EU-LAC-MUSEUMS: Museums and Community: Concepts, Experiences and Sustainability in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean

Dr Karen Brown

Museums can provide vital services to their communities, providing under-represented people with a chance to stake a place in history, as well as contributing to sustainability, community empowerment and links between generations. Dr Karen Brown, Lecturer in the School of Art History and Museum and Gallery Studies and Director of the University’s Museum and Galleries Collections Institute, is leading a new EU-funded project exploring the role that small, community-run museums play in their communities. The EU-LAC-MUSEUMS project will run from 2016 to 2020, and investigate rural community museums in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. It will bring together researchers from Scotland, Portugal, Spain, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, and the West Indies. The project has received funding from Horizon2020, the EU’s biggest ever research and innovation programme.

Over the next four years, the international team of academics will investigate how rural, community-run museums can inform museum practice, particularly for remote and island locations. Two of the museums involved are Ceumannan-Skye Ecomuseum in Scotland, and the Rey Curré Museo Comunitario in Costa Rica, which is run by the native Boruca people. Both of these community museums are open air, and encourage visitors to explore the natural landscapes and traditional structures. It is hoped that the project will allow both academics and the public to better understand the benefits of, and challenges facing, such geographically isolated museums.

Dr Catherine Spencer
As well as academic work, the EU-LAC-MUSEUMS project will hold a youth exchange, bringing young people from each region together to work on an oral history project with community elders. This project will allow young people to engage with their society’s history, explore other cultures, gain skills in research techniques and IT, and learn to work effectively in a culturally diverse team. Community museum members will in addition produce a Virtual Exhibition with the help of St Andrew’s Open Virtual Worlds (www.openvirtualworlds.org). Some preliminary results from our first workshop in Shetland involving Alan Miller, Iain Oliver, Catherine Cassidy and Karen Brown can be seen here: https://sketchfab.com/models/cf20d43bd5e948c0bb53d82662ad30b9.

The project will also see the creation of an exhibition of Caribbean Contemporary Art on the theme of migration, curated by an international team including Dr Karen Brown, Dr Catherine Spencer (School of Art History), Dr Alissandra Cummins (University of the West Indies) and Verle Poupeye (National Gallery of Jamaica). This exhibition will tour the Caribbean and Europe from 2017 to 2020, including representation in the 2019 Venice Biennale.

A major partner in the EU-LAC-MUSEUMS project is ICOM (the International Council of Museums (www.icom.museum). Working with this organisation will allow the project to reach ICOM’s 35,000 members in 136 countries. The project will also reach the public through the Youth Exchange, exhibition and a website hosting all research output of the project, as well as audio-visual content and 3D models of museum objects. The project website will be available at http://eulacmuseums.net/. 

EU-LAC-MUSEUMS: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 693669.