbing Jacob’s Ladder: The Rise of Black Churches in Eastern American Cities, 1740-1877" (1987). The exhibit only marginally concerned Anacostia directly—aside from its African-American theme—dealing with the history of African-American churches not only as religious institutions, but as agents of political, educational and social-welfare activities. When Smith developed the concept of the show and did research for it, he wanted to show . . . what developed from black churches to liberate not only the spirit of Blacks, but also to liberate them socially and economically as well.
This cross-section of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum’s exhibits shows the two primary characteristics that distinguish the neighborhood museum from the traditional museum. In the first place, the exhibits are treated in an unconventional way, oriented toward the neighborhood, as Mayo specifically emphasizes. This is true, at least, of the first ten years of its existence.
In the second place, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum was the first institution in which exhibits were made by African-Americans for African-Americans about African-Americans and thereby has assumed the role of forerunner.
Some of the exhibits produced by the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum are redesigned as traveling exhibits after they close. According to Mayo, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum is the first institution that has ever done traveling exhibits on African-American history. It has thus played a leadership role, showing others what is possible and practical. In many cases SITES (Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service) organized the traveling exhibits. This was the case, for instance, with "Art of Cameroon," "Black American Landmarks," "Black Wings," "Black Women," "Ethiopia Christian Art of an African Nation" and "Out of Africa" (James Mayo). In other cases, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum itself draws up the loan contracts. In addition, Mayo reports a new program: to develop and tour mini-exhibits consisting of three or four exhibit tables cost-free to community institutions.
The costly and sometimes extensive exhibit catalogues published by the museum are produced to order by the Smithsonian Institution. The catalogues, in part scholarly publications, such as "The Anacostia Story" (Hutchinson 1977), "Out of Africa" (Hutchinson 1979) and "Anna Cooper: A Voice from the South" (Hutchinson 1982) form an important component of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum’s communications activity, providing detailed background information on the various exhibits.
Apart from the catalogues, which are largely the product of the research department, the museum’s education department led by Zora Felton has published a large number of exhibit-related visitor aids, for example, "A Visitor’s Guide to ‘Anna Cooper: A Voice from the South’" (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum/Educ. Dep. 1981). In addition, the education department arranges group tours to interpret the various exhibits and conduct neighborhood excursions in cooperation with the local public library (cf. Felton no year).
But the major emphasis of the education department’s work is collaboration with the schools. The museum holds teachers’ workshops and has developed exhibit-related teacher resource and instructional materials for various grades, for example "Frederick Douglass. A Fighter for Freedom (1817?-1895). A Resource Unit for Intermediate Students" (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum/Educ. Dep. 1979); "Here Look at Mine! Teachers Resource Packet" (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum/Educ. Dep. 1983); "Black Women: Achievements Against the Odds. Teacher’s Resource Booklet" (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum/Educ. Dep. no year).
The education department maintains material for widely diverse target groups, for example, small children, schoolchildren, families and senior citizens (Zora Felton), and organizes events (apart from regular exhibits, some five to ten events take place every month, cf. Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1983a; 1984a; 1985; 1986), the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum’s education activities are directed primarily to teachers and students at various grade levels. While exhibits are geared to all levels of visitors, the museum’s current public actually consists predominantly of children and young people who visit the museum with their school classes (Mayo).
In the early 1970s, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum made an interesting offer to go beyond exhibits and related educational material, and establish a so-called Speakers’ Bureau for community groups active in Anacostia to invite specialists to give talks. It offered a spectrum of some 60 subjects covering health care, political theory, labor and unemployment, education, nature study, religion, race discrimination, culture and history, housing, communications and economics. The program’s brochure (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1970e:no page) says the Speakers’ Bureau "[...] offers to the community a resource of information that can augment individual growth as well as further development of the community."
To conclude, the extent to which the above programs have contributed to fulfilling the museum’s objectives and how the employees and the public have reacted to the various changes will be addressed in the following section.
Thus far the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum’s work has not been systematically evaluated (Felton). Only visitor comment cards provide some information on public reactions. These comments are collected and typed. They are provided to all museum workers (cf. Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1972; 1984c). Up until now only a single systematic study has been done to find out how the local public as a whole reacts to the changes in the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum (shift of emphasis, moving the museum) (Rodriguez 1984/I,II). I have based what follows on this material and on statements from my interviews.
When assessing the public orientation and scope of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, it is necessary to distinguish between the initial phase and the current situation. From what has been said, it may be concluded that the museum, particularly at the beginning, was a lively focal point of Anacostia. As a place for exhibits, workshops, discussions and music presentations and as a meeting place for a variety of citizens’ organizations, this neighborhood museum succeeded in interesting and activating a not insignificant part of Anacostia’s residents (cf. Marsh 1968:15). Kramer (1973:no page) gives the number of visitors for 1971 as about 94,000. Newsome/Silver (1978:182) give the number of visitors for 1974 as 69,500.
However, as already indicated in chapter 18.104.22.168, the museum has had no lasting effect with respect to improving the living conditions of the disadvantaged population of Anacostia. This may be based, in part, on the fact that, despite all good intentions and the museum’s high promise, not enough neighborhood-oriented activities have been carried out. In addition, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum has not successfully created the preconditions with respect to structure and content that enable resident participation in the museum’s work on a permanent basis, rather than merely as passive consumers. For this reason, the following statement by Ripley (1972:183) cannot be true in its absolute form: ". . . it has, with the help of its Neighborhood Advisory Committee, become involved with the community as an innovative pace-setter, experimenter, and expert on local conditions."
Anderson believes the fact that the museum from the outset was not initiated by the community or its representatives reduced its relevance to development.
Smith says the main purpose of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum has always been to emphasize the positive elements of African-American history and culture by showing examples of success. Despite the continued existence of racial discrimination, the goal was to provide the public with self-confidence and self-awareness. However, with respect to the actual impact of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum’s activities and possible social changes, Smith has doubts:
Now, how successful have we been doing that, in other words, how successful have we been in raising the consciousness of young Blacks, I think, is probably debatable. You can look around and you still have drug problems and problems with crime. I think that those problems can’t be solved; I mean, they can’t be solved by simply putting on an exhibit. They are basically economic problems and until we get some economic enterprises or some injection of money from somewhere to deal with these problems, I think these problems will continue. About the best that we can say is that, hopefully, we have reached some people and raised their sense of self-worth.
Mayo stresses the impact the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum has had in taking African-American history and culture beyond the local framework to achieve more presence and greater recognition. Its impact is reflected, for example, in the Smithsonian’s SITES program, which did not include a single exhibit on African-American history and culture during the 1960s. Today SITES offers a dozen such exhibits, all of them developed by the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum (Mayo).
Going beyond its direct local significance, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, as the first African-American museum, is assuming an increasingly important position within the national framework, which, with support of the museum’s leadership (cf. Mission Statement... 1981; Kinard 1984) should be further strengthened in the future. A report of the study commission set up by the Smithsonian Institution (Report of Advisory Panel 1979:4) states: ". . . the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum has evolved to a point where its leadership is willing to drop many of the community dimensions of the programs to become the National African-American Museum."
And later the report states (Report of the Advisory Panel 1979:6f): "Its earlier community-oriented programs seem to have declined considerably, and been largely discontinued, while at the same time it has developed ambitions to history as its exhibition focus."
A survey of museum and community workers in Anacostia showed (Rodriguez 1984) that the local public complains about the museum’s neglect of social concerns and lack of social relevance.
In fact, over the years, as the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum has become more established and more institutionalized, the frequently evoked "strong community ties" have been completely lost. The sharp decline in the number of visitors indicates a lack of popular support, compared to the initial phase (Smithsonian Institution 1984b:1): 38,429 in 1981, 39,047 in 1982, 19,527 in 1983 and 17,419 in 1984 (up to 9-30-84).
Reference must also be made to the fact that the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, with respect to the local population, is turning primarily to a middle-class public. The declining numbers of visitors led Anderson to a devastating conclusion:
It does not indicate that the museum is so important to the residents of Anacostia that they have adopted it, that they rely on it for an important thing to do with their time. It’s still ignored by most of the people who live over there.
For him, the scope of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum is too restricted and he complains that not enough has been done to motivate the potential public.
If the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum is to maintain and possibly expand its character as a neighborhood museum, work with the local public is urgently required. A national museum certainly has other concerns.
But despite the reservations cited, the employees whom I questioned appear to be tending away from the local public, although it is not clear how the new public is to be defined.
Gaither’s remarks (1979:2) show that there are thoroughly convincing reasons in favor of establishing a "National Museum of African-American History and Art": "The majority report raises the question whether ANM could be an appropriate vehicle for the Afro-American presence in the Smithsonian. It is pointed out that the obligation of the Smithsonian is to reflect Afro-American contributions throughout its museums. This is certainly true. It must be noted, however, that this obligation is not a new one, and that it has not been honored in the past. Moreover, there is no guarantee that it will be fully honored in the future. One may not, therefore, close the matter of Afro-American presence in the Smithsonian by citing a moral imperative that has—by precedent—been neglected."
The need for a "National Museum of Afro-American History and Art" is not at issue here and would go far beyond the scope of this work. But it should be noted that the combination of a neighborhood museum and a national museum is a somewhat unhappy one and does not appear to hold promise for the future, even if Kinard (cited in Alexander 1983:C9) sees points of contact between them: "We are a community museum, but we are also local, national and international. . . . The aspirations, hopes and dreams of the people of Anacostia are no different from those of the people anywhere else." We must wait and see what path the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum will take in the coming years.
______________________1 If the origin of statements is not further specified in the following text, they are summaries I have prepared from the available material. When I refer to certain persons without providing any further details, these are statements made in interviews with: Dean Anderson (2-25-85), Zora Felton (2-28-95), Caryl Marsh (2-27-85), Rebecca Welch (2-26-85), Edward Smith (2-26-85), James Mayo (2-26-85). All direct quotes from interviews are in bold.
2 Marsh is a social psychologist who worked for the District of Columbia Recreation Department before she began working for the Smithsonian on the Anacostia project.
3 The museum’s 15th anniversary brochure (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum 1982a:10) described the objective as "to help enrich the mind."
3.3 The integral museum in Mexico
3.3.1 Casa del Museo
22.214.171.124 First project 1
126.96.36.199.1 The Zona Observatorio
The first Casa del Museo project took place in the Zona Observatorio community of Mexico City. During its experimental phase in the 1970s the area was markedly heterogeneous, consisting of five distinct neighborhoods, the so-called "colonias" of Pino Suárez, Bellavista, Real del Monte, Lomas de Santo Domingo and Unidad Santo Domingo. As Antúñez/Arroyo noted (1980:1): "This area was selected because of its heterogeneous physical and demographic make-up. The further down the ravine, the lower the social status of the population, which ranges from upper middle-class to shanty town dwellers lacking all public services."
At the time of the Casa del Museo project some 6,860 families (around 43,000 persons) lived in the Zona Observatorio, but only a portion of them lived there permanently (cf. Antúñez et al. 1976:2). A representative random study (Antúñez et al. 1976), covering 10 percent of local families, indicates the following general demographic profile. With regard to age, there was a strong predominance of persons under 35. The educational level was low with corresponding high rates of illiteracy. The working population consisted primarily of manual workers. The proportion of casual laborers and the unemployed was suspected to be relatively high (cf. Hudson 1977:16). On the basis of this typical portrait of a third-world metropolitan suburb, Hudson reached the following conclusion (1977:16): "It was hardly surprising that the Tacubayans2 were not accustomed to make a journey across the town to the National Museum of Anthropology. They were, for the most part, completely unaware of its existence and, even if they had been put into busses and taken there, the marble splendors, the fountains and the well-dressed visitors would have terrified them."
How was the Zona Observatorio selected to be an experimental area for the Casa del Museo? To what extent has the museum integrated itself into the context described above? What role has it played? These questions will be addressed more fully below.
At a conference in Santiago, Chile, the then-acting director of the Mexican Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia was given the task of organizing an exhibit on modern Latin America in which the city-country problem, marginalization and the population explosion were to be given special prominence.
However, a study of the national museum revealed that precisely those population groups most affected by these problems would not see such an exhibit for the simple reason that they did not go to the museum. At the time of this study the group of Mexican museum visitors was made up as follows: 69% male, 31% female; 30% of the males were between the ages of 20 and 29; 38% were students, 21% professional classes, and 24% white collar.
What to do? Instead of waiting for people to dare cross the threshold of the big museum, the idea came to bring the museum to them. In the early 1970s an attempt was made to decentralize the Mexican museum system by creating local and regional museums, as well as school museums (cf., for example, INAH 1978a; 1978b; 1979a; 1979b; Peltier 1977; 1979; Larrauri 1975; Ramos 1977). The origin of the Casa del Museo experiment should be seen in this context (Antúñez):
We took the National Museum of Anthropology out of its wonderful walls, very nice, very clean, very expensive, and we took it to the very poor and forgotten areas in Mexico.
Mario Vásquez created an interdisciplinary team to plan and implement the first Casa del Museo project (cf. chapter 188.8.131.52.4). The team made reconnaissance tours of the suburbs or "barrios" of Mexico City in order to find a site for the Casa del Museo. Because of its heterogeneity the Zona Observatorio of the Tacubaya quarter was selected (Arroyo de Kerriou).
In 1973 the interdisciplinary Casa del Museo team extensively studied the Zona Observatorio in order to become more familiar with its residents and institutions, needs and problems and to create some basis for carrying out the project (the study report is not available).
It is not known whether the community officially approved the planned museum project on this occasion. In any event, also in 1973, the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia erected the first Casa del Museo in the center of the Zona Observatorio.
184.108.40.206.3 Conception and objectives
No available document explicitly describes the concept and objectives of the Casa del Museo. The interview statements are also wanting in this respect. Coral Ordóñez García, one of the museum workers, even stated explicitly (1975:72): "There is no logical arrangement about the Casa del Museo, nor has any definite policy line been laid down. We work on the basis of trial and error; we correct and alter, act on suggestions and listen to criticism; we experiment again and again."
However, the present study offers some of the museum’s objectives and the image it had of itself. In essence, planners sought to integrate the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia into an underprivileged and marginal neighborhood by creating a branch there to make the educational possibilities of the museum understandable to a wide circle of residents and make the institution useful. Arroyo de Kerriou understood this as follows:
A special objective of the Casa del Museo was to integrate the museum into the community, not the community into the museum, because they didn’t go.
Ordóñez García discussed in greater detail the desired role of the Casa del Museo within its neighborhood: The Casa del Museo seeks to awaken the desire to know, and still more the desire to look around and ask questions; to get the people to raise their sights above and beyond a slum that is sprung up in a river-gully. It seeks to create common interests and thereby to weld a community together; it seeks to get all those living in the community to identify themselves with their country, their city and their section of the city, while appreciating its present-day historical context.
Planners hoped to demonstrate the museum’s usefulness in the everyday life of the affected population through relevant programs and activities. Therefore, a further aim of the Casa del Museo, according to Arroyo de Kerriou, was to present the past, but as a function of the present, to create and correct the future. Its educational contribution to the neighborhood development Peltier (1979:104) states as follows: "Its aims are to educate the residents of this poor area, to contribute to the betterment of standards of living through permanent and temporary exhibits showing how the history and culture of the country relate to their own situation, and to help them understand their problems and find solutions."
The Casa del Museo team recognized that community integration and acceptance was a precondition and priority for development-related museum work. From the outset the Casa del Museo was planned as an experiment to test what resources are needed and to what extent a socially integrated museum, that is, an "integral museum," could be realized: question the following sections examine.
220.127.116.11.4 Structure and organization
As already noted, the Casa del Museo was a project carried out by the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Because it was incorporated into the established museum structure, a brief overview of Mexico’s government museum system is needed (cf. Fernández 1983).
Two institutes that report directly to the national Ministry of Education determine Mexico’s museum system: the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), founded in 1939, and the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, founded in 1947 (INBA). For the most part, Mexican museums are government museums that belong either to INAH or to INBA.
Larrauri (1977:9) refers to the educational potential and social relevance of the museums: "INAH museums must be seen as key factors in heightening social consciousness. Ultimately, they aim to prepare individuals to act upon or influence those events which affect them personally or socially in relationship with their social and natural environments. The museums must present a realistic and critical view of events that will aid people in understanding present-day situations and problems."
Although the Casa del Museo reported directly to the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia, it was in essence a specific type of local INAH museum and sought, above all, to achieve the social relevance specified by Larrauri. The original Casa del Museo consisted of three connected, corrugated iron structures that conformed to local style because of its building material (Ordóñez García 1975:77).
As a branch of the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia, the Casa del Museo had no collection of its own. Objects required for exhibits came either from the national museum or directly from the population and were returned at the conclusion of each exhibit. In the traditional museological areas, such as collection, restoration, conservation and exhibit design and production, the Casa del Museo depended on services offered by the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia. A lack of equipment did not take away from its preferred role as a center of presentation and motivation.
In the early phases of the project, the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia hired an interdisciplinary team to carefully implement the first Casa del Museo. In 1974 Miriam Arroyo de Kerriou (educator) and Cristina Antúñez (administrator) joined forces and together with Coral Ordóñez García (architect) and Lydia Gonzales (social anthropologist) formed the museum’s permanent staff.
In practice, however, the population was less informed and less involved than the model shows. For example, no official participatory body was formed. A certain degree of participation by interested persons was achieved only through informal discussions with the population inside and outside of the museum (Arroyo de Kerriou). But the local population had practically no part in the actual working and decision making of the Casa del Museo. The Casa del Museo was virtually grafted onto the neighborhood and only afterward was the population invited through posters and word of mouth to visit the museum, that is, to consume what the museum was offering. Instead of beginning with the study, the first step should have been informational work and an effort to involve the local population in the working and decision-making processes.
During the initial phase the Casa del Museo project was financed by the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia and INAH. But when Cristina Antúñez and Miriam Arroyo began working for the Casa del Museo in 1974, the cash box was almost empty. Cristina Antúñez, therefore, worked from time to time on another project, from which she obtained materials and equipment for the Casa del Museo (Antúñez).
In addition, the employees made an enormous personal investment in the project. When asked how the Casa del Museo was financed, Antúñez and Arroyo de Kerriou answered:
By us, by INAH and by us,
which sheds much light on the project’s financial situation.
This way, the museum overcame occasional shortages. It should be stressed here that without the extraordinary personal contribution of the employees this project would surely have come to a sudden end. In an article on the Casa del Museo, Antúñez and Arroyo de Kerriou (1980:5) observed: "We would like it to be clearly understood that over the years we did everything possible to prevent this very important project from going under." Without the boundless enthusiasm of the project’s staff it would not have been possible to overcome the numerous obstacles and adversities.
18.104.22.168.5 Activities and programs
As noted above in connection with the museum’s construction and outfitting, the Casa del Museo’s work concentrated on presenting exhibits and providing educationally relevant material (cf. Ordóñez 1975). In their study of the Zona Observatorio, the organizers attempted, among other things, to delimit the wishes and needs of the potential public with respect to the future museum. Arroyo de Kerriou explained with regard to the preparation of the first exhibit:
They took the information from the research, they knew what people wanted to know, what the people wanted to learn and they prepared the exhibition.
This first exhibit was entitled "Where You Live" (cf. Antúñez et al. 1976: Appendix 2).
Like its predecessor, the second exhibit on "Origin, Nutrition and Schooling" (cf. Antúñez et al. 1976: Appendix 2) addressed the interests of the potential public. However, these first two exhibits were by and large produced by the staff in cooperation with the specialists from the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia without community participation. In addition, the Casa del Museo held a few short-term exhibits, each lasting only a few days, such as "Día de Muertos" (cf. Antúñez et al. 1976: Appendix 2) relating to the festival of the dead in early November. Here, staff made an effort to involve interested persons in the exhibition process, as Arroyo de Kerriou described:
I interviewed the people who lived around the museum to know if they are still making these altars in November and I asked them to come to the museum to work with us.
Neighborhood women cooperated in constructing the altars of the dead in the museum.
Hudson (1977:16) described the atmosphere in the "hallowed exhibit halls" of the Casa del Museo as "delightfully informal." Smoking and playing were tolerated, and people could bring animals in with them. Arroyo de Kerriou added:
The people could touch, the people could smell, [...]. They could talk in the museum, they could run if they wanted, it was a free place to make them comfortable.
While Casa del Museo did indeed emphasize exhibits, these were not its exclusive principal objective.
In order to create more lasting relations with a wider circle of the public, the Casa del Museo supplemented exhibits with regular evening events, such as concerts and dances, film presentations and lectures, which related in part to current problems facing the neighborhood. Antúñez and Arroyo de Kerriou mentioned, for example, subjects such as "health precautions and health care" and "hygiene." All museum visitors received written information on these subjects. In connection with the third exhibit the museum also ran workshops for teachers (Arroyo de Kerriou) . . . to ask them to come to the museum and to learn how to use the museum.
In the course of the project in the Zona Observatorio, the Casa del Museo’s workers noticed some conspicuous demographic patterns of visitation. First, the Casa del Museo attracted mostly children and youth, for whom the museum represented a pleasant meeting place. They found attractive the simply made exhibits and plentiful supplementary activities. The adult public, on the other hand, seemed more skeptical and reserved, as Ordóñez García (1975:72) emphasized: "The adults who come, being less ready to accept any change in the way they live, look on at a distance, some of them with an air of indifference, others with tolerant smiles."
Because the establishment of the Casa del Museo in the Zona Observatorio occurred shortly before the Mexican elections, some residents suspected it was a tool of the ruling party to canvas votes (Antúñez). This community suspicion led museum workers to carry out an intensive "door-to-door" campaign to explain the foreign body called the Casa del Museo to the residents of the Zona Observatorio. They tried explaining what the museum was trying to do, why we were there, and what we wanted from them (Antúñez)—in order to awaken their interest, receive suggestions—health and hygiene, they wanted to know about it (Arroyo de Kerriou)—and break down psychological barriers. Making direct contact with residents, despite its expense, promised to increase the acceptance of the museum and hence community participation (Antúñez/Arroyo de Kerriou). Because of its favorable central location and good visibility, the Casa del Museo attracted a relatively large casual public (Antúñez).
Those attending regular supplementary events numbered between 20 and 100. Antúñez/Arroyo reported that, in addition, an indeterminate number of immediate neighbors followed the museum’s activities from their windows or roof. Further information on the Casa del Museo’s actual outreach is given in the following section.
The location of the Casa del Museo at the intersection of five distinct communities of the Zona Observatorio turned out to be unfavorable for the Casa del Museo because of the conflicts that existed among these neighborhoods. The internal problems of the Zona Observatorio and the great distances involved aggravated the work of the Casa del Museo to such an extent that the project was finally terminated.
In order to obtain precise data on the effect and the effectiveness of the Casa del Museo, the museum team conducted an extensive evaluation study in the Zona Observatorio toward the end of the first project in 1975 (Antúñez et al. 1976). The knowledge gained was supposed to influence the planning and implementation of further Casa del Museo projects in order finally to develop a systematic "methodology" at the conclusion of the experiment (Antúñez et al. 1976:1).
Results can be summarized as follows (cf. Antúñez et al. 1976:Appendix 2): Of the sample group of Zona Observatorio residents, 27 percent had visited the Casa del Museo once, 37 percent had heard of it and to 35 percent the Casa del Museo was completely unknown. The degree of awareness of the museum was greater in the nearby "colonias" than in the distant ones. The strongest visitor group consisted of females (62.4 percent female visitors, 37.6 percent male) and with respect to age, persons from 15 to 24 years old = 60.2 percent, 25-34 years old = 16.1 percent; 35-44 years old = 18.3 percent; 45-54 years old = 5.4 percent; and, age 55 and older = 0 percent. Children and youth had an important multiplier effect: adults were largely encouraged to visit the Casa del Museo by their children.
Most of the visitors (75.4 percent) came out of curiosity. They took the greatest pleasure in the objects and exhibits that reflected their everyday reality (Antúñez et al. 1976: Appendix 2): "This response, related to the objects that most interested them, proves to us that the desire to know more about the place where they live is basic to planning the exhibits."
The evaluators referred expressly to the significance of this relationship between museum work and neighborhood reality (Antúñez et al. 1976: Appendix 2): "The statements made by the persons who were questioned for more information regarding their neighborhood show that the Casa del Museo, by offering through its exhibits information on the Zona Observatorio, succeeded in stimulating the population and awakening its interest in knowledge of the origins, common problems and history of the community in which they live." Those who were asked said they wanted more opportunity to prepare exhibits and carry out exhibit-related activities.
An indicator that the Casa del Museo mattered little to the local population is the fact that there was practically no reaction when the Casa del Museo closed (Antúñez):
I don’t think anyone wrote a letter to the INAH crying because we left.
The closing of the Casa del Museo, like its opening several years before, was taken for granted by the residents.
In their final evaluation of this first Casa del Museo project, Arroyo de Kerriou and Antúñez complained primarily about its paternalistic structure, comparing the Casa del Museo with those charitable church institutions that operate without the participation of those affected, thus reinforcing their passivity. A paternalistic relationship between museum and community is not suited to implementing an "integral museum." Building on and modifying this experience, a second Casa del Museo experiment began at another site under more favorable conditions.
22.214.171.124 Second project
126.96.36.199.1 Pedregal de Santo Domingo de los Reyes
A second Casa del Museo3 experiment was carried out between 1976 and 1979 in the Pedregal de Santo Domingo de los Reyes section of Mexico City. Its relatively homogeneous population mostly migrated there from rural areas and was united in its struggle to settle urban land and receive a minimum of city services. Their squatter operation has been described as the most significant in Latin America: In a single night in September 1974 around 30,000 people occupied the area of Santo Domingo.4 At the time of the Casa del Museo project, approximately 25,000 families (or about 150,000 to 200,000 people) lived in the neighborhood.
Because of their mutual concerns over land rights and city services, Santo Domingo residents, as Antúñez and Arroyo de Kerriou stressed, were highly organized. That meant that like official political groups, a well-developed network existed of citizens’ committees and self-help organizations in Santo Domingo. Each street chose its own street committee, the chairman of which was a so-called "natural leader" (Antúñez/Arroyo de Kerriou). And it was precisely at this level that the second Casa del Museo project began.
Those responsible for the Casa del Museo project learned from the Zona Observatorio experiment that before setting up a Casa del Museo in Santo Domingo, a long promotional phase was needed to prepare and inform the population. This sensitization work began with the "natural leaders" of the community, those who occupied leading positions within the affected community (but not to be confused with its political leaders).
Museum workers initially encountered mistrust and a chilly response in Santo Domingo, especially since presidential elections were again scheduled to take place soon. Thus, it took repeated and persistent inquiries to establish contact with the natural leaders. About 80 persons attended the first information meeting explaining the Casa del Museo project, including the chairs of the street committees referred to above.
Subsequently, museum workers met with members of the citizens’ committees in order to create broader support for the project. Informal discussions with groups and individuals constituted the most important sensitization work in Santo Domingo.
In connection with these intensive preparatory discussions, affected residents asked to visit a "real" museum to get a picture of what it was like (Antúñez). A weekend visit of many interested participants helped clarify for them the plans for the Casa del Museo (Antúñez/Arroyo de Kerriou 1980:3): "Contact with the community was made through its natural leaders. [...]. Once the population had been aware of the Casa del Museo’s aims, it decided the role the ‘museum’ should play in the community. Full explanations to the community members took place, so that they would understand what a museum was inasmuch as the majority had never seen one."
The preparatory phase lasted about six months, during which the Casa del Museo team held information meetings and carried out a large number of museum-specific activities in temporary quarters. This early phase had served to familiarize Santo Domingo residents with the nature of museum activities and gradually helped integrate the museum into the community. When the museum had to find a new space, community acceptance of the museum had gone so far that residents themselves proposed erecting the Casa del Museo in a corrugated iron building in Santo Domingo (Antúñez).
With local financial support, residents and museum staff laid the foundation and built the Casa del Museo. In this connection Antúñez and Arroyo de Kerriou stressed that it helped community relations that museum personnel were not too good to pick up a shovel. Construction offered each group the opportunity to learn from and about each other as Arroyo de Kerriou stressed:
. . . we learnt from the people a lot. We came with knowledge, but they have a lot of experience and their own knowledge.
188.8.131.52.3 Conception and objectives
While the primary objective of the Zona Observatorio experiment was to bring the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia nearer to a public that did not normally go to it, the Santo Domingo project sought to work with the residents of underprivileged neighborhoods to establish and support real community museums. Aside from this change, the objectives of the Casa del Museo in Santo Domingo basically corresponded with those of the Zona Observatorio project (cf. chapter 184.108.40.206.3).
The Casa del Museo in Santo Domingo saw itself as an educational institution related to present-day matters. However, the experience gained in the Zona Observatorio led the team to emphasize the fact that the Casa del Museo was not a welfare institution. They wanted it to be distinct from public-assistance organizations and to be a partnership between the museum and the community. As a result, Casa del Museo offered no practical help in coping with specific problems.
The Casa del Museo in Santo Domingo viewed itself first of all as an information resource for the local population to learn about development. The museum, however, did not intend to usurp decision-making responsibilities about development measures from those affected.
220.127.116.11.4 Structure and organization
The second Casa del Museo project also reported to the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia and thus was formally integrated into the official Mexican museum system (cf. 18.104.22.168.4.)
The remaining staff of the first Casa del Museo project started the second in Santo Domingo. This included Cristina Antúñez (administrator), Miriam Arroyo de Kerriou (educator), Lydia Gonzales (social anthropologist) and Coral Ordóñez García (architect and city planner). Although these museum workers represented various disciplines, there was no specialty-based division of labor in Santo Domingo. Rather, all four undertook tasks in all areas of the museum’s work (Antúñez), including the areas of promotion and sensitization, exhibits and education. Like the first Casa del Museo, Santo Domingo was exclusively a center for exhibits and events. To a limited degree it had available the resources of the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia.
Overall, the second Casa del Museo project had limited financial and material resources at its disposal. Much, therefore, had to be improvised. In constructing exhibits, for example, items and materials discarded by the national museum were used—including paper, metal and wood. Although improvisation at first presented some difficulty for the museum workers, Antúñez/Arroyo de Kerriou emphasize that the use of modest means contributed in the long run to the acceptance of the Casa del Museo in Santo Domingo (Arroyo de Kerriou). Antúñez observed that in this way they did not scare the public away with costly and unfamiliar technology.
At first the museum opened to visitors during normal business hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and for evening events. Because only a part of the adults could visit the Casa del Museo during the day, residents requested that the museum be open at unorthodox hours. Arroyo de Kerriou explained:
Early in the morning at 5 o’clock [...] we went to the milk line, because 700 families were there to buy milk and we went to show people what the museum is, what the Casa del Museo is, what exhibitions we had [...] and everything. [...] So, we were talking with the people. The problem was, people said, "Well, why don’t you open the museum at 5 o’clock. Sometimes the father comes to take the milk, other days the children come and sometimes the mother comes, so why don’t you open the museum?"
Because museum workers were ill disposed to showing up in Santo Domingo at 5 o’clock every morning, some local residents proposed that the keys be left with them (Arroyo de Kerriou). Thus the community gradually assumed more and more responsibility for the museum and played an increasingly important role in all areas of its work. Interested individuals proposed the subjects to be addressed, planned and implemented exhibits, collected photographs, documents and objects and took charge (Antúñez):
. . . and people used to clean and paint everything, to change the exhibitions, they were world champions. [...]. It was a great experience. I think it was the most wonderful thing.
Although not organized in an official way, all Casa del Museo’s exhibits in Santo Domingo had the close cooperation of residents.
Antúñez/Arroyo de Kerriou (1980:4) remarked on the significance of this active community engagement: "Participation in this case was complete in both the planning and the implementation of activities. The difference between the two experiments was that in the second one the community was not only aware of the Casa del Museo but its participation was decisive in all our activities. It may be affirmed that this participation was obtained because of the intensive work to create awareness carried out by the team despite its small size and limited budget."
The Casa del Museo was essentially a time-limited pilot project, from which financial support was gradually withdrawn because of personnel changes in the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia and the INAH. For example, no new personnel were hired to replace the three workers who left in 1978, partly for personal reasons. Without backing and resources from the sponsoring institution, the project was gradually doomed to fail despite the extraordinary engagement of the employees and the population. Government projects such as the Casa del Museo depend on the good will of the political powers. A change in leadership within a given sponsoring government institution can have devastating effects and put a sudden end to successful projects.
22.214.171.124.5 Activities and programs
The second Casa del Museo emphasized exhibits, the first of which—"The Origin and History of Santo Domingo"—a group of interested citizens of Santo Domingo proposed and developed after a visit to the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia during the preparatory phase (see above). Residents improvised the exhibit made up of their photographs and documents and in cooperation with the museum staff. It occupied a common room of the local school where preparatory discussions had taken place.
In its first year the Casa del Museo mounted 14 small exhibits (Antúñez). Each theme was determined by participating community members and covered a broad spectrum of subjects, from historical topics such as "Evolution," "The Aztecs," "The Birth of Jesus Christ/Christmas" and "The Mexican Revolution" to representations of the various ethnic groups living in Santo Domingo to current problems such as "Nutrition," "Home Construction," and "Health Care."
Wide-ranging possibilities for community participation existed, for example, in presenting the various regional cultures themselves (Antúñez/Arroyo de Kerriou):
So the people [...] put up the things from their regions, they were complemented with dances and films and people making food, like the things they were doing in their homes. [...]. And they dressed, they received the people and went to the museum to give guided tours.
Antúñez stressed they were dealing here with a "living museum."
Moreover, the Casa del Museo ran workshops both to accompany exhibits and to constitute a so-called "open school" for adults to acquire practical skills like knitting, home construction, cooking and furniture upholstery.
Concerning nutrition, the Casa del Museo not only conducted workshops, but at times also ran an information service that provided local women with daily information on which of the local markets had the lowest prices. Some of the local women themselves carried out the necessary inquires and price comparisons.
At times the Casa del Museo of Santo Domingo maintained a branch in the neighborhood of Ajusco-Hayamilpas a few miles away (also called "La Comuna" by Antúñez/Arroyo de Kerriou). There, some 50 families from Santo Domingo had established a new community and was asking for a Casa del Museo. They repeated some of the exhibits and workshops in the Ajusco branch after closing in Santo Domingo.
In addition to presenting exhibits and various additional events, museum staff lectured in the local schools, to which they also invited the students’ parents in order to familiarize a wider public with the museum.
The development of personal contacts between museum workers and local citizens played a significant role in the integration of the Casa del Museo into the community. These contacts were strengthened by the museum workers’ participation in local celebrations.
In many cases the contribution of the Casa del Museo team went far beyond actual museum activities. Because staff had easy access to all possible official institutions (owing to their social position), they were able, for example, to obtain important information that the residents of Santo Domingo needed for their struggle to acquire land rights (Antúñez/Arroyo de Kerriou).
In San Domingo it was really possible to develop a kind of solidarity and cooperation based on partnership between the museum and the community, leading to the social integration of the museum. The assessment of this second Casa del Museo project will be dealt with in detail in the following section.
In La Comuna, as in the Zona Observatorio, the Casa del Museo found itself in a power struggle among competing community groups, making the museum’s work considerably more difficult. This finally led in 1979 to cancellation of the second Casa del Museo project in Santo Domingo and La Comuna, and with it the overall Casa del Museo experiment. Other factors included work-related sickness, exhaustion, and personal conflicts among the staff.
In the end, Arroyo de Kerriou, who ended up being the only employee of the Casa del Museo, returned to the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia in order to systematically evaluate the Casa del Museo experiment and perfect its methodology. In her reflections, Arroyo de Kerriou found that the modified way of proceeding in the second project had been largely suitable and successful, but a crucial weakness of the project became quite evident (Arroyo de Kerriou):
We were so busy working with the people that we didn’t see one thing: we had to prepare the people to keep their museum with them, because they were carrying on the museum, they opened and they closed the museum, they paid all the expenses for the museum and they did the work, but we did not prepare the people to maintain their museum by themselves. So we had to find the other part of the methodology. We had to prepare a group of persons from the community as natural promoters, because we found that that was the way to work and that would be the kind of museum Mexico needed.
As Arroyo de Kerriou neared completion of her evaluation and had already come to certain conclusions, representatives of the community of Vicente Villa (Netzahaulcoyol City) came to the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia and asked whether a Casa del Museo could be established in their neighborhood. To be more precise, it was the students of a secondary school who expressed interest in setting up such a museum. Intending to modify and test her revised methodology, Arroyo de Kerriou agreed.
Again, the process began with surveys and round-table discussions. Arroyo de Kerriou stated: And I started talking with the students to present a program like in Santo Domingo, because I had to tell them what a museum is, what is the program, how we work and show what the work was and then I told them: "OK, we have to prepare five workshops, one for research, second for production and mounting, the other one promotion and diffusion, the other one guided visits, and the other one complementary activities."
These five workshops formed the crucial new element of the Casa del Museo methodology. Through them interested citizens could theoretically guide the museum and keep it alive on their own.
The third (and last) Casa del Museo project, however, never got beyond a preparatory phase. In 1980 the Casa del Museo project was finally terminated. After the experiment was concluded, Antúñez and Arroyo de Kerriou (1980:5) expressed the hope that their experiences with the Casa del Museo would continue: "We may conclude that the Casa del Museo should be advanced from its experimental status and become established as a definitive program with its own funding and staff. The experience obtained is thoroughly sufficient for affirming its viability."
A thoroughly justified hope, because in the wake of the experiences of the 1970s, the INAH changed its policy, as is briefly sketched in the following citation (Ubicación del Departamento de Servicios Educativos, Museos Escolares y Comunitarios. . . 1984:6): "In the face of the theories that have been held and in opposition to the general line of conceiving of museums as sanctuaries of art, as privileged places to exhibit only beautiful objects, the museums of the INAH imposed an anthropological and educational concept that considered culture in its broadest sense, without separating it from its material, economic and social contexts."
The methodology developed for the Casa del Museo pilot project, adapted and modified, forms the basis for the new Program for the Development of the Educational Function of the INAH Museums, which will be discussed in the following chapter.
_______________1The Casa del Museo experiment encompassed basically two projects. In order to preserve their separate identities and maintain the analytical structure of the previous case studies, the following chapter is divided into two subchapters. However, the limited material related to the Mexican example means the respective sections will be less detailed than the earlier studies. To avoid repetition, the second study will make reference to the first.
2The Zona Observatorio is part of the larger Tacubaya area.
3No written documents exist related to this second project, either published or unpublished, apart from a two-page presentation in Antúñez /Arroyo de Kerriou (1980:3-5). Therefore I have based my statements on interviews with Arroyo de Kerriou and Antúñez, as well as on the sources referred to above.
4When "Santo Domingo" is mentioned here and below, "Pedregal de Santo Domingo de los Reyes" is meant.
3.3.2 Program for the Development of the Educational Function of INAH Museums
Two years after the 1981 termination of the Casa del Museo project, INAH again attempted to establish museums that fulfilled their social mission at the local level. It formed the Departamento de Servicios Educativos, Museos Escolares y Comunitarios directly under the Dirección de Museos y Exposiciones (cf. DESEMEC 1985c:1). In the beginning the department consisted of only two employees, Arroyo de Kerriou and Cristina Urrutía. They first prepared a country-wide inventory of Mexican museums, with particular regard to their social functions. The survey concluded that a large part of the Mexican museum system consisted of "dead museums" that ignored their responsibility to serve the public (Arroyo de Kerriou).
As a consequence of this negative outcome, a special program—the Programa para el desarrollo de la función educativa de los museos de la INAH (Program for the Development of the Educational Function of the INAH Museums)—was created in 1983 to remedy the prevailing problematic situation. In this way the following public-oriented INAH programs were combined and coordinated (Ubicación del departamento 1984:7; cf. Arroyo Quan 1985:1):
"1. Educational Services. Consists of attending to the needs of students and non-organized public groups in general; for this purpose it relies on educational aids, such as guided tours, audiovisual aids, publications and complementary activities (theater, film, dance, etc.).
2. School Museums Program. These are museums organized and developed for the school community, in which students, teachers and parents participate; it repeats the study program, but also complements it.
3. Community Museums Program. Unlike the above programs, this program was implemented beginning in this year. It is based on the experiences of the Casa del Museo experimental project. Its purpose is to integrate the museum into the everyday life of the community through the participation of its members, becoming the transmission channel of their needs, concerns and interests."
126.96.36.199 Concept and objectives
The objectives of the new program are . . . (Ubicación del departamento... 1984:7):
"a) To encourage the full and voluntary participation of the population in the knowledge, recovery, conservation and enrichment of the nation’s cultural heritage.
b) To expand the educational services that museums offer to the marginalized sectors of the population.
c) To transform the museums into dynamic cultural centers which, without losing their own characteristics, will make possible the participation of the users."
In an unpublished paper (Programa para el desarrollo . . . no year:1; cf. Arroyo de Kerriou 1986:3f) two further objectives were added: "To contribute to the affirmation of the values characteristic of our national identity, and to transmit, through exhibits and activities complementary to them the full concept of culture, understood as ‘the total product of human activity’."
On the basis of prior experiences with local museum work in Mexico (the Casa del Museo, Local and School Museums), the officials of DESEMEC (Department of Educational Services and School and Community Museums) expressed interest in implementing the concept of the "integral museum" in cooperation with a given population and creating a new kind of museum (DESEMEC 1985c:2):
"The new museum is a full reproducer, preserver and absorber [reproductor, conservator, y captador] of the culture. It is not limited to a single space, but can work with the totality of the community or with part of it. It is a communicator at all levels. It is clear, understandable and entertaining. It transmits to its public signs and forms through objects and images that are not alien to the social and natural milieu. The objective of the exhibit is to stimulate the visitor to observe and analyze its content by obtaining knowledge through objects, interpreting them within their social context, participating with initiative in the development of the museum and expressing and communicating his culture."
As the name suggests, this new INAH program sought to develop a systematic program of the museum’s educational work. Thus, the museum appears as an alternative educational institution. The theoretical frame of reference supplies the concept of "permanent education," as formulated and propagated since the 1960s by UNESCO leadership (Méndez 1984:9ff).
The starting point for implementing the program was a network of hundreds of school museums established in the 1970s, but the majority of which are no longer functioning. Arroyo de Kerriou placed them in the category of "dead museums." Through revitalization and remodeling, several of these school museums became community museums. Calling the museum a "community museum" depends on a definition of community that is not so much geographic as referring to a grouping of persons with similar socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, common interests and needs. Members need not necessarily reside in the same location or neighborhood (Narvárez de Ramírez/Valdez Durán ). A further attribute of "community" signifies the participation of the population as well as the integration of the museum into the mainstream community.
Because this constitutes a crucial aspect of the program, the original text is cited in full (INAH 1985:8f): "The community museum is one in which, through the active participation of the population, the function of community service is performed, since the themes that it develops are always tied to the interests and needs of the community. [...]. It promotes the recognition of the creative and decision-making capacity of the community to resolve its needs and to recover the past common history in order to understand the current reality. The community museum disseminates the singular expressions and communication codes of the community for the purpose of preserving and conserving the social and territorial area. It strengthens the feeling of belonging to a group by integrating and bringing together its individual members. It gives impulse to the re-evaluation of its speech, traditions, customs, geographical conditions and forms of production and, in addition, promotes a happier relationship between communities, thus promoting cultural interchange. The community museum educates in the possibility of understanding and planning alternatives to everyday problems and presents the past as a function of the present. It maintains a constant dynamism and changes exhibition activities in accordance with the suggestions of the collective."
It can be implied from these statements that the transformed Mexican school museum and the Mexican community museum are distinguished principally by the following characteristics:2
1. These museums are public educational institutions in the service of society;
2. They are a network of local museums, each of which is responsible for a certain area;
3. These museums are oriented to the preservation of the cultural and natural heritage of an area’s population, that is, they are past-related;
4. The past and its evidence are related to the current reality of the area and serve as a medium for coping with just this reality;3
5. Past and present are placed in relationship to each other and communicated in the form of exhibits and the events that accompany exhibits;
6. These museums are based on the participation of the population: that is, those parts of the population that are interested in being engaged determine the form and content of the museum’s work.
In their claims, these museums correspond by and large to the concept of the "integral museum" and relate therefore to the Casa del Museo experiments. At the same time, however, the emphasis on involving the community represents a further development in the organization and implementation of the sensitization process (promotion and motivation).
Basically, the community museum seeks to contribute to: a) the formation of a given population’s identity by preserving and instilling awareness of its regional cultural and natural heritage (Valdez Durán); and b) the creation of a multifaceted national identity, as Arroyo de Kerriou (1984:2) states: "The new museum is a tool that helps to find the national identity because it recognizes and engenders respect for the various regional cultures."
Specific community development work is not one of the direct tasks of a community museum, but rather is a long-term goal, in which the museum plays an important role. It is accomplished by building awareness and identity.
The following section will look at how the program actually functions and what has been achieved up to now, particularly those parts of the program that relate to school museums and community museums.
188.8.131.52 Structure and organization
The organizational framework for implementing the above-mentioned objectives is the Department of Educational Services and School and Community Museums (DESEMEC) with its four subdivisions. At the time of my study they were not yet fully staffed. All members of the interdisciplinary team, with the exception of the department head and the two section chiefs, work on the basis of time-limited contracts.
The core of the program is a network of promoters and coordinators that links DESEMEC and the grass-roots. They work with individual communities to establish museums and ultimately structure and organize the museum’s work (cf. Peña/Ortega Almazán 1986). Main tasks of the promoters include advancing the idea of establishing a community museum, awakening interest and identifying those persons and groups in the community who actively support the undertaking and ascribe to the program objectives described above. In so doing, it is up to the circle of interested persons, mostly volunteers, to decide how and when to meet the museum’s objectives (Ruiz, Valdez Durán).
Promoters and coordinators interviewed for this study unanimously agreed that the decision on where a community museum would be established was made centrally by government authorities such as INAH.
The role played by central control explains the program’s emphasis on promotional work. The following quote from an INAH publication makes it clear: ". . . promotion is the spinal column in the work of the school and community museums. There must be promotion during the formation phase and it must continue throughout all the activities. It is a constant labor of personal contact and group organization work, a delicate and sensitive effort, like all interpersonal ties.
To promote is to sensitize, which means that the motivational work must be essential if one wishes to attain the objective, which is to make the community conscious of the importance and utility of the museum. When this premise has been satisfied, the museum will make an impact on the transformation of attitudes, on the past, present and future cultural production and reproduction."
At the time of my study, a total of around 50 promoters were active in the states of Chihuahua, Hidalgo and Jalisco. Without exception, the promoters are teachers who are released full or part-time from their school duties to do museum work. As a rule they have worked for years as teachers in the same community where they are now carrying out promotional work for the local museum. This takes advantage of their basic knowledge of local conditions and contacts, with whom they enjoy a certain trust.
With the exception of teachers who already had some museum experience in the above-mentioned school museum programs, the teachers who act as promoters for a community museum have no previous museum training. Teachers who work in small places, as Gloria Parra Gonzales stresses, often occupy a central role in the community’s social life and thus already perform duties related to education and culture that are similar to those of a museum promoter.
Promoters receive additional schooling and support through DESEMEC (1985c:9): "The museum promoter supports and coordinates the community activities. The Department of Educational Services and School and Community Museums, which consists of an interdisciplinary team, enables, advises and assists all the museum promoters in order to facilitate their work and expand their possibilities for action."
Several times a year, DESEMEC issues an information sheet that serves as a discussion forum for promoters and the INAH team during the time between personal meetings (cf. DESEMEC 1984a). In addition, the Educational Service offers the promoters various exhibits to make their work easier during the initial phase. Up to now the subjects of the exhibits have been "Mesoamerica I, the West of Mexico," "The Higher Caliber," "The Popular Culture" and "The Medicinal Plants of Mexico" (cf. Arroyo Quan 1985:4). The promoters also receive a folder with drawings to facilitate and support the promotional work, that is, an explanation of the aim and purpose of the museum and the way it functions.
DESEMEC also provides documents to help promoters plan and execute their local activities (cf. e.g. Abundis 1984; Avalos y Pérez 1985; Perea 1986; Rivera 1986). The central element of the promotional tools is the so-called "methodology" (cf. fig. 26; cf. Arroyo de Kerriou 1987b:7-15), a kind of work-guide for promoters. With regard to this "methodology," Arroyo de Kerriou observed (1986:8): "The methodology is based on the elements of social promotion adapted to the needs posed by the creation of museums. This methodology consists of techniques, methods and programs that foster change. In the case of the promotion of museums, it is necessary that the community adopt a participatory attitude in their development."
In February 1984 promoters were given a training course for the first time in Mexico City where they were introduced to the methodology. Another two-week course (in which I participated as an observer) took place in March 1985. There, 34 elementary and secondary school teachers from the states of Chihuahua, Jalisco and Hidalgo received their first training as promoters (cf. DESEMEC 1985b). Through lectures, group work, general discussions and museum visits, the future promoters were familiarized with the following subject areas:
Several coordinators also took part in the course acting as intermediaries between INAH and the promoters. Each promoter reports to the coordinator with responsibility for his or her region. With the coordinator’s assistance each promoter draws up work plans for one week, one month and one year. The coordinator’s principal tasks are to plan and manage the museum projects in the given region. In addition, coordinators also provide practical help when problems arise. Each of the three aforementioned states is further divided into various zones, with a coordinator responsible for the museums in each zone. At the state level coordinators report to a supervisor.
The general course acquainted the future promoters with the program’s principles, objectives and opportunities. While promoters have some leeway to adapt the program to different local conditions, they nevertheless adhere closely to the program, as Jesús Armando Ruiz stressed:
First, they have to inform us of whatever they do. Second, they have to fulfill the objectives of the program, that’s very important. They have a certain freedom, because they cannot apply that program and its objectives like a recipe to each community just like that. So they have to have flexibility, but they have to fulfill, I repeat, the objectives of this program.
184.108.40.206 Activities and programs
Up until March 1985, the time of my research, the program’s activities were focused on the state of Chihuahua. According to Arroyo de Kerriou, in 1985, that state had two museums that were so far advanced in their work that they could rightly be called "community museums." One of them is in the city of Chihuahua and the other is in Ascensión. Arroyo de Kerriou (1986:13) also cites community museums in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, and Ixmiquilpán, Hidalgo, as ". . . clear examples of the new museum." At the time of my research, several school museums and community museums were under construction in Jalisco and Hidalgo. Arroyo de Kerriou (1987a) also states the scope of the program had considerably broadened since then. In the meantime 75 promoters and 14 coordinators have begun working for 56 community museums in the states of Chihuahua, Jalisco, Hidalgo, Guerrero, Tlaxcala and Guanajuato.
Two examples from the state of Chihauhua may clarify the process of implementing the community museum:
Founded in 1750 Ouauhtemoc today is a predominantly rural community of around 40,000 inhabitants located in the Sierra Madre Oriental of Chihuahua. In 1984, on the basis of their experiences with three school museums, citizens of Ouauhtemoc and the municipal administration expressed interest in building a community museum. Through DESEMEC in the INAH, planners selected the local teacher Clara Elena Gutiéraz Miramontor, who had already worked for the school museums, to be promoter and project developer.
Gutiéraz Miramontor named "identity building" and "development" as objectives of the future community museum. She wished to use local museum work as a counterweight to the inundation of Mexican culture by foreign influences and to instill in the citizens of each museum site a sense of their own regional and national cultural identity. She hoped that by presenting local, regional and national history it would encourage them to resist the massive cultural and economic influences of the neighboring United States.
The museum’s long-term objective is not only to build awareness and identify historical markers, but also to influence the present-day economic and social structure (Gutiéraz Miramontor):
In a way that would be development, because it would help to create jobs for people and to reinforce the social and economic structure of the place.
Gutiéraz Miramontor gives no more detailed information as to how this will proceed. However, I find questionable the tendency here to concentrate on defending against outside influences. It runs the risk of losing the critical perspective of the prevailing structures within the community and the possibility of changing them. On the basis of admittedly meager statements, this suspicion concerns the problem of setting goals. However, this could not be proved factually, because the community museum project in Ouauhtemoc at the time of the study had still not gone beyond the preparatory phase.
The promotional phase consisted first of all in establishing contacts with the "natural leaders." In Ouauhtemoc, museum planners—as their Casa del Museo predecessors before them—mistakenly associated with the various political and religious groups (Gutiéraz Miramontor):
I have had many problems, many obstacles, beginning with the political ones in which several parties tried to appropriate the work for their promotion.
Despite these obstacles, the project went forward. Interested citizens formed 14 groups, the members of which reflected occupational niches: merchants, workers, farmers, bank employees, students, etc. Promoters met with these relatively homogeneous groups to familiarize them with the museum.
Citizens who had been encouraged to cooperate during this initial phase formed working groups of six members each. These working groups carried out various activities in preparation for the establishment of the museum. "The Mexican Revolution" was selected to be the theme of the first exhibit with particular emphasis on the local perspective. They collected material related to local history, conducted interviews and carried out work projects such as painting and carpentry.
Community participation had become a reality here for the promoters. By involving the population in the various aspects of museum work, Gutiéraz Miramontor wanted to create a so-called "living museum." However, the available material does not indicate whether in the long run participation will go beyond selective involvement, because at the time of this study the Ouauhtemoc project had been in operation for only a few months.
For just this reason, it is hardly possible to evaluate adequately the community museum in Ouauhtemoc.
In 1905 plans to build a railroad brought about the founding of San Juanito. Located in the state of Chihuahua, it has 15,000 inhabitants. Today, its economy relies on forestry (Gloria Parra Gonzales). For its surrounding villages, San Juanito constitutes a regional trading center.
The objectives and tasks of the San Juanito community museum are relatively general. They concern principally protecting and communicating the local cultural heritage (Gloria Parra Gonzales):
. . . the program is first to get to know our cultural values, afterwards to appreciate and rescue them—this is the principal part of it, then, to conserve or preserve and afterwards to disseminate the heritage.
According to the acting promoter Gloria Parra Gonzales, the community museum in San Juanito wants in this way to sharpen the population’s awareness of its cultural identity so that people are going to feel a little bit more related to the community and to the nation. Here again the element of national integration appears listed among the objectives, which makes the community museum appear to be an extended arm of the Mexican national museums (on this subject, cf. also Arroyo de Kerriou 1984:2).
A private initiative of Gloria Parra Gonzales led to the establishment of the San Juanito community museum. As a teacher she had had to work far away from her home in San Juanito and wanted to be transferred there. The authorities released her from school service so that she might work as a promoter for a community museum in her home town, which she began in February 1985. She first approached the city administration and leaders of the various local institutions in order to get some idea of possible starting points for her promotional work. As a next step, she contacted "natural leaders" and held informational meetings with interested citizens. In the beginning she had to establish trust among the residents, who had had poor experiences with projects of any sort.
At the time of this study, three groups of 60 members were at work on the San Juanito community museum. It is too early to tell how this cooperative effort will turn out, because by March 1985 the project had only been in existence for a few weeks. The participants had still not selected the subject of their first museum activity.
With regard to the informational meetings, Gonzales remarked that interest and involvement came first from the ranks of the underprivileged majority of the community.
On the basis of the composition of the citizens’ committee, I believe that there is a good chance that the community museum in San Juanito, in distinction to that in Ouauhtemoc, will serve the great majority of the population. Since the project could only look back on a very brief history at the time of my study, results and possible problems have not yet become apparent, so that a detailed assessment of the San Juanito community museum must be deferred.
It is in Mexico that the social integration of museums has been most consistently developed since 1972. This involves preserving the cultural and natural heritage of a community and generating awareness of its own identity. With this as a foundation, museums could undertake at a later stage educational work directly relevant to development.
Apart from its similarity to the integral museum, one aspect must be emphasized: the readiness to learn from experience and make corresponding changes according to the prevailing conditions.
With the help of questionnaires regularly filled out by the promoters and coordinators, organizers continually evaluate the program itself and the work of the school and community museums (cf. DESEMEC 1986a). Results form the basis of program modifications and improvements. I believe the experience gained over the years, the readiness to learn and the remarkably systematic nature of the program offer a sound basis for future success.
However, a problem exists in the fact that Mexican museology depends on government sponsorship and risks, therefore, possible control. A way to enhance the quality and credibility of the program would to ensure that local museums were in a position to enable communities to develop their own programs of self-portrayal and self-determination. What community museums may accomplish in the future remains to be seen, but whatever it is, the museum profession should carefully follow.
________________1If the origin of statements is not further specified in the following text, they are summaries I have prepared from the available material. When I refer to certain persons without providing any further details, these are statements made in interviews with: Miriam Arroyo de Kerriou (4-1-85), Jesús Armando Ruiz, Elena Navárez de Ramírez/Manuael Váldez Durán (3-26-85),Gloria Parra Gonzales (3-27-85), Clara Elena Gutiéraz Miramontor (3-28-85). All direct quotes from interviews are in bold.
2Armando Ruiz summarized the objectives of the program as follows: 1) to get people to know their particular cultural and natural environment; 2) to have them learn to value their patrimony; 3) to enable them to rescue this patrimony; 4) to diffuse this patrimony toward the interior of the community; and 5) to achieve the participation of the people so that they participate in the solution of their own problems.
3For Armando Ruiz, dealing with history is secondary. For him, the main concern of the community museum is to show the people what they are in the present . . . their own culture, their own way of living.
4. Claims and Reality of New Museology: Comparative Analysis of the Case Studies1
Today most modern museums think of themselves as educational institutions in the humanistic sense. These conventional museums are basically static places of safekeeping where objects not visitors reign supreme and where the vast majority of visitors lack learned access to the collection. Thus, traditional museums frequently elevate preservation of a given culture to the status of an object in itself, while not denying the visitor a certain leisure and relaxation value. Despite the recent upsurge in museum education programs that help break down barriers to access, these measures frequently do not go beyond pure entertainment.
Unlike traditional museums, "new" museums preserve, document and study culture as a tool in a goal-directed educational process. It is a means to an end, namely that of providing the public a way to attain its educational objectives. Identity building and coping with everyday problems are specific objectives that are supposed to lead to the general, complex objective of social development, in the sense of abolishing flagrant inequalities and disadvantages. The crucial distinction between the traditional museum and the "new" museum lies in the perception and formulation of a social task aimed at societal development.
The case studies, however, have revealed that these objectives still played no recognizable role in the initial phase of new museology. The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum and the first Casa del Museo were established as so-called intermediary museums. They were created as satellites of large national museums in order to address an otherwise unreachable segment of the public for the general, humanistic purpose of imparting knowledge. These experiments (as the intermediary museums were seen to be) intended to decentralize the national museums and integrate them as educational institutions into marginal, local communities. Educational content in each case corresponded to that of the supporting institution. Specific goals related to the population were not formulated, so that the museum’s social integration was fundamentally no more than an end in itself.
But after a relatively short time the experiments assumed independence and oriented themselves to their respective local contexts, which led—similarly to the case of the ecomuseums—to a general increase in the significance of educational goals such as identity building, coping with everyday problems, improving living conditions and effecting societal development. I believe social integration and acceptance of the museum as a foreign body cannot be achieved without concrete objectives attuned to the target public. For populations not accustomed to museums, the museum must have a recognizable purpose related to the reality of their lives. What produces acceptance of the museum is its usefulness as recognized by the population in question.
The case studies have revealed that in practice each museum emphasized different goals. In all of them, pride of place in the hierarchy of objectives was to generate a feeling of community identity. Here one might object that in this regard there is little difference from traditional museums. In the end, an implicit objective of any museum—whether it is a technical, art or history museum, whether it is local, regional or national—is to set in motion identification processes in the passive visitor, whether by self-recognition in the objects exhibited or by aesthetic pleasure. But "new" museums do not content themselves with this diffuse means of establishing identity. They go beyond this and understand themselves generally to be a practical instrument in an active search for identity by primarily marginal population groups. They seek cooperation with the community to determine its historical, present and possible future relationship to other sociocultural groups, which helps engender identity.
"New" museums have achieved a considerable amount in the area of identity building. One of their characteristics is that they generally work with disadvantaged and marginalized social groups whose identity differs from the "official" middle and upper class. The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, for example, was the first museum in the United States to devote itself to that particular African-American community’s history, culture and current problems. In Mexico, community museums carry out identity-building with provincial populations within a framework of an otherwise strictly centralized museum system. Labor history and culture became for the first time the central focus of the Ecomusée de la Fier-Monde in Montreal. In addition to the case studies described here, there are other museums that exist on Indian reservations and in Inuit settlements in the United States and Canada whose purpose has been to study and preserve their history and culture and help them renew their appreciation of their traditions. Apart from ethnologists, journalists and a few engaged individuals, hardly anyone up to now has studied the specific characteristics of these groups, let alone help them establish their own local museums for the purpose of supporting core values. Rather these groups have been oppressed, assimilated, or ignored, and have lived on the margins of society.
While most museums studied here have equated identity-building primarily or exclusively with the affirmation of ethnic and regional identity, the Mexican community museums also strive to develop national identity to help the community achieve national integration. This has its roots in the prevailing social context and in the centralized governmental control of the Mexican museum system.
In Mexico, as in similar countries with ethnically heterogeneous populations, use of the "new" museum may succeed in both affirming ethnic or regional identities and acting as an instrument of national integration. However, the "new" museum’s nation-building objectives should not aim to impose a dominant unified culture. In large-scale, government-run museum development programs a basic danger is that museums will be used as a political instrument by those in power.
If "new" museums really want to serve the interests of the above-mentioned groups, they must contribute to the self-determined identity search of these groups and avoid acting as an extended arm of the government. Critics of neighborhood museums in the U.S. also emphasized this danger when they suspected that the 1960s’ neighborhood museums merely reproduced the well-known repression mechanisms in a new guise—as a "device employed by the dominant white community to keep the cities ‘cool’ in summer" (Dennis 1970:16).
Conversely, another problematic aspect of identity-building work that must be guarded against is the encouragement of uncritical self-adulation. Because target groups often have a distorted or decidedly negative sense of their own identity, the "new" museums generally have a tendency, in their efforts to create a positive identity, to go to the other extreme, particularly with regard to their image of history.
Of course, history being a social reconstruction of reality and not the same as reality, it is easier to achieve historical accuracy through a critical approach than through the selective emphasis of only positive elements seen from a present-day viewpoint. Identity includes not only knowledge of one’s strengths and "heroic deeds," but also a realistic assessment of weaknesses and mistakes, from which a community can learn and improve its social development. Moreover, self-critical identity building helps prevent chauvinism.
But identity-building should not be a "new" museum’s only objective, it should contribute to the problems of coping with everyday life. Identity in the sense of historical knowledge, of orientation in space and time, of self-respect and the feeling of belonging to a sociocultural group is a basic precondition for action and responsible behavior. In general, "new" museums hope to influence marginal social groups so that they will structure their present and future in conformity with their specific cultural characteristics.
Identity and the self-awareness and self-confidence it embodies enable a population to cope appropriately with everyday life, which for some of the museums studied involves imparting useful knowledge and skills. These include, for example, making accessible relevant current information (Casa del Museo II), identifying current problems (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in the early 1970s), and communicating working methods and forms of organization suitable for representing a group’s interests before political decision-makers (Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce).
In this respect, "new" museums go beyond the objectives of cultural educational institutions: The communication of identity and history, of knowledge and skills is seen by all of the museums studied as a step toward achieving the higher goal of social development, of changing a community’s social reality.
As for goal-oriented development measures, the museums studied here either do not wish to enter this rough terrain (Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde, Casa del Museo I, Casa del Museo II, San Juanito community museum) or feel themselves powerless in the face of prevailing conditions (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum). Only the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has occasionally gone beyond identity building. It has undertaken concrete steps to stimulate the regional economy and improve the living conditions of residents. Although no lasting effects are apparent at this time, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce intends to enter consciously into the process of social development.
Curiously, although proponents of new museology claim that museums need to contribute to social development, none of the persons questioned was able to define clearly and comprehensively what they meant by development, that is, to say in detail what should be accomplished in the end. I believe this is a fundamental weakness of the "new" museums I studied. Because "social development" is undefined, no adequate, action-oriented strategies can be developed for achieving it and the results cannot be measured.
A solution may be more modest objectives by having "new" museums confine themselves to identity-building as an indirect way of contributing to social development. By doing this, however, the "new" museum loses some of its innovative character that distinguishes it from traditional museums. If "new" museums really want to depart from the humanistic educational ideals of traditional museums and be effective in the social development process, the only acceptable alternative is for these museums to undertake the unquestionably laborious task of defining "development" as a goal.
This does not mean one definition of "development" must bind everyone.2 Rather, each "new" museum must determine its political and ideological position in order to define what "social development" means in conformity with the local context and how it will achieve it. Only on this basis can the museum put in place appropriate programs and action strategies.
Museums cannot solve a community’s problems at one blow, even if it did formulate concrete development goals. Rather, museums should realize they have a proper place in the social development process. The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is showing the first signs of this.
The objectives of the "new" museum set forth here raise certain basic principles that must exist and be respected to achieve social development objectives.
4.2 Basic principles
Two basic principles underlie a museum’s efforts at identity building, coping with everyday problems and effecting social development: territoriality in all areas of the museum’s work and a radical orientation toward the public.3 The "new" museum claims to relate to a delimited, clearly comprehensible space and to act as a cultural educational agent of development. It does so to serve the residents of this space. These two together—the territory and its residents—constitute the local context and determine the nature of the "new" museum, as the case studies revealed.
With respect to a radical orientation to the public, new museology claims that museums should be "grass-rooted,"that is, that they should be founded through community efforts. In contrast to the traditional museum, which as a rule is established and run by specialists and administrators for the public, the "new" museum is distinguished by the fact that it is initiated and supported by the public itself of a given region or neighborhood. One encounters frequent references to the "entire population," which allegedly enthusiastically commits to the establishment of a museum—a "slight" propagandistic exaggeration in which the wish rather than the reality is truly father of the thought!
Museums are far from mobilizing the masses: a maximum of 10 to 30 persons can be counted among regularly active nonprofessionals who take part in decision-making and museum work, the actual number generally closer to the lower limit. For the territorial units cited in the case studies, which have 15,000 to 200,000 residents, this means an extremely small percentage of participants.4 None of the museums I studied owes its establishment exclusively to a community-based, grass-roots initiative. Instead, outside specialists and administrators played significant roles and brought ideas and initiatives to each population in question.
This state of affairs is not surprising since in general the majority of the populations concerned simply do not know what a museum is and how it could be used, or they have unclear ideas formed from a superficial knowledge of traditional museums. Most people are unaware of the significance of examining, preserving and imparting a given heritage. Moreover, understanding of the structure, functions and possibilities of a museum to be an open educational institution is generally reserved to a few and is frequently conveyed as a diffuse idea rather than as concrete and applicable knowledge. This explains why interested laypersons, if they take steps on their own, seek the advice and participation of specialists (Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce) or, vice versa, why specialists approach a given population with ideas and initiatives (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, Casa del Museo I, Casa del Museo II, community museums).
Thus, "new" museums hardly differ from traditional museums in regard to their origins, notwithstanding specialists’ tendency to underplay their own role and emphasize that of the population. I believe museologists and involved scholars should, on the one hand, take a critical view of their specific role in the museum process, but on the other hand admit to it in a more courageous and self-assured way. Because the vast majority of the population is attached to traditional ideas of the museum, new museologists can serve as catalysts by pointing out the new, socially oriented possibilities of museum work.
The museologist communicates the concept of the "new" museum, which necessitates some simplification to guarantee citizen participation and cooperation (cf. chapter 4.3). A "new" museum cannot be ordered by decree. Unlike the initiation and concept phase, the implementation process of a "new" museum differs from traditional museums. The specialists (museologists, historians, educators, to name but a few) who are either appointed by interested members of the community or by local authorities or who intervene on their own initiative consider it one of their main duties to identify prevailing community needs and gear museum work toward fulfilling them.
Accordingly, the actual founding of the museum in each case study was preceded by an exploration and promotion phase. Contact between museum staff and interested local residents aimed to create the widest possible "popular" basis for the museum. In almost all the cases—with the exception of the Casa del Museo project—a participation and advisory structure in the form of associations (Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde), committees (Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde, Anacostia Neighborhood Museum) or working groups (San Juanito, Ouauhtemoc), etc., paralleled the information work on the nature and possibilities of the "new" museum (cf. chapter 4.3). In the case of the Casa del Museo II, already existing citizens’ committees served as forums for sensitization and participation.
The sensitization phase—called "promotion phase" in Mexico—is distinguished by its reciprocal relationship between specialists and residents. This is expressed in the "triangle of creativity" in the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce and in the "methodology" of the Mexican community museums. Continual interchange serves to convey a better understanding of the foreign body called a "new" museum to the broadest possible circle of the population The process aims to modify and finally implement the museum together with involved citizens in accordance with their interests and needs. The process of interchange and modification does not end with implementation. The point is not to impose a firmly structured notion of the "new" museum, but to open it for productive adaptation to local conditions.
At its heart, the "new" museum pursues interchange and sensitization in order to produce coordination of the diverging concepts and working methods of specialists and citizens. The end is to produce an action-oriented synthesis. However, this communication process —as I have regarded sensitization—does not always proceed smoothly. Although useful as a starting point, interchange and coordination are made more difficult by various barriers that preclude meaningful communication. As an agent of social integration, the "new" museum still leaves something to be desired, despite the availability of appropriate mechanisms, that is, the "new" museum is not only not "grass-rooted" (see above), but in many cases is not even as public-oriented as several traditional museums.
These influential factors relate, however, to only one of the basic principles. If the "new" museum wishes to satisfy its claim to public orientation, the public under consideration must not be some amorphous mass public, but rather a clearly defined target group. Here the second principle of "new" museums—territoriality—comes into play.
All of the museums I have discussed relate to a clearly delimited spatial unit—a neighborhood (Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde, Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, Casa del Museo I, Casa del Museo II), a small town (Ouauhtemoc, San Juanito) or a region (Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce)— each different in kind, size and number of inhabitants.
In addition to physical boundaries, a population’s specific cultural (in the broadest sense) features determine the local or regional context. In this regard, the museum locations I have dealt with may be characterized as follows: The Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde is located in a declining industrial neighborhood of Montreal with a traditional francophone working-class population. The Casa del Museo II operated in a poorly cared-for neighborhood of Mexico City, in which groups from various rural regions of Mexico migrated there in search of a new livelihood. The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce is in a rural region of Quebec with a francophone population of small-town dwellers who work in the crisis-prone sectors of agriculture, forestry and small industry.
These three geographic and demographic contexts are sharply defined and relatively homogeneous, which enables each museum to fulfill both basic principles of the "new" museum—territoriality and radical community orientation. It should be recalled, however, that in the case of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, a territorial unit was first created for this purpose by the museum.
But, in regard to the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, Casa del Museo I, San Juanito, and Ouauhtemoc, although the population in question also occupies a specifically defined geographical area, the communities are more heterogeneous—only part of the population can be considered "underprivileged." It is important to stress that although the majority of the population can be characterized as underprivileged, the area also contains a middle-class stratum. That means a portion of the population has other interests and needs and is likely equipped with greater power.
Population heterogeneity and conflicting interests pose dangers for these museums. Either they wear down and succumb to competitive struggles and contradictory interests (Casa del Museo I) or they develop a strong tendency to become bourgeois, that is, to being taken over by the middle-class public—the traditional beneficiary of cultural and educational institutions (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, Ouauhtemoc, San Juanito).
My research suggests too heterogeneous a target group impedes the realization of one of the basic principles—public orientation. Not only must the physical context be clearly defined, the relative homogeneity of the historical, cultural and social background, as well as common problems, interests and needs, must also constitute a basic precondition of a "new" museum.
But should the museum find itself in a heterogeneous local context, it must exert a strong integrating influence and link together the diverse population groups so that it can work in the interests of the population as a whole. However, compromise solutions of this kind may significantly limit its scope of action, since those themes that relate, for example, to power relationships and social injustices often are precluded in advance.
Thus, to do justice to the concept of the "new" museum, planners should pay particular attention to the local context—consisting of a territory and its population—and determine precisely who and what these entities are. Ideally, feasibility studies should accomplish this as a first step.
4.3 Structure and organization
The "new" museum’s objectives and basic principles referred to above must coalesce into organizational structures that can be implemented. They involve a low degree of institutionalization, financing through local resources, decentralization, participation, and team work by specialists and interested citizens working on an equal basis (cf. chapter 2).
Representatives of new museology reject institutional ordering in the "new" museum. I believe that this is based on a misconception. What one wants to prevent are strictly formulated structures that impede dynamic action. But it cannot be ignored that a museum is basically an institution, that is, a social entity characterized by certain patterns of order and rules and performing specific functions (cf. Hartfiel 1976:307f).
When a human activity—the preservation of a given heritage, for example—goes beyond selected individual actions and people join together into working groups or in clubs to pursue a certain goal, they confer on themselves a certain organizational form. This can be considered as the beginning of institutionalization. Actions are repeated and long-term, complex projects and programs are developed that involve larger numbers of people. Offices, documentation centers, stock rooms and exhibit spaces become essential. This necessarily requires a more complex and more formal organizational framework, such as the creation of a museum (or some similar establishment). The group in question then adopts social controls (cf. Berger/Luckmann 1980:59). In my view, therefore, every museum should be considered as a social institution. It becomes an instrument that a society confers on itself in order to pursue, in an organized way, consistently determined goals and objectives that are considered socially relevant. With regard to financing projects, the creation of an institution naturally facilitates access to resources, for example, government subsidies.
In practice, the involvement of specialists is frequently associated with institutionalization, although society doesn’t necessarily lose all decision-making power with the creation of the institution. The original individual influence on certain processes occurs within each institution through a participation structure (that as a rule is given) and corresponding control mechanisms (see below). It is characteristic of institutionalization, however, that individuals delegate tasks, authorities and decisions to the institution in order to take the load off themselves (cf. Hartfiel 1976:308). Therefore, institutions have a tendency to become independent and viewed as an objective reality (cf. Berger/Luckmann 1980:62ff). New museology wants to counteract this tendency, that is, the possible negative results of institutionalization.
In my view, museums including "new" museums, are social institutions. If one speaks of a low degree of institutionalization in connection with the "new" museum, this can only mean that the institutionalization of the museum has not progressed so far that it has become an independent goal in itself. "New" museums must keep up a continual interchange with the population in question and be open to change. How much a museum distances itself from the community depends on the existing structure and the degree of citizen participation, which must be long-term. The community must look out after its legitimate rights and be actively involved in the institution. "New" museums create structural elements as mechanisms to maintain openness and check institutionalization.
How the museum is financed affects the degree of influence and control. To be active sponsors of the "new" museum, the community must shoulder some or all of its financial support.
Comparative analysis of the case studies reveals great differences in methods of financing. The demand for self-financing, particularly in regard to the scope and professional standard of projects, is generally proving to be extremely unrealistic, since we are dealing with financially weak and underprivileged groups. Consideration of the case studies reveals that "new" museums—apart from isolated contributions in kind or money from the community—are largely government financed.
As an experimental project of the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia, the Casa del Museo I received its funding exclusively from it. The same applies to the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, an "intermediary" museum within the institutional framework of the Smithsonian Institution. Of all museums considered in this study, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum has by far the largest budget, is best equipped and has the most employees. Although this financial cushion has enabled the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum to move beyond an experimental phase, at the same time it has fostered the growth of institutionalization (professionalization, clear administrative hierarchy and reduction in community influence). As a result this had led to the former neighborhood museum becoming indistinguishable from a traditional museum.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce enjoyed independence from other institutions. It is the only "new" museum that was successful in financing itself from community contributions.
This applies, however, only to its initial phase. Fund-raising success presumably resulted from the fact that they created projects (the purchase of the Bolduc collection and the establishment of a museum) that the community valued. After their conclusion, however, community financial support declined. The museum proposed additional projects, but residents identified less closely with them and were therefore reluctant to contribute.
Now, as to some extent before, the necessary funds flow into the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce through government subsidies. Ever since the museum gained government recognition, it has had a fixed annual budget, supplemented by project-specific grants either from the government or from corporations. The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce example indicates how the blessing of money brings with it increased professionalization and a distancing from the community, owing to its need to satisfy certain professional standards in exchange for government recognition. To stimulate community funding, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce wants to encourage more locally based projects that appeal more specifically to residents and with which they can identify and wish to support.
In contrast to the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, the likewise-independent Ecomusée de la Fier-Monde has no fixed budget nor permanent staff. Therefore, it exhibits a lower degree of institutionalization than previous examples. Because support came initially from a small group of citizens, it never attempted broad community financing, but depends exclusively on project-bound government subsidies and work-creation measures. While this mode of financing slows the progress of institutionalization, it entails other problems such as lack of continuity, absence of long-range planning and economic insecurity for the workers.
The Casa del Museo II differs from other case studies in that funding derived from the private resources of the population and staff contributions. Its experience demonstrates that a talent for improvisation and self-help can overcome financial bottlenecks. Low professional standards and modest, unassuming programs due to limited resources were seen as advantages because this reflected the everyday situation of the majority of residents. Also the same question arose at the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, whether increased professionalization corresponds to community needs.
While it is difficult to draw general conclusions on financing "new" museums, institutionalization and professionalization tend to increase with more abundant government support (the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum and Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, for example). It also entailed a certain distancing and independence of the museum from the population.
Conversely, modest financial resources do not automatically guarantee closeness to the citizens if other measures are not operating concurrently. The experiences of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce in its initial phase and of the Casa del Museo II show that local financial support is more likely if residents identify with and value the projects to be financed. Moreover, to be attractive to the community, projects had to be easily understood and adapted to the local living conditions. In some cases, this caused professional standards to be put aside.
Spatial decentralization of "new" museums is a strategy to ensure affinity with the population and for opening up opportunities for identification and influence. While traditional museums occupy a single building in a regional center, "new" museums, in view of its special orientation, should be decentralized, that is, dispersed throughout the territory. Dividing the museum into a centrally located service center and local sub-centers can reach a broader stratum of the population and thereby satisfy the principle of public orientation and closeness to the citizens. At the same time, it can make its presence felt in identification markers spread throughout the territory covered by the museum.
In practice decentralization seems primarily a characteristic of the ecomuseum. Other forms of the "new" museum—the neighborhood museum and the integral museum—do not exhibit decentralization as an objective owing to the fact that they are already sub-centers, that is, decentralized facilities of a large national museum. With respect to their territorial reach, both the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum and the Mexican examples are de facto central establishments. They differ in this respect from traditional museums only in so far as they are in places where previously there were no museums. However, their location in a central museum building and the limitation on their area of activity that this involves show strong parallels to the traditional museum.
On the other hand, the ecomuseums, which originated in a centralized museology context but independent of central "parent institutions," push decentralization a step further. They seek to expand their radius of action throughout a region (Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce) or a neighborhood (Ecomusée de la Fier-Monde) through so-called local "antennas," which form a network of roots in the community.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce has gone particularly far in this respect by establishing, from the beginning, a variety of antennas in the region. It funds three local interpretation centers as antennas (a fourth was in the planning stage), eight small open-air exhibits and five citizen groups associated with the ecomuseum. At first, the antennas did not so much express community sensitization as serve as a means for the museum to implement this process. Creating the antennas began the process of interchange between the museum and the population of Haute-Beauce.
What has become of the antennas? Whether and how they have been used by the citizens constitute indicators of sensitization and social integration of the museum. Some of the open-air exhibitions dot the landscape like monuments, unused and run down. Apparently planners overlooked the needs and interests of the population or museum intentions and local concerns could not harmonize within a framework of a comprehensive sensitization process. The open-air exhibitions have remained foreign bodies. In sum, the museum should have adapted already existing parts of the local cultural and natural heritage for its use, rather than implant artificial elements.
Some of the local committees the museum set up also have begun to vegetate in more or less the same place. In contrast, the interpretation centers have succeeded. Local groups function independently and those open-air exhibitions that are integrated into a larger context are helpful interpretative aids.
The Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde also encountered community resistance in establishing antennas. At first, the museum explained the ecomuseum’s antenna to a whole street, represented by a group of local residents. But this quite active initial phase, which produced a mural, has led to one where citizen involvement and contact have declined. Doubts as to the value of these antennas also arose by the workers of the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde. As a result they have set new priorities.
On the whole, spatial decentralization may work in some cases but cannot be an end in itself. In my view, antennas should not be set up in the initial phase of a museum merely to give the impression, as quickly as possible, of outwardly satisfying a certain museum concept. In such a setting antennas can only have the character of add-ons essentially free of content. Antennas appear to be unsuitable as initiators of community sensitization. "New" museums should begin by creating lasting contacts with citizen groups, which holds greater promise of sensitization and ensures antennas will be geared to local needs and interests. If antennas are to be more than reminders that a museum exists in the region or neighborhood, they must express the declared will and reflect the identity of the community.
These considerations lead to another aspect of "new" museums: participation. This is not to be confused with the so-called participatory museums that are coming into fashion, where museum visitors are offered the possibility of actively organizing their leisure time. With regard to citizen participation, "new" museums go somewhat further. Each target group of the "new" museum is treated as a supporter and principal actor. This requires a specific participatory structure that confers on the population the necessary competence to intervene actively in the museum. It varied considerably in the practices of the museums studied.
The first Casa del Museo produced a questionnaire to help gear its work to the wishes and needs of the population, there was no official participatory body. The citizens of the Zona Observatorio were basically excluded from decision-making. The second more informal and structureless Casa del Museo, as well, had no mechanism that would have enabled the population to control "its" museum. Here, informally and in direct contact with interested citizens, the museum used self-government structures that already existed in the community to enable the residents of Santo Domingo, together with museum staff, to have de facto control over Casa del Museo and determine what activities were to be carried out. Considering the particular conditions under which the Casa del Museo II operated, I believe that theirs was a perfectly acceptable way to confer competence on a "new" museum’s target group.
The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum began with an informal founding committee. Every interested citizen could, in principle, take part and make proposals, express opinions on the planned projects, and discuss them with museum workers. Subsequently, this founding committee was turned into the museum’s official advisory committee, composed of 15 to 20 representatives of socially relevant groups and interested citizens. It met at irregular intervals with the museum director to give advice on upcoming project proposals, which are then, as a rule, developed by the museum. Concerning the competence vested in the population in connection with these two advisory groups, it should be noted that they are not bodies in which the population has an established right to participate, but merely advisory groups that the museum can consult. The committee’s advice and decisions are not binding on the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum.
Citizen participation has so far declined with the museum’s growing institutionalization that it practically has reached zero. The museum advisory committee’s insignificance need not necessarily mean such bodies are unsuited to represent community interests. Rather, in Anacostia’s case, the situation is owing to the change in the way the museum views itself. Advisory committees can harmonize the museum and the local population, but this always presupposes good will and readiness to negotiate on the part of the museum, since the advisory group has no specific decision-making power. However, in view of the concept of the "new" museum as a grass-roots organization, it is not enough merely to consult the community. Rather, structures must be created to assure that the population has specific areas of competence.
The ecomuseums may serve as models, since their democratic structural framework of citizen involvement allows for far-reaching decision-making authority. The ecomuseums are based on citizens’ organizations in which anyone can participate, although local people hold a predominant position. In accordance with established organizational bylaws, the members meet regularly. They submit proposals and subject them to democratic decision-making processes. Likewise, members choose representatives to the museum’s board of directors, which functions as a management body communicating to the staff the expressed interests of the members. Although staff make many decisions independently in the course of their daily work, they are bound by and accountable to the membership and the board of directors. Both the Maison du Fier-Monde and the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce exhibit this complex participatory structure. In addition, the latter organized an executive committee and a users’ committee as well as five subject-related advisory committees.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce’s executive committee consists of a small group of board members who, together with the museum staff, follow the instructions of the board and membership, supervising the daily operations of the museum. This committee was set up because the board of directors was too large to effectively run daily operations.
Interested citizens from the ecomuseum’s various localities serve on the users’ committee. It selects a portion of the board of directors, who represent the specific geographic areas of the Haute-Beauce. Originally it served as a link between the museum and the Haute-Beauce population and functioned as such in the early days of the ecomuseum. When its initial vigor evaporated, the activities of the users’ committee gradually came to a standstill. To compensate, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce formed five new, subject-related working groups. But results of this step are very much in question, owing to the fundamental problem of citizen passivity.
In principle, the population of the Haute-Beauce could fully control the museum and make it its own tool. Nevertheless, on the basis of the two ecomuseums studied here, having a democratic participatory structure with wide-ranging decision-making authority available to the population, is in no way a guarantee that citizens will actually assume the positions to which they are entitled and exhaust the possibilities. Why is that? What is the matter? What must happen for the population to exercise its decision-making power, as new museology intends?
I have discussed some of the points relating to specific living conditions in connection with the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. However, I do not believe that grounds such as lack of time are sufficient to explain the population’s reserve. The fact is people always find ways to engage in matters that directly affect their everyday lives and that they consider to be important. In my opinion, it must be concluded that the museums in question either have not succeeded in proving their worth to the population or do not understand the resident’s everyday life.
Committed citizens who expect to benefit concretely from the "new" museum behave in a rather reserved and passive way toward the ecomuseums that I studied. They do not speak up and decide for themselves what should take place in the museum. Although some of these "new" museums have a democratic participatory structure, a serious problem exists with regard to relations between specialists and lay community members. Specialists control the museum’s everyday operations and decision-making processes. Most projects are developed by professionals and presented for approval to the bodies representing the population, where discussion is frequently too short because of time pressures imposed by the specialists. Because community relations is neglected or handled superficially, many projects are out of step with the everyday reality of those concerned. Also citizens taking part feel that too much is expected of them and they cannot keep up with the fast pace of museum activities. Thus, working groups and committees become simple implementation bodies whose volunteers merely receive orders. In this way the rift between specialists and population is broadened rather than bridged.
The specialists have not fulfilled their promise to cooperate on an equal basis with representatives of the population (an exception is Casa del Museo II). In practice, cooperation between specialists and residents creates inequalities and hierarchies—either intended or unintended. What results is a pseudo-participation that serves to cover up the actual power structures in the museum’s everyday work. It appears appropriate, therefore, to examine the museologist’s role and authority in the "new" museum.
Cooperation based on equal rights presumes that the participants enjoy comparable initial conditions. In the "new" museums I studied this presumption is not a given. Professionals differ from the population in having more education and knowledge and occupy the museum’s executive positions. To curtail the museologist’s excessive authority an appropriate structure can be devised that gives the population extensive opportunities for control. In practice, however, as shown above, this is not enough, since the population feels intimidated by the specialists and not sufficiently informed. In the end, those involved in the on-going work process, that is, the professional employees, make the decisions.
Only a change in the behavior and self-view of the museum professional can remedy this problem. This depends chiefly on an act of individual will. In this respect, new museology shows interesting parallels to "action anthropology," which primarily seeks new respectful relationships between an anthropologist and a given population, which place the anthropologist radically in the service of the population concerned (cf. Seithel 1986). The congruence in approach between so-called "action anthropology" and new museology will be clear from the following quotation (Seithel 1986:336f): "It is not enough for the new cultural anthropology . . . to produce knowledge within the boundaries set by the conventional scientific methods and information theories, which have . . . little or no relevance for the problems of the people being studied. Rather than that, it goes beyond the traditional scientific framework . . . and assumes, on behalf of the suppressed peoples and ethnic groups fighting for their physical and cultural survival, the responsibilities and tasks incumbent on it because of its intellectual knowledge and capabilities. . . . The action anthropologist acts, intervenes, changes; he understands his values and knowledge as guidance for social and political practice. He wants to be a catalyst, supporter and participant in the processes of change, renewal and resistance."
Seithel’s remarks (1986) on the role of the action anthropologist, borrowed basically from the approaches of Sol Tax and Karl Schlesier, are, in my view, directly transferable, with small changes, to new museology and can impart to it important impulses, which will be shown below.
The museologist (or any other specialist, motivator, etc.) who wants to work interactively with a given population on behalf of the "new" museum must attempt, in the first place, to share his or her knowledge and skills with the population. In the second place, the museologist must become acquainted with the population’s knowledge and skills through a learning process based on reciprocity and include these as a constituent element in the museum’s work. This applies similarly to the values, interests and needs underlying the museum’s work. This does not mean, in any sense, that an unrealistic demand for freedom from values should be placed on the museologist. The museologist cannot work independently of his or her own values and interests. However, these should be made explicit to the population and its representatives so that his or her position can be made clear and subject to assessment. The museologist must also be aware of the community’s constellation of values and interests and must consistently gear his or her work to them.
The view the "new" museologist has of him or herself is determined essentially by one’s function as a catalyst. A main task is to point out alternatives and perspectives regarding an area of concern expressed by the population, to discuss with the population the pros and cons and their consequences. The decision-making power, in accordance with the principles of the "new" museum, must rest exclusively with the people.
These principles are not taken sufficiently into consideration in the practice of new museology. Hence, it is deceitful to blame material constraints and other pragmatic considerations, which may be an artificial pressure placed on a community that the museum professionals do not feel because their priorities lie elsewhere. Should the museologist consider the decision-making process too ponderous, citing practical necessities can accelerate the decision. But, professional authority should never bring about something for which the community is not ready. In such an event, the project would, most probably, encounter misunderstanding, ignorance and, at worst, out-and-out rejection. While the project may look good on the museologist’s resume, it will be totally useless to the population.
By respecting the population group and entrusting it with full responsibility and freedom of decision, the "new" museologist can generate an increase in community self-awareness and self-confidence. In conjunction with new or revived knowledge and skills, this can lead to a population gradually assuming its rightful place in the "new" museum. This means managing the museum themselves—actively using it, initiating projects and carrying them out independently. The "new" museologist’s role, if needed or desired, will then be merely advisory, and ideally, in time, dispensable.
The "new" museologist’s function as a catalyst and adviser should be underscored by a decision not to occupy official museum positions such as director or chair. But this was certainly not the case in the museums studied here, in which all important positions were occupied by specialists. In these situations, the more developed the institution, the more the specialists tend to feel that they were indispensable and take the important positions.
In the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, despite the existence of a democratic participatory structure, power—in the sense of decision making and freedom to act—resided ultimately in the hands of those who carry out the museum’s daily work and occupy the corresponding positions. Hence the need to train nonprofessionals to occupy the important positions of permanent employees and thus determine the museum’s work themselves.5 Possibly citizens occupying these positions could have a specialist assigned (who would retain an advisory status) to discharge jointly the tasks at hand and thereby provide non-formal, practical professional education.6
In general, the "new" museum’s promise of grass-roots democracy is a long way from being fulfilled. It is evident that mechanisms to stem institutionalization and prevent the museum from becoming autonomous, which opens the museum to the will of the community, enjoy only limited success and raise numerous problems themselves. Noble aims, principles and a responsive museum-structure are frequently not enough to generate broad grass-roots involvement and establish the museum as an instrument of local self-determination in service of the population. One of the main problems is motivating residents in the first place and stimulating their cooperation. Important points of departure center onto the "new" museum’s ability to make itself useful and relevant to the community’s everyday world.
The "new" museum’s work ideally reflects an integrated approach that best fulfills its objectives and basic principles. This approach first establishes the subject matter of the "new" museum and then proposes a way to tackle it.7
While the object forms the main subject in traditional museums (thus, a materialized cross-section of reality), the "new" museum selects human interaction with the cultural and natural milieu as the focus of its various tasks. Thereby it attempts to do justice to the complex everyday reality of its various target groups. For museum practice to record and interpret this complex reality, an interdisciplinary and theme-oriented approach is demanded, one that links past, present and future.
The case studies have shown that the museums in question have partly satisfied this general requirement in their work, particularly their consideration of sociocultural aspects. Human society as the bearer of a given cultural heritage always stands at the center of the "new" museum’s work. However, the human-ecological dimension of its subject matter, that is, the interaction between people and their natural environment, has been severely neglected in practice.
The only museum that explicitly includes the natural environment in its sphere of responsibility is the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, which is located in a rural area. However, it should be noted that the museum devotes itself primarily to the pleasant aspects of nature, that is, to the beauties of the landscape. Ecological problems that directly affect and detract from the lives of the residents of the Haute-Beauce, such as, for example, acid rain and water pollution, have thus far received no attention as subjects of the museum’s work.
It should be emphasized here that even urban museums (Casa del Museo I, Casa del Museo II, Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde) devote themselves almost exclusively to sociocultural aspects of reality and ignore the ecological plight of their cities. Yet this is one of the areas in which museum work could improve the quality of life and represent a significant advance in the realization of the objectives of the "new" museum. The question "Just where is nature in the city?" is characteristic of a short-sighted view of nature that does not respond to the requirements of a post-industrial society threatened by ecological collapse. Air and water pollution, wasted energy, garbage disposal and contaminated, nutrient-poor food are examples of current ecological problems "new" museums must tackle. This is especially true for ecomuseums, the very name of which implies such an orientation. Its prefix "eco-" must be reflected in practice.
A multi-dimensional subject matter requires an interdisciplinary approach. However, the subject matter of the "new" museums studied here has thus far been oriented in practice primarily to the sociocultural aspects of community life. They have taken only preliminary steps in adopting an interdisciplinary approach. Like the Casa del Museo I, the Mexican Program for the Development of the Educational Function of Museums has an interdisciplinary team, but this is hardly reflected in its programs. In the case of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, historians staff the department that prepares programmatic content. Accordingly, with the exception of exhibits on African-American art, the museum focuses exclusively on social or cultural history. The same applies to the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde. Of museums examined here, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce stands out by defining its subject matter in a multidimensional way and creating interdisciplinary displays and programs. Nevertheless, the subjects of its programs are predominantly one-dimensional.
It is difficult for a museum to realize an interdisciplinary approach in practice. Even when ideal initial conditions exist through the presence of various departments such as natural history and ethnology, structural constraints and "snobbery" often stand in the way of real interdisciplinary cooperation. The result often is a situation where elements of natural history and ethnology coexist but are unrelated. If they are to live up to their claims, "new" museums must avoid this kind of juxtaposition.
A further distinguishing element of the "new" museum is its theme-centered approach. In contrast to the object-centered work of traditional museums, "new" museums adopt theme-oriented formulations, which applies increasingly to modernized traditional museums as well.
All museums studied exhibit this characteristic. While traditional museums concentrate on collecting, studying and conserving objects, for the purpose of aesthetic display in a glass case, only topics drawn from the reality of the population’s life are decisive for "new" museums. Some examples include: "Day of Death" (Casa del Museo I), "The Mexican Revolution" (Casa del Museo II), "Evolution of a Community," "Black Churches" (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum), "Between the Factory and the Kitchen" (Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde) and "Appropriation by the Citizens of the Haute-Beauce of their Environment" (Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce).
Objects serve to illustrate themes. They have no value in themselves for "new" museums, but simply help tell the story. Even the exhibits of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce on baptismal clothing or tools, which may be object-oriented in nature when considered superficially, always intended to make a connection with the life and work of women, manual workers, and farmers. Objects appear only because of their thematic significance. The exhibition’s title clearly illustrates this emphasis: "The Woman through Baptismal Clothing" and "The Language of the Tool."
The only museum among the case studies that deviates from exclusive theme-oriented practices is the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, where about half of the shows are extremely object-oriented art presentations that parallel the practices of traditional art museums in every way. Although the object-centered nature of a recent exhibit, "Contemporary Visual Expression," was somewhat modified by a video and educational material, the visual impression a visitor received was a series of pictures on a wall, with tiny labels indicating only the artist’s name and the title. Probably, most visitors did not know how to decode works of art. I believe, therefore, that a "new" museum must place works of art in interpretative contexts so that the visitor can approach them as a learning experience. The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum could have shown how modern art reflected aspects of current social reality.
Regarding its obligation to link past, present and future, if "new" museums wish to be true to their claims and be useful to their public in understanding the present and shaping the future, they must be both relevant and concerned.
Illustrations of these approaches can certainly be found among "new" museums. For example, the workshops of the Casa del Museo II on themes such as "Home Construction," "Nutrition" and "Health Care," and the exhibition "The Rat" of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, clearly derive from current problems their respective populations face. In other examples such as "Evolution of a Community" (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum) and "Workers’ Housing" (Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde), an effort was made to view historical themes from present-day perspectives. However, their effectiveness is questionable since current points of view were often added on to the end of the exhibits and remain relatively unconnected to the rest of the exhibit.
With the exception of these examples, a large part of the programs of the "new" museums that were studied, as well as of traditional museums, had an exclusively historical orientation and are, therefore, relatively worthless as tools for helping the population cope with the present and shape the future. In my opinion, "new" museums must make increased efforts in this regard. History may not be confined to the past, but must be used in order to show the historical development of present-day reality. The core question for history should not be "How was it once?" but: How does it happen that we have this or that problem today? What choices or what decisions underlie it? Who made it? What possibilities do we have today to determine our future ourselves? What should this future look like? Only when "new" museums proceed on the basis of the present, do they stand a chance of influencing the future.
In this regard, cooperation with other local and regional organizations and institutions that are active in the social, economic and political spheres can provide support and help the museum go beyond its own traditional limits and achieve social relevance.
The Casa del Museo II, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde and the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce have sought out and successfully practiced cooperation with non-cultural organizations. (The Casa del Museo I had, by and large, shown itself to be self-sufficient.) Those tasks that these museums carried out in cooperation with non-museum bodies such as schools and professional associations reflect close relationships to the present. However, as previously noted, the historical perspective sometimes fares badly. In their contacts with the outside world, "new" museums should generally work in a more focused and methodical fashion than they have up to the present. In addition to selective actions, long-term cooperative programs must be developed that permit the museums to introduce the heritage they preserve into the process of social change.
Regarding the specific, integral approach of the "new" museum, which constitutes the prerequisite for being able to record and influence complex reality, a large number of gaps and problem areas can be identified. But it must be remembered that the formulation and interpretation of the individual museum task is as important as the approach followed.
The basic tasks of the "new" museum do not differ from those of traditional museums: to collect, document, study, conserve and communicate a given heritage. However, "new" museums differ from conventional museums in that they ascribe utilitarian value to the tasks of preservation and connect the work to non-museum aims. Thus there are crucial differences in comparison to traditional museums.8 The special, socially oriented objectives of "new" museums necessitate broader shifts of emphasis and changes with respect to the interpretation of the individual tasks. The "new" museum is distinguished by the fact that it seeks to provide interested citizens with non-formal, museum-specific education and subjects itself to continual review (education and evaluation).
As the case studies show, the tasks of the "new" museum vary considerably in practice. All of the museum activities cited above are basically acts of preserving and activating a given heritage. The collection of objects, one of the premiere tasks of traditional museums, is viewed as the structural characteristic that distinguishes a museum from other similar institutions: archives, exhibition and cultural centers (cf. Definition of the Museum ICOM 1974:1). On the other hand, for the "new" museums studied here, amassing collections of objects is of secondary importance. As a rule, this is a thorn in the side of established museum curators and earns for the "new" museum the reproach of critics who believe they are not "real" museums at all.
With one exception, the museums studied lack museum-housed collections. "New" museums target those groups whose cultural riches are not manifested so much in material objects and writing as in oral traditions, personal history and everyday experiences that are threatened with extinction. The concept of culture on which the "new" museum’s work is based is more comprehensive. It includes areas such as the culture of everyday life, speech and collective memory. This expanded concept of culture, which goes far beyond the area of official culture as manifested materially, leads to a re-conceptualization of the cultural heritage to be preserved. It requires the museum to change its collection practices and surmount the conventional museum focus on objects.
The Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde, like the Casa del Museo I and the Casa del Museo II, borrows objects from the residents, which are returned after being used. This was also the case, at first, with the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, which enhanced its exhibitions with objects from the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and, more and more, from private collectors and galleries. Moreover, in its evolution into a traditional museum, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum plans to acquire its own, museum-housed collection of objects. This surely reflects its desire to be recognized as an independent museum.
The only museum that has a museum-housed collection is the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce. This is a representative collection of objects from the region’s everyday culture. It was already in existence in the region and served as the pretext for establishing the museum. However, the museum itself does not collect. Like the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde in Montreal, the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce treats the natural environment and material and non-material cultural expressions as the heritage to be preserved, because it helps establish local identity and the potential to change. Collecting takes place in the original contexts, outside the walls of the museum building. This requires identification of representative elements of the heritage considered most relevant by the community. These may include architecture, social institutions, everyday objects and, in the Haute-Beauce particularly, the landscape. These are the names of only the most significant examples.
In contrast to traditional museums, which ascribe to objects a value in themselves, "new" museums—particularly ecomuseums—view the material heritage as having an illustrative function relative to non-material traditions of thought, manifested in oral history. Collection emphasis in ecomuseums is placed on the population’s true-life story. It is a reconstruction of the collective memory based on interviews with members of the community. Examples include "The Anacostia Story," an oral history project of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, the works of the Maison des Gens de St. Hilaire in the Haute-Beauce and the series of interviews, "Between the Factory and the Kitchen" of the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde. The collective memory, community values and identity patterns it contains form an elementary component of the "new" museum’s collection practice.
Establishment critics occasionally charge that this kind of collection policy opens the door to arbitrariness and neglects important classes of objects. Yet objects in traditional museums also have no value in themselves but illustrate the world-view and values of the scholars doing the collecting. Thus, for example, established museums of cultural history systematically ignore the material heritage of the working-class, because it is considered not to belong to the official, bourgeois cultural material deemed worthy of preservation. Thus, the distinction between "new" and traditional museums resides less in the esteem shown to objects than in who determines their value and from what viewpoint. In the "new" museum, the community decides what it identifies itself with and consequently, what is worth preserving. Collective memory guides this process of reconstructing community history. Considering the systematic neglect of certain social groups by traditional museums, I think it is perfectly legitimate for "new" museums to devote themselves to those groups and have them determine what to collect based on their interests and needs for identification.
The risk that only positive identification markers of a culture would be selected was addressed previously. The collective memory of the Haute-Beauce, for example, appears to reveal considerable gaps in regard to the treatment of the region’s Native American population. But the same may be said of much Canadian history that—with a few exceptions—is absent from the country’s official, scholarly historiography. In my opinion, therefore, the objectivity of the reconstruction of history depends not so much on whether it is conducted by scholars or laymen as on the procedure employed and on the exhaustion of all available sources.
Collective memory is an invaluable witness of the heretofore undiscovered history of the daily lives of a broad stratum of the population. In this way, it expands the traditional spectrum of historical research. It constitutes one version of history, beside others; it is neither more nor less objective than the others. What distinguishes this history is the role played by the community in forming the collection.
Collection practices of "new" museums, therefore, extends strongly into the areas of research and documentation. For "new" museums, collecting means primarily gathering information about the living and working conditions of a given population, in which the investigation of data (research) and the recording of data (documentation) play prominent roles. The data holders that constitute the so-called "community collection" can basically be all components of a sociocultural and natural environment (see above).
Collective memory here determines all aspects of the museum’s collection focus and helps place the "real" collections in a social context, whether they are housed in the museum or located outside of it.
The specific collection practices of the museums studied (this is true in particular of ecomuseums) always center on documenting interrelationships. What the storeroom is to the traditional museum, the documentation center is to the "new" museum. Both the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde and the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce have such a documentation center or archive of the community collection. Here photographs and drawings of remembered images are kept along with publications and documents, that is, evidence of the overall material and non-material heritage of a place or region and its context.
For the "new" museum with no or a limited collection, the documentation center makes up the core of its work. It is, in fact, the collection itself. In the case of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, the archive or documentation center does not house, for example, the 60 baptismal dresses that the museum exhibited. Instead, it maintains inventory cards on each object, notes the memories of its owners and has publications and photographs that elucidate the functional context of the object. The baptismal dresses themselves remain in the possession of the original users, along with a duplicate of the inventory card.
For "new" museums, recording information about a given heritage and "knowing about" it are acts of conservation. This unorthodox view of conservation evokes loud protests from traditional curators, which I believe are unjustified. The protection of the object may perhaps not always be sufficiently assured, but one must ask whether this is always the case in traditional museums. Certainly not! Especially in small museums, comparable to the ones we are dealing with here, there are indeed storerooms with prevailing conditions of conservation that leave much to be desired. Objects there are not always protected from moisture, dryness, light and dust, or from being eaten by insects, etc. Ecomuseums, in fact, make a virtue of not having adequate or suitable storage facilities by attempting to sensitize the local population to be careful stewards of their objects, historical monuments and natural environment. In this way the heritage in question can be preserved in situ by the population itself.
Unlike traditional museums, the "new" museum always links the preservation of a given heritage to its communication, since it is not conserved for itself, but is seen in association with its bearers. Communication is at the same time an act of conservation, for it expands the knowledge of a given heritage and thereby imparts value to it, opening up possibilities for its preservation.
"New" museums must emphasize communication because of their fundamental orientation toward the public and their self-view as agents of education and information. Compared with other tasks—including administration—that bring about learning by involving the population, the museums studied comply broadly with their educational function through varied programs of activities and events. In distinction to traditional museums, whose only public-oriented measure still consists frequently in putting up permanent exhibits and otherwise leaves the visitors to themselves, "new" museums attempt to perform active, focused communication work with all the means at their disposal. It should be stressed, however, that in recent years a change may be seen in modernized traditional museums so that the lines dividing them from "new" museums are becoming partially blurred.
In their communication work, "new" museums emphasize exhibitions. Depending on the professional standards and the costs, the museums studied mount (or mounted) from one exhibit per year (Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde, Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, Anacostia Neighborhood Museum) to fourteen per year (Casa del Museo II, Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in the early phase, five to nine). However, because "new" museums do not as a rule have collections, exhibits are rarely permanent. Even the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, which has its own collection, gives it relatively little space and concentrates its main attention on mounting special exhibits. Moreover, the fact that the permanent exhibit has changed twice in seven years suggests it is not static but rather an evolving display.
While traditional museums are chiefly concerned with increasing the number of visitors to achieve a quantitative improvement, "new" museums are more interested in qualitative considerations. To build ongoing relations with a community, in which exhibiting is only one approach, is an important precondition for achieving social relevancy. When the museum has nothing new to offer, the public’s interest may be exhausted for the next five or ten years after a single museum visit. As a result, the museum is little more than entertainment. "New" museums wish to remedy this. In their temporary exhibitions, they learned from established museums that only by varying their offerings can a museum create a permanent relationship with a community. This variety allows for new impulses and awakens new interests among visitors.
"New" museums also deploy complementary methods of communication that interpret exhibit content. These include elements that since the 1970s have also played an increasing role in the communication work of modernized, established museums: publications, lectures, sound and slide shows, films, musical and theatrical events, guided tours of the museum, tours outside the museum and, above all, educational events that give the visitor opportunities for active involvement (the "participatory" museum), material for school groups, curriculum material for teachers, orientation events for teachers, work with target groups (for example, children, youth, women, representatives of specific occupational groups, senior citizens, etc.), publicity work (recruitment), etc.; no limits are put on the imagination. In general education work is probably the area in which "new" museums correspond most closely to established museums.
The above-mentioned activities and programs may give the appearance, as in traditional museums, of being a pure, unilateral item of consumption the museum offers to visitors who are there merely to receive it. This is indeed partly the case. But over and above that, the "new" museums try hard to involve interested citizens to be actors and producers in their activities and programs, as well as in other areas of museum work such as administration, collection, research, documentation and conservation. One of their particular concerns, therefore, which distinguishes them from traditional, strongly professionalized museums, is in the informal way they impart knowledge and skills toward making interested citizens able to act independently and assume more responsibility for aspects of the museum’s work.
The educational activities of the museums studied are carried out on many different levels. The workers of the Casa del Museo II were satisfied with giving interested citizens some explanations in a rather informal way; the design and production unit of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum at one time ran a program to train young people to be exhibit specialists. It had a very strong element of vocational training.
Until recently, the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde did no training of volunteers, because its staff considered volunteerism to be exploitation. In my opinion, they misunderstood the nature of volunteer work. In distinction to other social contexts, no one is forced to become an unpaid volunteer. It is each person’s decision whether, how often and how long to volunteer, therefore there can be no question of it being exploitation. Incidentally, training is well suited to enabling volunteer workers to develop their skills and learn to work independently.
As the experience of the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde demonstrates, when citizens work over a longer period of time, the institution wants to pays them for it. So the museum tries to create jobs, at least temporarily. In view of its present mode of financing through subsidies, the Maison du Fier-Monde’s qualification of volunteers as specialists can definitely be useful as a strategy to enable the museum to take advantage of work-creation opportunities and other measures.
Later, the Maison du Fier-Monde revised its volunteerism policy. In a large-scale project to study the industrial history and deindustrialization of the Centre-Sud neighborhood, the museum has begun training residents as lay historians to enable them to research their own history. The training introduced them to the methods and techniques of historical research and then they are assigned to work with various community groups.
The experimental project serves primarily to test various methods of preparing history "from below." One of the end products will be a handbook on popular historical research. It is based on examples done by Sven Lindquist (1978) in Sweden and Kinter/Kock/Thiele (1985) in the Federal Republic of Germany. In my opinion, the Ecomusée de la Maison du Fier-Monde has correctly employed specific training measures to stimulate citizens to take an active part in the museum’s work—not only in research, but also in documentation, conservation and the presentation of research results.
In Mexico, training has been integral since the inception of the Program for the Development of the Educational Function of the INAH Museums. Promoters received an introduction to museology in their training course. They acted as multipliers, passing on their knowledge to the population at individual museum sites. In this case, the target audience was organized into working groups devoted to research, documentation, exhibits and interpretation.
The Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce occasionally offers courses in popular museology or continuing-education workshops linked to specific projects. The spectrum of themes investigated by these courses and workshops is largely identical to that of the Mexican working groups. Participants in the course, offered for the whole region, convey the knowledge gained through training to their local committees. This enables local groups to plan and implement certain projects independently. Examples of efforts realized by this method include the Maison des Gens de St. Hilaire and the history learning path in Ste. Clothilde.
The museology courses offered in the Haute-Beauce have remained more or less selective events. In view of their unquestioned success, one must ask why the courses are not held more frequently and made into a permanent fixture of the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce’s programs. Having a large number of committed and trained citizens capable of undertaking museum tasks independently can form an effective counterweight to the progressive professionalization of "new" museums. More should be done to train these "barefoot museologists."
Evaluation also distinguishes "new" museums from traditional ones and underscores its public orientation. However, the comparative study of "new" museums shows that well-directed evaluation that would make it possible to continually adapt the museum’s work to the changing interests and needs of a given population has received decidedly short shrift in practice.
For example, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in its twenty years of existence has commissioned only one study, in 1984, to determine how the population would react if the museum were moved and, in fact, such a plan was already in effect. Despite the large number of critical remarks, the move took place. In addition, museum visitors have the opportunity to write their comments about the museum on little cards. These comments are collected and delivered to museum workers, but have not been systematically evaluated. This renders the practice relatively worthless in making conclusions regarding the museum.
Both of the ecomuseums recognized the need to carry out systematic evaluation. Nevertheless, this has not progressed beyond compiling visitor statistics. Evaluating museum effectiveness is still done within the framework of informal conversations with visitors and regular discussions among the staff. Lack of time and personnel is cited as the main reason for neglecting evaluation work. But I believe this is just an excuse, because facts such as the organization of work and the setting of priorities determine management decisions. By attempting to carry out too many activities, these museums place themselves under great pressure. As a result, not only are staff stretched too thin to do their job, but the population has a hard time keeping up.
Better for all participants to pause and assess the results and effectiveness of their various activities in the form, for example, of systematic interviews. The goal would be to optimize the museum’s work with regard to achieving its fundamental objectives and principles. Ideally, an evaluation phase should be scheduled as part of planning individual projects. Only when evaluation is seen as an integral project component, can it achieve its significance in practice. Lack of time and personnel would no longer stand in the way of conducting critical evaluations. Staff responsible for evaluation could acquire the necessary skills through participating in continuing-education courses, by consulting advisers and through on-going study of the relevant literature.
To evaluate means asking fundamental questions and it presumes a willingness to learn. My studies in Mexico indicate it is easier to evaluate an avowedly experimental project. In such situations it is the crucial component which is being examined for its effectiveness. Both experimental phases of the Casa del Museo projects were subjected to thorough evaluation. It was possible to identify problems in the relationship between the museum and the community and take measures to remedy them. When comparing Casa del Museo I and Casa del Museo II, significant changes and advances became apparent. The results of the evaluation are evident in the improvements made in the concept and the implementation strategies of the Program for the Development of the Educational Function of the INAH Museums. Moreover, the new program itself and the current work of promoters and coordinators are subject to continual, systematic evaluation and change.
In this respect the Mexican museum projects distinguished themselves from all other studied. It is clear that goal-directed museum work can be significantly optimized through critical evaluation of prior experience. When museums face a crisis, as is the case currently with the Ecomusée de la Haute-Beauce, a museum should examine its prior activities in a critical way. Such evaluations make it possible to reach systematic, relevant conclusions before rushing into new actions that may cover up and intensify the problems. Despite innumerable activities, some museums show no real progress toward problem-solving. Since there is no concrete evaluation data that could form the solid basis for goal-directed action, it appears workers concerned are more or less left to their intuition. Therefore, one wonders if the highly extolled dynamic of "new" museums is rather an appearance of movement that leads nowhere.
4.6 Critical assessment
What actually is this new museology? How is it faring in practice? How do promise and reality interact? What general conclusions can be drawn from this analysis of "new" museums? Some possible answers are summarized below.
Proceeding from an expanded concept of culture inspired by ethnological theory, the demand arose at a time of radical social change for a far-reaching democratization of culture. From this demand emerged the concept of the "new" museum. It is based on the assumption that culture can be both the subject and instrument of an emancipatory educational process directed toward democratic social change. The innovative approach of new museology to modern museum work supplements and expands that of traditional museums. In part, it also presents alternatives.
Although new museology originated in the examination of practical museum experiences, it is not in the strict sense a scientific theory derived from systematic, empirical research. Rather it is a relatively diffuse constellation of ideas consisting basically of instructions for programmatic action. Because new museology, as an action-oriented concept, does not form a conclusive whole, representatives attempted to identify and systematize its "new" elements and link them together in an analytical schema (see chapter 2). We are dealing, then, with a theoretical construct of an ideal "new" museum, which I developed from my analysis of the discourse of new museologists at a certain point in time and under specific conditions. Its validity depends on existing conditions. New museology does not have a definitive character that excludes the possibility of change. The lack of a dogmatic schema should not prevent a wider dissemination of its nature and possibilities, to make new museology useful for those beyond the circle of its partisans.
For many of its representatives, new museology is a dynamic process of seeking innovative forms of museum work. It is less directed to the development of definitions and theories than being strongly action-oriented. The concrete actions are substantiated intuitively rather than rationally. Attempts at analytical clarification and delimitation are occasionally characterized as "resistance to change" and "against new museology" (René Rivard, discussion of 11-18-86). New museologists worry that when one defines what new museology is, it will lose its dynamic and possibility for innovation. This is, in my view, incomprehensible and unjustified. Any attempt at definition can only be provisional and invite discussion and clarification. It is open to new experiences and knowledge. By refusing to be pinned down, new museologists risk maneuvering the new museology into a dead end and depriving it of criticism and assessment, that is, in the end, preventing change.
The principal objective of this monograph has been to make new museology accessible to review through the systematic, empirical study of its programs so that problem areas can be identified. Although the problem areas of the individual museums differ, comparison reveals certain consistencies that allow general conclusions. The case studies have shown that those elements of the "new" museum that promise to contrast with traditional museums are, on the whole, still relatively underdeveloped. This constitutes one of its greatest problem areas.
The following elements can be characterized as problematic: the objectives of development and coping with everyday life; the structural elements such as a low degree of institutionalization, financing from local resources, participation and non-hierarchical teamwork; and the work areas of collection, documentation, research, conservation, evaluation and education.
Other problem areas identified include the fundamental principle of public orientation, the structural element of decentralization and, with regard to approach, the definition of the museum’s theme as complex reality, interdisciplinarity and cooperation with other organizations. Decentralization and outside cooperation differ significantly among the various museums.
On the other hand, those elements that vary little from the practice of modernized traditional museums can be characterized as relatively problem-free. These include the objective of building identity, the fundamental principle of territoriality, the theme-centered approach and the task of communication. Thus, one might say that at first glance the practice of "new" museums is not dissimilar to that of modernized traditional museums. However, this should not obscure the existence of basic conceptual differences.
In my view, the problems that arise when implementing the innovative elements of the "new" museum in no way suggest that the allegedly new is basically identical to the traditional, or that going beyond traditional practice is impossible. On the contrary, the "new" museum, like any other social innovation, must surmount enormous obstacles. Evidently, strategies for doing this have not (yet) taken hold. The model of the "new" museum as outlined above, is and generally remains, a goal. As in the case of action anthropology (cf. Seithel 1986:308), goals and methods are fused together in a process of learning and action. Methods are at the same time goals, and the formulation of goals is method and action. The elements that make up the "new" museum are, on the one hand, a precondition for the "new" museum and, on the other hand, its product.
As this study demonstrates, many of the problems occur in areas associated with social integration and relevance. What I believe has not been adequately addressed in practice is the need for critical, unqualified respect for each community, for its peculiarities, interests, needs and abilities, and for its accessibility and its rhythm. The solution is to create and maintain an ongoing process of interaction between the museum and the population.
Only committed involvement and critical distance can bring to reality the idea of the "new" museum as an educational instrument in the service of social development.
_____________1In the following comparative analysis, specific textual references to the case studies are generally not made. However, where it seems appropriate, I have noted the case studies to which the remarks refer.
2Within the framework of the present work, the extraordinarily complex subject of "development" cannot be dealt with in a preliminary manner, let alone comprehensively. Therefore, it is addressed here only in so far as it concerns the "new" museum.
3Although these basic principles will be treated separately, they touch on all aspects of the "new" museum, hence the need for repeated references to them in the following sections.
4Chapter 4.3 will deal with the overall problem of "participation" in greater detail.
5But the mere fact that important positions are occupied by the citizens does not completely preclude the danger that power will be misused.
6Pay inequality could be solved by splitting the salaries.
7The specific approach followed by the "new" museum is reflected in basically all areas of its work. However, because it is manifested most clearly in the museum’s programs, the examples cited below are drawn mainly from this area.
8However, I consider this to be perfectly legitimate against the background of the underlying, broadened cultural concept and the general claim of democratization of the "new" museum. It does not prevent, in any way, the classification of "new" museums as museums.
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1The bibliography is reproduced in its entirety from the German edition of this monograph. Not all of the references listed below appear in the English-language edition, but they are included here to assist the reader who may wish to pursue the subject in greater depth.
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GANSLMAYR, Herbert. Le rôle des musées dans les régions sahéliennes [The role of Museums in the Sahel Region]. Bremen, 1981 (unpublished manuscript).
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