Ethnographic and World Cultures Museums as Spaces of Care
In the course of the last few years, collaborating with representatives of indigenous groups and diaspora communities has become established practice at ethnographic and world cultures museums. Museums today realise that they are not only responsible for their collections but also for the people connected to them. Today, the museum’s core aims comprise more than collecting, preservation, research and education. We also focus on sharing cultural heritage, communicating knowledge, creating new approaches and healing colonial trauma, which may at times include returning artefacts. Comprising all these aims, the expression “taking care” functions as the title of a new EU project, which started on October 1, 2019. TAKING CARE is a cooperation project led by the Weltmuseum Wien; scheduled to run for four years, it brings together fourteen partner organisations and is co-financed by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, which has contributed two million euro.
Possible Solutions and Strategies to Overcome the Global Crisis?
TAKING CARE was born of the alarming environmental shifts and crises we are witnessing today, which have raised public awareness and anxieties about the future of our planet. Causes and extent are global but the negative effects of this global crisis are unequally distributed, affecting most intensely those whose positions are already most fragile, including indigenous and formerly colonised peoples. The project TAKING CARE focuses on the connection between ethnographic collections and questions regarding the Anthropocene and the climate crisis, and places ethnographic and world cultures museums at the centre of a search for viable strategies to overcome these challenges. Many artefacts in ethnographic collections recall landscapes that no longer exist, or contain ecological knowledge that can be made available in the context of joint research with communities of origin, designers, activists and artists, and used to create a sustainable future. One highly topical subject is the unjust distribution of cultural heritage and the possible restitution of artefacts. How best to collaborate to come up with just solutions?
Participatory and Artistic Research
The project’s topics will be discussed and examined at workshops, creative residencies and exhibitions, through artistic research, small lab meetings and in joint publications. We will develop a number of participatory practices, from hands-on sessions in small groups to large public events. We will creatively study the unused potential of our museums to look critically at the global past and at possibilities to shape a sustainable future. World cultures museums no longer regard themselves primarily as depositories but as places of encounters, discussion and experience, of social innovation and experiments. Here, different forms of knowledge and of being in a rich and varied world can be (re-)discovered, developed and publicly shared. Today, more than ever, we need such discursive spaces in Europe.
• Weltmuseum Wien/KHM-Museumsverband, Vienna (AT) – co-ordinator
• Statens museer för världskultur, Gothenburg, Stockholm (SE)
• Mucem – Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, Marseille (FR)
• Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen (DK)
• Linden-Museum Stuttgart (DE)
• Slovenski etnografski muzej, Ljubljana (SI)
• Museu Etnològic i de Cultures del Món/Institut de Cultura de Barcelona (ES)
• MARKK – Museum am Rothenbaum. Kulturen und Künste der Welt, Hamburg (DE)
• Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford – University of Oxford (UK)
• Musée royal de l'Afrique centrale, Tervuren (BE)
• Stichting Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, Leiden, Amsterdam, Berg en Dal (NL)
• Museum for Archaeology and Anthropology – University of Cambridge (UK)
• Museo delle Civiltà – Museo Preistorico Etnografico «Luigi Pigorini», Rome (IT)
• Culture Lab, Tervuren (BE)