Team sport

by • 18 Jun, 2015 • Case studies, Thoughts about museumsComments (0)10757

The future of cultural heritage is a team sport

Last month I was asked by Flemish policy makers to define the future of heritage, culture and art institutions. I defined it as a team sport (amongst others). Not as an analogy – ‘it is like a team sport’ – no, what I meant is it is team sport. Something you do together and are responsible for together.

A while back we started mapping cases of participatory governance in cultural heritage in Europe. The result was stunning: all over Europe everyday citizens, heritage professionals, professional volunteers and many others are working together to manage, renovate, innovate and disseminate culture. The upcoming EENC paper about the topic is a joy to read (promised).

For instance, through the mapping I discovered the hopeful story of the Teatro Sociale Gualtieri. After being closed for renovation works in the 1980s, the theatre of Gualtieri never reopened. In 2006 a group of young people entered the construction site, which had been empty for nearly three decades. They fell in love with the place and decided the wait for government to take action was over. They started reconstructing the place, reopened it for performances and programmed ever more ambitious theatre productions. They reinvigorated the Teatro Sociale and ultimately got the government on board as well. Fantastic!

At the same time I interned with Björn Stenvers and discovered how he generates incredible value by encouraging all museums in Amsterdam (and elsewhere in the world) to work together.

Last week in Moscow I met the passionate director of the Rostov Kremlin. She told me how they completely reinvigorated the heritage site and museum by reconnecting with the local community. Every month there’s a special lecture for local citizens, every Sunday there are courses. They’re even training the community to become tour guides, contributing to the local economy and future-proofing their institution simultaneously.

A social institution involves all stakeholders. This goes beyond its visitors, even beyond its audiences. All stakeholders means employees are engaged, volunteers have a place in the organisation, partners and peers are actually involved and the local community plays a role in the institution. Not just as recipients, but as active participants. As in a team sport: everybody has a role to play, everybody shares responsibility for the result. You win, or lose, together.

With the FIFA falling apart, there may be an opening for a new, universal team sport. I suggest this sport is culture, heritage and the arts. The great cases of participatory heritage and social institutions all over the world show us how to win, and with stakeholders like ours we don’t need a Blatter to make it work!

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