Presentation abstracts

Keynotes abstracts

Poster presentation abstracts

Panel 1: Kenneth Hudson


Ana Moderno

Batalha Municipal Community Museum (Portugal)

A Community Museum in a Tourist Town 

The Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória is the height of Gothic in Portugal. It was built as a promise by King John I in commemoration of the Portuguese victory in the Royal Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. Today, Batalha, in the center of Portugal, is visited by thousands of tourists.

In this town we find the MCCB - Museu da Comunidade Concelhia da Batalha (Council Museum). Launched by the Batalha Municipality in 2011 as a joint work of many researchers and local people, it is located a stone's throw away from the Monastery.

In the museum, the county of Batalha is revealed, throughout the different sections, a journey stretching over 250 million years which includes the great transformations in geology and paleontology in the region, the human evolution, the Roman occupation and the construction of the monastery in Middle Ages. 

Visitors are also invited to get to know some of the topics of the Present and, among them, the sociocultural and economic characteristics of the people of the region. We can highlight its biodiversity, in which basic elements of nature, Air, Earth, Fire and Water are particularly important.

The museum is designed to be continually updated. It includes an area for temporary exhibitions and it is intended to be a place to bring together work and research by and for the Community around it.

By defining itself as an inclusive museum, the MCCB prepared an itinerary with several resources to welcome the visitors, including those with disabilities. Tactile experiences, guided paths, sign language, Braille, audio description, ergonomic furniture are some examples.


Christian Schicklgruber

Weltmuseum Wien (Austria)

Weltmuseum Wien 

The European Museum Forum presented the Weltmuseum Wien with the esteemed Kenneth Hudson Award in 2019. The jury explained its decision as follows: “Few European museums face in depth the colonial past or address its continued legacies in the 21st century. With unique intellectual honesty, the Weltmuseum Wien acknowledges the dilemmas embedded in its collections and strives to create a new identity as a contemporary museum that celebrates the cultural abundance of the planet and promotes respect for human rights, integration and cultural coexistence.”

Several galleries in our permanent exhibition are dedicated to our commitment of coming to terms with our past and its entanglement in the colonial context as well as our obligation of bringing light into the darkness around how our collections were acquired.   

Accepting these challenges, however, we still fundamentally believe that an ethnographic museum in the 21st century should, first and foremost, be a space of experience and reflection. The experience of the so-called “Other” must lead to our reflection on the “own”. Only then can our reflective view on the “own” increase our understanding of the “Other”. This is how museums turn into one of the few places in the world, where a profound debate on the intersections between cultures is possible. Ideas of the “Other” and the “own” are ultimately exposed as constructed concepts that have no place in today’s globalised world.       

Ethnographic museums are, so to say, ethically committed to bring people from the countries of origin of our collections into the museum. They should not be invited as mere visitors but instead be able to use the museum as a stage to establish direct contact to our audience. 

In close cooperation with a renowned theatre maker, we developed the project “The Power of Things”. Artists from different backgrounds of migration connected the stories of objects with their own stories in performative scenes. The uniqueness of the objects thus draws attention to the uniqueness of the people.

While visitors move from one fixed object to the next in a museum, they turn into fixed points themselves to watch what’s happening on the theatre stage. When such institutions as a museum and a theatre work together, their collaboration results in surprising connections between performance and exhibition. That is precisely the direction we will continue to pursue in the future.


Dina Sorokina

Yeltsin Center (Russia)

The Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center 

Located in Yekaterinburg, in the Ural region, Yeltsin Center is the first and currently the only presidential center and museum in Russia. Since our opening in November 2015, four years ago, we have welcomed almost 10 million visitors.

Yeltsin Center is not just a memorial to the first president of Russia. It is an institution with a broad mission. The main objective for the Center is to promote the development of civil society, democratic institutions and the rule of law. We aim to preserve the memory of the 1990s and Boris Yeltsin’s legacy by means of collecting, interpreting and exhibiting historical material related to that era. But at the same time, we also present an engaging educational programme of lectures, films, public debates, musical concerts and theatrical performances, readings, hands-on workshops, multimedia installations and arts exhibitions, international projects, programs for children, adults, people with disabilities, and many more.

As such, the Center represents the democratic values of freedom and democracy for modern Russia by offering a wide spectrum of opportunities to open a conversation about the topics of the past, the present and the future, in our country and beyond.

In 2017, Yeltsin Center was awarded by the European Museum Forum with the Kenneth Hudson Prize, which recognized our exhibition design, high level of multimedia, as well as our public programmes and efforts at “raising questions and provoking debate around issues such as democracy, freedom and liberty of speech.” Instead of dictating a certain viewpoint, we believe our visitors ought to draw their own conclusions. 

Creating an atmosphere where everyone can feel free to express their thoughts and ideas is one of the key objectives for staying relevant to our audience and the world.


Olinka Vištica

Museum of Broken Relationships (Croatia)

Emotional Collection – Universal Connections Lessons from the Museum of Broken Relationships 

At a time when the world’s biggest encyclopaedia is created by “every man”, in an era when seemingly much of our private lives are conducted in the public eye, irreversibly blurring the borders of public and private space, we often question our role of curators of a collection that relies exclusively on the crowdsourced material, on random contributions by the audience. Where do we position ourselves in using the autobiographical material in exploring the ways of painting a nuanced picture of contemporary love and relationships life, not only the enriching and worthy but also the difficult, the harmful and discriminating? What are the challenges and risks of our endeavours and how can we tap the power of personal artefacts, conflicting emotions, crowd sourced exhibitions in order to stay relevant i.e. involve and connect visitors in meaningful ways across growing divides of class, community, and culture that seem to define our world. 

How can a personal narrative become a “truthful” exhibit of a museum display or better - how do we set a scene that serves that purpose: a contemplative setting where elliptic, anonymous confessions tricked by ruse of fantasy, joking irony, bitter disappointment, sorrow, regret or unquenched longing can, paradoxically, outgrow the personal and become more universal, more human. We rely on the literary principles of composition, questioning, shedding light in order to transform the inanimate objects of scrutiny into evocative catalysts for reflection, intercultural learning and transformation on a more personal level. The Museum of Broken Relationships is an example of a contemporary contact zone that preserves individual stories from sinking into general societal processes through the live encounters between the visitors/observers and the exhibits/the storyteller. By creating the unique narrative of hybrid authorship, somewhere between the documentation of everyday life and its artistic sublimation, prying voyeurism and cultural anthropology it celebrates those moments when we truly meet one another which add unexpected cathartic rituals and bereavement support to the museums’ role in society.


Raivis Sīmansons

Žanis Lipke Memorial (Latvia)

Punching Above One’s Weight or the Role of Private Museums in Historical Memory Debate: Žanis Lipke Memorial in Riga 

The historical memory debate about difficult and sensitive issues is usually triggered by a non-governmental actor – an individual or organization – not least via popular history products such as novels, movies, theatre plays etc., but also through permanent in situ representational spaces – museums and memorials. Latvia is not an exception from the rule, especially when it comes to historical memory of the Holocaust, occupations, and resistance. In the decades after 1991, historical memory scene in Latvia has been dominated by a number of professional but privately run museums. State supported research programs and incorporation of some of these private initiatives into the national historical memory agenda have followed suit, yet the impact of these initiatives have not been assessed thus far.

Overall, this situation resembles the process of historical memory debate in the Western Europe after the Second World War. For example, The Anne Frank House Foundation in Amsterdam, established by the surviving family members in 1957 with modest initial purpose to preserve the hiding place, has since become a global brand of museum educational work in the area of freedom and equal rights. A lot of research has been carried out on what can be termed the relevance of private initiatives in view to their impact on historical memory debate, tourism, urban regeneration and place branding in the west. Little or practically no work has been done in assessing the impact of similar privately run historical memory agents in the Baltic.

The proposed paper will explore the impact of the Kenneth Hudson Prize winning Žanis Lipke Memorial as one of the most visible private memory agents in Latvia in view to its 10th anniversary in 2022. The focus will also be on museum practice especially what concerns the relevance of its educational work through its public initiatives, products, and services.

Panel 2: Impact


Eeva Teräsvirta, Marianne Koski and Pirjo Hamari

Finnish Heritage Agency (Finland)

Museums of Impact – How Museums Can Develop their Relevance in Society 

Museums need to take an active role in society by deciding what kind of societal impact they want to achieve and what kind of relevance they can, as institutions, have in society. That should be done by fostering dialogue with surrounding society and by engaging people and communities, supported by strategic goals.

From this premise we developed an “Evaluation and Development Framework” for the Finnish museums. The objective is to help museums increase their impact by supporting and developing the capacity of museums to evaluate and refocus their work. The content of the framework is a result of collaboration in Finnish museum sector and altogether more than 150 professionals took part in development process. 

The framework rests on six key evaluation areas:

·         Strategic choices and objectives

·         Communities, networks, customers and audiences

·         Resources

·         Competence and practices

·         The museum today

·         The museum in the long term 

Encouraged by the reception of the framework, and with the knowledge of other existing museum evaluation models in Europe, we successfully applied for funding from Creative Europe programme to create a new European-wide museum evaluation framework. The idea is to cross-fertilize of the already existing national and regional models to create a transnational model that is still scalable to any level. The project aims to provide museums with a tool, leading to new ways of management, increased efficiency and strategic thinking, and ultimately increased impact in society.

We wish to present the current status of the project, reflect on its background and transnational development, and discuss about its holistic perspectives with the delegates.


Gabriella Lo Iacono, Giulia Irene Tavecchio, Maria Cristina Vannini

Soluzionimuseali Ims (Italy)

Can Relevant Museum Activities Change People Life Style? Analysis of Italian Cases 

Relevance has been described as a cognitive process but in museological context it has more often been understood as the capacity of museums to interact, involve and build a relationship with their public. Relevance can be the ability of museums to connect to daily political and societal debate and to audience interests, affinities and day-to-day life. 

Museums generate different kinds of relevant activities, congruent with their mission, collections, goals and target. What is their process in selecting the topics? Which are the antennae that they activate among their public? Museums can connect to STEM education and equal gender opportunity, or raising awareness towards climate change and sustainability. Art museums can conceive art-therapy programmes while others can promote inclusion and bridging cultures. How can they be sure that what is relevant for them is relevant also for their communities and how do they build their programmes? We will focus on three big north-Italian museums to analyse the breadth and depth of their activities trying to build a model to evaluate their impact and to measure how much they can help visitors to change their life-style or dissipate prejudices.


Una Sedleniece, Jana Šakare

The Promotional Society of Museology in the Baltics (Latvia)

Evolution of Some Aspects of the Relevance Within the Recent Latvian Museum Landscape 

The aim of the presentation is to reveal several aspects of striving to achieve more relevance, existent in the recent Latvian museum practice. However, the intention is to sift out those aspects, which could be understandable and acceptable for a wider society, not to the museum professionals only. The report will be based on our practical knowledge and some observations of Latvian museum landscape, approximately during the last ten years.

The notion of a museum as an institution which is able to change lives of individuals is very inspiring one, indeed. Is it a catchy slogan only? Does it apply also us, in Latvia, here and now? How to predict the life changing potential of a certain museum? How to measure the essence and why? Who is in charge to nurture the museum relevance in a museum and who – in an entire country? We will try to answer these and other questions illustrating them with three cases of increase in relevance from Latvian museum landscape:

the Rainis and Aspazija museum has experienced an exciting evolution – starting from the threats to close it down in 2011 until becoming one of the EMYA special commendation receivers in 2018;

the evolution of the Latvian National Museum of Art during the first years after the reopening in 2016, has been performed with a strong emphasis on a new relevance to families, children and youth;

the Baltic Museology School since 2004 is a long-term collaborative project in the further education of museum professionals; a week-long educational programme each summer focuses on one aspect of museum work linking museum theory with practice in order for Baltic museums to become more relevant to the society.


Baiba Tjarve, Gints Klāsons

Research Centre of Latvian Academy of Culture (Latvia)

Relations Between Museums and Society in Latvia: Looking Behind the Data 

There has been very little research of museum visitors and non-visitors in Latvia, and no systematic inquiry into how museum performance corresponds to interests and needs of various social groups. The research project “The importance of museums for various target groups: Relation between museums and society”, that was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture of Latvia and was conducted by the Latvian Academy of Culture in 2018, aims to fill this gap and to provide in depth understanding of the social role museums in Latvia play using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. 

This research is the first attempt to do a multilayered analysis of museum audiences, putting statistical data in context of museum sector development from the early 1990s until today, future development trends in Latvia and the rest of the world, and overall changes in consumption of culture. 

The research objective was to find out and to analyze what social roles museums play in society, how accredited museums in Latvia (state, municipal, autonomous, private) address and work with various target audiences, how museum audiences have changed over the past 10 years, and then use this analysis to illuminate main mid- and long-term challenges and to suggest a framework for how social impact of museums might be monitored and measured. 

Data collection combined quantitative and qualitative approaches. The key quantitative research methods were analysis of museum statistics, a survey of population of Latvia (1040 respondents), survey of museum visitors (529 respondents), survey of museum management (116 respondents representing 150 museums). Key qualitative research methods were in-depth interviews with experts (13 interviews), focus groups with museum visitors and non-visitors (6 discussions), case analysis of specific museum practices (with respect to reaching specific audience), and content analysis of museum missions.

The presentation proposes meaningful analysis of data suggesting the most important aspects museums have to take into account to improve the interaction with their audiences and to expand their social significance.

Panel 3: Co-Developing for Wellness


Kristina Ahmas

K. H. Renlund Museum, Regional Museum Central Ostrobothnia (Finland)

Museum in Promoting the Well-being of Audiences  

I find it extremely important for museums to tackle burning social issues and ethical questions but from my experience I know that a museum may become a relevant place for promoting the wellbeing of audiences.

I focus the well-being in a two-fold perspective. First I describe the rewarding power of sharing knowledge and secondly I study the well-being a museum can offer audiences outside the museum walls. 

In my museum we have a practice of applying the rewarding power of sharing knowledge. We have created a partnership with The Wise People, a group of amateurs working actively in a close contact with the museum. The group collects and shares knowledge that has significance for the members as individuals and as a group. The knowledge comprises e.g. local heritage, stories, narratives and anecdotes. 

The group comes together once a month to discuss, question and examine photos or data, make excursions etc. For the next year when the city of Kokkola turns 400 years it will prepare a large photo exhibition. Those involved in the group get motivated by social mutuality and rewarding experiences of sharing their heritage knowledge with others and with the museum. 

The significant knowledge has rewarding qualities to the participants. It is manifested in shared pride of the hometown. From the individual member’s perspective it is a question of the desire to know, the power of the data, the pleasure of collecting and sharing - and donating, which all turn into rewarding experiences. The activity seems to be a magnet, comprised of an enchanting knowledge capital that the amateurs are passionate about. 

My understanding of the magnet draws on the concept of sensus communis by Immanuel Kant. He describes an aesthetic experience arising from mutuality, which is constructed by aesthetic choices people make. The aesthetic choices in this case are indicated in decisions people make of joining the partnership between the Wise People and the museum.

Secondly my museum started a project with a goal of democratizing art. The idea is to “rescue those marginalized from art”. We started with designing and constructing a movable modular display system, the NOMAD. It is supposed to wander and travel to places outside the museum like nomads do. By promoting the system we want to reach audiences that do not have access to the museum. In the NOMAD we bring a part of the museum collections to them and the NOMAD makes a new approach of displaying museum objects. 

The system is transported to e.g. closed institutions, jails or hospitals, to places where you seldom have access to pieces of art. The idea is to offer recovering aesthetic experiences to special groups, convalescents, inmates etc. Art pieces and experiences are brought to the everyday life of those who are not able to go and enjoy art in museums or galleries.

We only started the NOMAD project this year in a partnership with a local hospital and are eager to get feedback from patients, visitors and medical personnel. The goal is to contribute to the work welfare of professionals and the recovering process of patients by inclusion in art. Eventually we also hope to collect evidence of the role of arts in improving health and well-being.


Jana Šubic Prislan, Andrej Ferletic

Goriški muzej (Slovenia)

Shouldn’t the Public Know What We Are Doing to Their Heritage? 

Goriški muzej is a regional museum situated on western state border with Italy, with rich collections ranging from archaeology to present day artistic production, presenting them through exhibitions, always accompanied with a rich program for all generations and for different groups of interested public. However also what is going on behind the scenes of the exhibitions has always been of interest to public, so the conservation-restoration department actively contributed to bringing new audiences to the museum. Bringing cultural heritage closer to society is one of the needs of the 21st Century as it contributes to social well-being, to our feeling of inclusiveness and belonging. Unveiling the principles of its care, opens the door to public participation, appreciation of the work of conservation professionals and raises awareness of the importance of care for cultural heritage. For this reason open-door days were organized, presentations of conservation projects, guided tours of the labs, etc. and after 2007, with the opening of the permanent exhibition “Preserve the Past, Stop Time for Today and Tomorrow” in Vila Bartolomei, a permanent annual program has been established. The exhibition, which was the first of the kind in Slovenia and is still unique, presents the activity of conservator-restorers, nowadays also upgraded and improved with the help of digital technology, which with a virtual guide takes visitors on a dynamic and innovative tour of the exhibited content. Alongside/within the exhibition the department organizes basic courses on conservation, preventive care, authentic techniques and technologies for production of cultural heritage objects of different materials - often specially tailored for university for third age, disabled, ... Goriški muzej can share many examples of good practice in communication of conservation of public heritage and preservation of small intimate one, which brought trust, new audiences and new friends to the museum.


Tiina Paavola

Tampere Museums (Finland)

Collection Level Cataloging and Open Storages –

Two Ways to Increase Transparency and Relevance of Museum Collections 

During last decades, Finnish museums have concentrated on producing captivating exhibitions to attract audiences, earn money and thus justify their existence. At the same time, collections – especially in cultural historical museums – have lost their earlier importance. Even the museums seem confused by this fact. As resources are limited, what to do with the growing number of artefacts? Are the collections still the core of the museum concept or are they a burden? Which are the feasible solutions for meeting the demands of stakeholders and audience? 

The presentation states that in the future museums need to increase the transparency of their collections in order to maintain their relevance. The presentation provides two simple tools for how to open the collections and make audience more aware of cultural heritage. These tools are collection level cataloging and initiating an open storage -concept. 

Collection level cataloging is a model that allows cataloguers describe collections on grouping and/or collection level. This method has been used earlier in libraries and photo archives and it has now been modified to suit the cataloging process of historical collections in Tampere Museums. The method can be used as a simple supplementary tool specifically when describing the characteristics of cultural historical collections. When using collection level cataloging, museums can provide relevant information for those who are looking for contextual meaning of an object or object group. The presentation describes the phases of collection level cataloging as used in Tampere Museums.

Another way to increase transparency of the collections is to open some specific parts of the collections to the audience. In the Collections Centre of Tampere Museums a pilot project was started in 2016, when the so-called ‘open textile storage’ was established. The presentation provides a description of the concept of this open storage available for audience.


Emilia Västi

Museum of Technology (Finland)

Eric Tigerstedt’s Sound Cinema Device as a Source of Shared Inspiration 

This paper discusses a museum object as a starting point for parallel discussions with both researchers and the public. From the perspective of Museum of Technology in Finland, to remain relevant collections do need more openness and collective contributions. This however does not overrule the ongoing need for scientific research. In this presentation both angles are present. The paper presents benefits of openness, focusing on one specific museum object, inventor Eric Tigerstedt’s (1887-1925) Sound Cinema Device. During the year 2019 this hidden gem has attracted interest from researchers and the public. The device was selected as the first topic of the collection focused inclusive lecture series “Story of a Museum Object” in the Museum of Technology. Additionally, the device was recently 3D-digitized. 

The Museum recognizes the need for facilitating discussion and encouraging museum professionals, academic researchers and the public to make innovative openings without pre-planning the outcome. The paper discusses how the need is responded by concentrating limited resources of the collection staff on a single key object that can be introduced to variety of audiences on different platforms. What was achieved when the public was invited to examine the object, even if the conservation process was still ongoing? How does the museum staff want to promote collection accessibility, both in museum building and on digital platforms? How has the mindset of the collection team changed regarding the expected results of the collection collaboration and co-creation?


Panel 4: Excluded from History


Cristina Da Milano, Elisabetta Falchetti, Francesca Guida

ECCOM – European Centre for Cultural Organization and Management (Italy)

Museum Relevance for Intercultural Dialogue and Migrants’ Social Inclusion 

ECCOM - European Centre for Cultural Organization and Management - is an Association working in the domains of culture, arts, museum management and professional training. Our strategies are inspired to/by goals of individual, social, environmental sustainability. Our recent projects include researches and activities in museums, committed to face real challenges of promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue, socio-cultural inclusion of migrants, refugees, convicts and “construction of a peaceful and democratic society” (Faro Convention, 2005); e.g. our Programs: Dialoguing Museums for a new Cultural Democracy; Brokering Migrants cultural Participation and the latest Art Cliks devoted to build intercultural competencies in museums. At the Tartu Conference we would present some examples of our approach in tackling the current issues of migration by cultural heritage and in promoting welcoming museum communities. A specific example is our Program “Musei accoglienti” (Welcoming Museums) carried out in the Puglia Region - South Italy - namely in Salento, a geographical context interested in historical and recent migratory waves. This Program, in partnership with the Regional Administration, involved numerous local Museums and provided museum operators with training experiences including migrant people. The participants worked to build new museum narrations and interpretation able to create a bond between past and present, to understand and reevaluate the role of migratory events and contacts among diverse people in shaping the today’s character of the territory and in designing its future. The museum heritage has been source of inspiration and rediscovering of memories that highlighted the multiethnic origin of the local people and the opportunities generated by the encounters of the ancient and by the new diversities. “Musei accoglienti” enhanced the Museums’ relevance for social cohesion and sustainable communities and encouraged museum operators to undertake an active role in facing local social problems, also collaborating in the territorial governance and societal change processes.


Karen Moeskops

Red Star Line Museum (Belgium)

An Inclusive Museum: Genuine Participation of Migrants 

The Red Star Line Museum (°2013) is located in the authentic buildings of the historic shipping company ‘the Red Star Line’, where, between 1873 and 1934, almost 2 million European emigrants boarded the company's ocean steamers, hoping for a better life across the ocean. Before departure, third class passengers were questioned and medically examined in these buildings. This is why we call the museum a 'lieu de mémoire', an authentic location where history & memory is preserved and shared, but also connected to today’s society and realities. From this location we tell a universal story about migration. We expand our collection to include contemporary waves of migration through projects and temporary exhibitions. 

In times of xenophobia and polarisation there’s an urgency to reflect about our role in society. Our relevance lies in bridging past and present for a broad audience. Migration museums can be an antidote against prejudices and discrimination by providing multiperspectivity and context, based on scientific research. We can provide a genuine, warm encounter between different audiences, including newcomers, through a program of activities starting from our collection. We strongly believe in the power of personal stories and testimonies to raise empathy for newcomers. 

From before our museum opened his doors, the museum invited the public to share their (families) memories, letters and objects. By sharing their migration stories they participated in the development of the museum’s collection. The following five years participation - by the broader public and by specific groups- was an explicit common feature of our activities. This resulted in ‘lessons learned’ on how to integrate participation throughout the different functions of the museum, from collecting biographic migration heritage to producing exhibitions. We illustrate our approach with the experiences of different projects. Safeguarding memories of migrants in a genuine participatory way as an inclusive museum.


Kirstie Jamieson

Edinburgh Napier University (UK)

Marta Discepoli

Dreaf Heritage Collective (UK)

Relevance in The Gift Shop: Difficult Heritage Souvenirs as Critical Learning Objects  

Gift shops are not only getting bigger and taking over larger areas of museums and heritage sites, but they are also extended sites of learning (Kent 2009) where visitors continue to engage with exhibition narratives. In this way, the Gift shop offers the possibility of developing objects of Relevance; those souvenirs that critically engage with contentious subjects. In this paper, we reflect upon collaborative workshops, where we imagined the Gift shop as a site of agonistic learning: a mode of learning that performs counters to hegemony to expose new possibilities and multiple realities.We asked participants to make souvenirs of Deaf Heritage, a largely excluded history that can be understood through the lens of Difficult Heritage. The souvenirs that were made during the workshop functioned as critical objects, designed to raise awareness of Deaf culture and lived experience. Here, souvenirs revealed their capacity to function as objects of Relevance aligned with social justice and critical learning (Simon et al. 2000). We argue that we need to re-consider the Gift Shop as that which supplements museums’ educational aims through merchandise, and therefore an important opportunity to develop souvenirs that are objects of Relevance.


Peter Ride

University of Westminster (UK)

Untold Stories: Using Crowdsourcing for Intangible Cultural Heritage Collection Projects 

Crowdsourcing is strategically important to museums because it can enable community engagement and the involvement of marginalised and disenfranchised communities. It is especially important for intangible cultural heritage where cultural practices might not have been documented and knowledge and expertise might be spread between a wide group or community. Many cultural practices are collected by museums based on the material evidence of objects and documentation but context and nuance is harder to collect: the tacit skills passed on by craftpersons; communal conversations that take place around shared activity; the backgrounds, values and belief systems. These intangible aspects of culture need to be gathered by tapping into communities of production or groups with shared interests or are otherwise lost. Crowdsourcing can provide the means for this. 

Collection methodologies like this are important for contemporary collecting strategies because a large proportion of the public do not engage with museums because they are perceived as elitist institutions [Medoza 2016], therefore strategies are needed to expand collections, engage with diverse populations: to tell “untold stories”. But this also impacts upon the way in which museum present, display or reveal the resources they have so that communities can access them and, crucially, participate in them. The claim that museums are democratic spaces in the public realm is increasingly challenged because of the perception that their collections and exhibitions do not represent the histories or world view of the wider population [Black 2012]. Therefore, collecting projects that gather material through crowdsourcing also need to find appropriate methods of presentation to the people who have contributed it can continued to feel engaged and involved.

This paper looks at current initiatives into crowdsourcing with marginalized communities that provide precedents and identifies the most effective methodologies. It will address interdisciplinary issues that relate to museum collecting and social experience.

Panel 5: Civic Space


Pilvi Kalhama

EMMA (Finland)

Contemporary Art Challenging the Museum 

In my presentation paper I will discuss the widespread talk of the paradigm shift of the 2000s museums, in which the social role of the museum is being accentuated. The museum field has beem in many ways criticized to have been lost its core purpose, in the context of globalisation and market oriented neo-liberalism.

In consequence, there is a speculation whether a museum’s identity can any longer be derived from its fundamental museal functions, such as preservation, and about how the core idea of a museum is transforming into a network of sharing information and experience in a specific social context. In re-defining the core tasks of an art museum scene especially, which is of my interest, I’d like to seek for a more radical model for the art museum as being more content-driven and less market-driven.

In the recent museological discourse it is noted that living artists’ critical actions should be brought more often in as part of the conceptual scrutiny of the identity of 21st-century museums. Thus, I’ll turn to the genealogy of museum criticism in artistic practice: while first-wave institutional-critique artists after the war operated criticizing institutions from the outside, second-wave artists commented on the museum from within. Now, the “method” – for both artists and museums – could be a third-wave institutional critique, which instead of critiquing structures, seeks open, self-critical reflection in relation to what the art is talking about in a certain cultural situation and community, and, how can the museums respond to it.

I became close to these viewpoints – the role of today’s art museums, and especially museums’ attitudes to the content that they display – when I conducted a strategy work at EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art. This led me to start a PhD study where I’m carrying out a comparison with the international ast museum scene, finding ways how art museums operate in collaboration with artists and how does artistic practice affect the museum’s definition of its core objective. I’m asking: how do artists as museums’ closest working community push them into a paradigm shift and to what extent art’s potential is being used as catalyst in today’s museum scene?


Philippa Simpson

V&A Museum, London (UK)

Permanence as Relevance: the V&A Museum of Childhood 

The V&A is undertaking a major transformation of its site in East London, the “Museum of Childhood”. This is a unique opportunity to rethink and reform the museum as a creative hub for 0-14 year olds, to redefine its local, national and international significance and, critically, to re-establish it as a truly civic site. Relevance, in this context, could take many forms. On the one hand the new museum is a political act, a response to an immediate crisis in art and design education in the UK. No longer a neutral “temple of knowledge”, the museum is an active, polemical initiative. But while this may be relevant to the moment, is it meaningful for the visitor? Does it resonate with or enhance their lived experience? Perhaps the more significant aspect of the new museum will be its central hall, which is being recast as a ‘town square’, an open and democratic site of social and cultural dialogue. The museum sits in the borough of Tower Hamlets, which has the highest levels of child deprivation in the country and one of the most socio-economically diverse communities. Providing a safe space which is open to all is a powerful gesture of cohesion at an uncertain time of fracture. However, the most potent aspect of the new museum, and the one that speaks most clearly to the ambition to remain relevant, is perhaps not in the product but in the process. Working with children, families and teachers our architects are developing the new spaces through a rigorous process of co-design, absorbing ideas from those who will use the museum most, and in return providing them with a deep understanding of the creative and curatorial process. From this has emerged a direct challenge, to create the “world’s most joyful museum”. This could be read as a more genuine, a more profound ‘relevance’, one rooted in a universal human need. Perhaps the relevance of the museum comes not from being of the “now”, but from being of the “always”.


Panel 6: Leading and Community


Krista Lepik

University of Tartu (Estonia), Lund University (Sweden)

Protecting the Relevance of Museums – Museum Professionals in the Context of Acceleration of Social Time 

It is well-known that museums are one of the most trusted institutions in society. However, the impacts of accelerating social time have recently been discussed in the scholarly world: referring amongst other ills to the constant time-pressure that hinders well-considered decision-making (Levy 2007) or increasing ‘decay-rates’ of previous knowledge (Rosa 2003: 7). As museums are not left untouched by these changes, we need to address the issue of how to protect the relevance of museums during these turbulent times. 

I am addressing three main research questions in this paper: 

  • How do museum professionals in Estonia perceive the acceleration of social time through their everyday work processes?
  • According to their perception, what is the impact of the accelerating social time on different activities conducted for and with visitors to museums?
  • What kind of tactics do they apply to cope with the fast-paced work life?

This paper is the first in a series of studies planned for a recently started post-doctoral project – as the first data collection (semi-structured interviews with dozen museum professionals in Estonia) will take place at the beginning of 2020, it is yet hard to predict the results. This first study is exploratory where I will apply principles of constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz 2014). In longer perspective the study serves two purposes: to allow comparisons between Estonian and Swedish museums and libraries, and to discuss the issues related to the acceleration of social time in both practice communities in both of these countries.


Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing Grounded Theory. 2nd Ed. Los Angeles, etc.: SAGE.

Levy, D. M. (2007). No time to think: Reflections on information technology and contemplative scholarship. Ethics and Information Technology, 9(4), 237-249.

Rosa, H. (2003). Social acceleration: ethical and political consequences of a desynchronized high–speed society. Constellations, 10(1), 3-33.


Pia Hovi

The Museum centre of Turku (Finland)

Collaborative Approach as a Method to Retain Relevance Between the Museum, 

It’s Audiences, Volunteers, and the Society 

Finnish museums produce a lot of services, but the participation of the inhabitants in the planning of the services is still minimal. Museums claim that they do not have enough resources and time to engage the inhabitants in co-planning. Participation should not remain as a project. Instead it could be integrated into everyone’s job description and practices. The management can give the staff an opportunity to work together with the audiences and the communities. At the Turku Museum Centre, we have done this by starting audience councils, and by working together with various communities and volunteers. In future, could we do more with the help of a shared expertise approach?   

The Faro Convention, which is approved by the European Council, contains an idea about a new participatory administrative model. Cultural heritage organizations need to respect and encourage voluntary initiatives that complete the role of authorities in cultural heritage work. (Council of Europe 2005, Article 11, d.) According to the convention, cultural heritage can function as a starting point for co-planning between the museum and its’ volunteers. Usually, the partners for coplanning of the cultural heritage work in a region is the museum and the support organization of the museum, the so called “museum friends”. The members of the support organization want to cherish and maintain the cultural heritage of the home region, and the co-operation with the museum in cultural heritage work is considered as a meaningful activity. 

This kind of activity is usually realized from top down, but it could be based on a shared expertise approach. This approach responds to a highest level of involvement by producing volunteer work. The administration of the museum could be reformed so that the representative of the organization would take part in the yearly planning meeting of the museum’s action plan on volunteer work. The representation of the organization on broad scale would be guaranteed, if an annual co-planning session would be organized with volunteers, museum professionals and representatives of the cultural administration. The key issue in retaining relevance on a broad scale, when working together with communities is an interactive approach, which is based on acknowledgement of the importance of a horizontal approach between the museum and its’ volunteers.


Celine Elliott, Bryony Robins

Cornwall Museums Partnership (UK)

Leading From the Edge – Challenging What It Means to Be a Relevant Museum in Cornwall 

We are currently undergoing a radical shift in our social and political landscape; museums in Cornwall have had to adapt and change accordingly, rethinking their fundamental role. Many of these organisations, founded by ancient and esteemed learned societies for the education of the masses, are in danger of becoming obsolete follies to a crumbling empire. But a shift is taking place, unexpected leaders have emerged, new ways of working are being tried and adopted. Successful museums are redefining what it is to be a museum in the twenty-first century. 

This paper will explore this changing landscape in museum practice led by Cornwall Museum Partnership, a recognised sector leader. We understand relevance is key to our sustainability in building strong, long-lasting connections within our communities. Democratisation of leadership is key to this development throughout museums. We are driving a shift in leadership-thinking that brings more collaborative and open decision making. We are not engineering change, but encouraging museums by letting in new voices, being open and truly collaborative to enable relevant practice.

Understanding that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house (Lorde, 1979) means creating space. Decolonising collections means decolonising museum structures: creating opportunities for reimagined museums beyond colonial treasure boxes.

In this paper we will share examples from our engagement and museum development programme from the past 2 years, illustrating how this change has brought new understanding of what a museum is; in creating space, both inside and outside the confines of the building, for people to come together and engage in inspiring, challenging experiences, sharing understanding. Our definition of a good museum is one that sparks creative thought, connects people and prompts positive changes. The museum is the space to enable people to think differently about their future, in light of our shared past.


Ellen McAdam

Birmingham Museums Trust (UK)

Keeping the Plates Spinning: Life in the 21st-Century Museum 

For civic museums in England, life has changed dramatically. Our origins lie in Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition, an instrument simultaneously for the education of the working classes and for the improvement of the country’s manufactures. Major sources of civic pride and identity, these 19th-century institutions were generously supported by municipal funding and housed in imposing city-centre buildings.

Fast forward to 2020, and this pleasant landscape has become a blasted heath. Over a decade of austerity has shrunk local government budgets to vanishing point. In their quest for replacement funding, civic museums are all things to all people. Commercial operations, schools education, events and activities, health and well-being, environmental sustainability, decolonisation, audience, staff and Board diversification, community engagement, place-making, social inclusion, academic research, co-curation, digitisation, tourism and soft power all jostle for the attention of the harassed museum director, combined with the pressing issues created by the need to manage dynamically a large, encyclopedic collection housed in Victorian and Edwardian edifices with leaking roofs and elderly wiring, staffed by a shrinking team of employees. In the world outside museums, society is increasingly polarised and the future (at the time of writing) is uncertain. 

Birmingham Museums believes that its survival depends on becoming a museum service for its young and super-diverse city, responsive to the needs and interests of its citizens while providing a place where difficult topics can be addressed. This means, among other things, generating more money, engaging with the city’s communities and facing up to the history of the British Empire, while keeping the funders happy and caring for the huge cultural asset that is the city’s collection. And if occasionally a plate stops spinning and breaks, who can blame us?

Panel 7: Art and Colonialism


Mischa Twitchin

Goldsmiths, University of London (UK)

On the Relevance of Privilege 

How might “relevance” be seen as an evasion – or a transformation – of the “institutional critique” of museums? Or of what Anselm Franke (2019) calls a “definitional crisis” in the concept and practice of exhibition making today? For Franke, the issue is not to avoid this crisis, but to work with it – “staying with the trouble”, as it were (Haraway, 2016). Relevance might then be a way to think about the curatorial in terms of a reflexive epistemology, engaging with issues of institutional positionality that raise ethical questions of “implication” (Rothberg, 2019); or even, perhaps, in terms of a “diffractional” epistemology (Karen Barad, 2014). Collections and archives cannot be understood simply as resources for new exhibitions, after all; they are themselves material for reconceiving the practice of exhibitions and the museum’s “mission”, not least with respect to changing questions of citizenship within European politics. This is especially the case with the example of ethnographic museums, considering the privilege of “possession” as a corollary of colonial processes of cultural dispossession, which remains the context for understanding many of these collections. One could say, then, that decolonisation is a horizon of and for museums’ “relevance” today – beyond concern with modes of accessibility offered by digital media, where museums try to make exhibitions “relevant” to their visitors’ mobile phones. With examples including the permanent collections of the British Museum and the RMCA at Tervuren, my presentation will reflect on such transformations in the “relevance” of European views of African art particularly, without supposing that this is only a question of restitution. For, as Jette Sandahl (2019) notes, this is fundamentally a matter, within European institutions, of “begin[ing] to reassess how privilege and supremacy act upon us, speak through us and interplay with our current political environment.”


Roann Barris

Radford University (USA)

Relevance and the Critical Museum: Case-Studies and Research  

Museum relevance is, not surprisingly, a complex question. As an art historian, my inclination is to look at what museums have been “relevant” and what were the conditions of their relevance. My approach to the Estonian Museum’s conference theme of relevance will be one that combines case studies and historical research to argue that both curatorial and museum activism are necessary to create a critical museum1 and it is the critical museum that will achieve relevance.

Three Washington D.C. museums (NMAAHC: National Museum of African-American History and Culture; NMAI: National Museum of American Indians; HMM: Holocaust Memorial and Museum) exemplify the critical museum and challenge our traditional understanding of museum goals and audiences. Next to these museums I want to place my research findings from an ongoing study of the history of American exhibitions of Russian art. In contrast to the NMAAHC, NMAI and HMM, the Russian art exhibitions for the most part did not begin as museum specific exhibitions. Does this dilute the activist spirit or enhance it? Without being museum specific, in more than one case they contributed to the branding of their museums as either relevant or to be avoided. Thus, my presentation unites experiential case studies of three museums with a research-based study of exhibitions that are not defined by museum to identify the pros and cons of each approach when it comes to changing the art historical and museological canons. Using premises based on museological differences between museums of the type in DC and exhibitions of the type in my history, I will document examples that either contradict these differences or explain their museological value. Is relevance a question of narrative modes, of media, of politics, or an existential question of cultural appropriation?


1Katarzynka Murawska-Muthesius and Piotr Piotrowski, eds., From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum. (Routledge, 2016)


Magdalena Ginter-Frołow

The Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw (Poland)

Elements Forming New Permanent Exhibition of the Asia and Pacific Museum  

Since over 40 years the Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw is gathering people associated with Asia, through arranging exhibitions but also events presenting culture of the region. During communism, when travelling around the world was possible only for a small group of people, these events were gathering numerous audience. For many it was one of the few opportunities to learn about the world cultures. 

Today Asia and Pacific Museum continue this idea but in contemporary form. In 2016 we established Visual Archive, gathering and digitalizing photos from Asia and Oceania, taken by Polish travelers, in large part from the 1960s and 1970s. The archive currently has 20,000 photographs and still is growing rapidly. Many of these photos retains the memory of the past world. We planned to use many of these pictures on the permanent exhibition “Journey to the East”, which will present objects of art and cultures from Indonesia, Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan), Afghanistan, Mongolia, India, Nepal, Tibet, Vietnam, Burma, Laos, China, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. This exhibition is under production, and opening of its first part is planned in the second half of 2020. Using these photographs is a way to show that the exhibition and its way of showing Asia is made from the personal experiences of many people. It is created by collectors, travelers, our donors, who formed the collections of the Asia and Pacific Museum by many years, and also by curators, who now impose own traces. Although the selection of exhibits is basically completed, however, it is very important for us and still being discussed how to show our audience that the vision we present is not a complete and fully objective.


Tim Ventimiglia

Ralph Appelbaum Associates (Germany)

Opening Ethnological Cabinets – Creating New Spaces for Discourse  

For decades ethnology has been in a state of crisis. This is especially true in societies which cast the dark shadow of colonialism or were motivated by a self-indulgent aestheticization of the “other”. But there are ways re-activate historical collections with new purpose, new relevance, through new methods of engaging an ever more connected and diverse public. The Smithsonian’s groundbreaking Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage, Alaska and the stunning rebirth of the Weltmuseum Wien in Vienna, Austria will serve as case studies to explore this development. 

The Arctic Studies’s Sharing Knowledge project hosts a study collection and runs resource center in a new David Chipperfield-designed wing of the Anchorage Museum. At is core is the largest longterm loan ever made by the Smithsonian, reuniting 650 Alaskan Native objects with the descendants of the original communities that made them. These objects are interpreted by Alaskan Native scholars in an ongoing series of consultations. The expanding knowledge thus generated is accessible via a content management system online and within the Center. 

Located in the Neue Hofburg a wing of the Hapsburg Imperial Palace, the permanent exhibition of Weltmuseum Wien features highlights of the historic collections, and explores underlying activities such as patronage, provenience, colonialism, religion, movements of people, objects and ideas and reveals the backstories of Austria's long history of intercultural collection and research. The museum does not shy away from difficult topics but instead takes them head-on, fostering social engagement, discourse, participation and self-reflection. At the opening President Alexander Van der Bellen proclaimed that the Weltmuseum Wien represents “a wonderful, new place of encounter” and “not only to encounter others at eye level but also to see ourselves with different eyes”. 

These two projects employ a markedly transparent and open approach and represent new initiatives for exploring identity, sources of knowledge and for demarcating meaning and relevance in our cultural interactions.

Panel 8: East-European Turbulence


Mariann Raisma

University of Tartu Museum (Estonia)

Museums Matter? Change of the Museum Concept in the 1990ies in Estonia 

[abstract coming up]


Karolina Łabowicz-Dymanus

Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland)

Museum in a Post-Reality Era. The Polish Case 

The rise of polarised political beliefs in Poland in over a decade is followed by increasing conflicts over values, memories and historical threads presented by all museums and other cultural institutions. The year of 2019 has clearly shown that the society is divided into two fractions: a conservative and a liberal - and as a result the public space turned into a battlefield of two tribes. 

It reflects in a twofold condition. A “traditional” memory management by highlighting and embracing certain historical threads, cultural values and beliefs, while omitting others. The mechanisms that Paul Connerton described as repressive erasure or prescriptive forgetting. Consequently, museums get overflooded with words. There is no space left for free interpretation, instead the visitor is led strictly by a guidebook and told what to think and what to see. For example, the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews core exhibition got a moniker ‘the Exhibition in a PDF’ as its guide consists of over thousand pages.

Secondly, in a technology-saturated environment the museum presence increases in the social media. Whereas institutions use it as an advertisement channel, politicians and various groups of activists use cultural institutions in their campaigns. It created a new group of actors who are not necessarily regular museum goers, but are nevertheless emotionally engaged in commentating on universal ideological biases reflected in cultural institutions. It is social media groups and events that engage thousands of people, when in reality only few show up. This was the example of Eating Bananas Performance organised in a protest against censorship in the National Museums in Warsaw in 2019. The first time in history we face the situation where facts and scientific knowledge are overflooded by a stream of a media-driven emotions.


Karolína Bukovská

Free University Berlin (Germany)

Museum of Communism in Prague: Museum as Tourist Attraction? 

Museum of Communism in Prague, located in the centre of the Czech capital, presents one of the few exhibitions which covers the whole period of the rule of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia – from the coup d’état in 1948 until the “Velvet Revolution” in November 1989. At the same time, this private museum is among one of the most visited museums in Prague. However, the majority of its visitors consists of international tourists. The Czech population does not show much interest in the museum’s depiction of different aspects of life under Communism. This paper attempts to explain the reasons behind this discrepancy. Based on the analysis of the permanent exhibition and the public presentation of the Museum, the paper focuses on the three following aspects: Firstly, it examines the character of the institution. Does the Museum of Communism fulfil the criteria of a museum and can it be truly regarded as such? Or does it, as a private institution, serve as profit-oriented amusement for international tourists? Secondly, the paper focuses on the target group of the Museum. Who is the targeted audience of the museum and how is this reflected in the narrative that is created by the exhibit? Thirdly, the paper explores the museum’s visual language and communication. To what extent does the Museum reproduce the stereotypical depiction of Communism and the life under the Party’s rule, which can be found in other museums in East-Central Europe? By answering these questions, the paper defines the specific position of the Prague Museum of Communismin relation to other Czech museums which deal with the Communist period in Czechoslovakia. The paper’s ambition is to contribute to the reflection on the challenges regarding the museal representation of the Czech experience with Communism.


Marin Ivanović

University of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Nationalism at Sight: How Museums Are Helping to Form a New Croatian Identity  

After the Croatian War for Independence (1991-1995) and the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Croatia was in search of its new national identity, mostly based on historical facts and myths that had very few with its Yugoslavian past and very much with medieval narratives of Croatian kings and independent lands and symbolism woven into those narratives. National insignia such as paper money, coins, stamps, the flag and so on, was the foundation of the newly formed national identity and museums had one of the main roles in this process that was undergoing for three decades. Transformation of so-called “museums of revolution” into museums of “War for Independence” and the change that happened regarding the interpretation of certain historical events in Croatian history museums – these are all obvious examples of how big were the expectations imposed on museums in overall creation of national identity as well as the meaning that the institution itself gave to national politics in a way of being an authority on memory and issues of collective remembrance. The scope of these changes was so wast and deep that even a special Faculty of so-called Croatian Studies was formed in 1992 alongside the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences which had the exact same courses. At the same time, art and art museums were also called together with historical museums to enforce nationalism from a different, more “intellectual” perspective (the popular term at that time). These identity constructions can be easily linked to other similar movements from the mid-19th century onwards, but the methods of such interference in the cultural institution have changed due to democratic changes in Eastern Europe and the growing power of independent public organizations and media. But despite public criticism that grew over the years, most of the art and history museums in Croatia have already gone through transformations that cannot be easily undone.

Panel 9: Education and Outreach


Karen Ludbrook Young

LDSH Regimental Museum Society (Canada)

Museum Relevance in Education in the 21st Century 

Museums have been actively pursuing a role in the formal education system since the late 1990’s in North America. Multiple provincial and local museums in Canada have dedicated museum programs specifically geared towards delivering mandated curriculum content in order to make their sites more appealing to teachers, and school boards. Similar educational activities happen in the United States. It is a major revenue stream for many museum institutions in North America where museums cannot rely on state sponsored funds for their existence. At the largest museum in Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, over 100,000 students visited the museum in 2018-2019 at CAD$16.00 per student for gross revenue of CAD$1,600,000.00. The ROM reaches an additional almost 200,000 students per annum through the lease of school education kits ranging in fees from CAD$1,800.00- $5,500 for eight weeks. These kits are rented by other museums, which host the exhibits and are used to boost attendance by students and teachers. 

Even Canadian federal level museums rely on the creation and development of educational programs and travelling museum exhibits for financial support. The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum became a Canadian Crown Corporation in 1990. They rebranded to become Ingenium to maximize travelling exhibit development, educational programs and digital content.

But what does this type of streamlined educational development do for learners, teachers and the museum that supports the delivery of these programs? Is this the answer to keeping museums relevant in the 21st century? I believe the reliance on formal education programs does not take advantage of the inherent strengths’ museums bring to the field of education. Museums must be flexible and learn to leverage our informal learning content rather than develop one size fits all education programs.


Hanna Forssell

National Museum of Finland (Finland)

Museum Events and Relevance 

Events continue and expand where other museum content stops. Events were raised as the focus of the Finnish National Museum's audience engagement work in 2014, when the museum's comprehensive reform (exhibitions, facilities, etc.) began. The aim was to make the museum more dynamic as an active cultural actor, and to reach out to new audiences, people of different ages, and provide them meanings and inspiration.

Singles event Match Made in Museum, Sauna Day, Christmas Tree Forest, Vintage Market, World's Largest Himmeli and Summer Courtyard are examples of surprising and public interest events in recent years, most of them have based on doing things together in a co-creational way. On the other hand, events of profound significance that have opened up the structures of history have been Studio Aleppo, the Sami event, Pride House Helsinki and the Roma event. These events have sparked widespread social debate.

Events are more agile than exhibitions. We learned that the events should be visible in the street scene and that the exterior areas of the museum had to be actively used. If you want to meet and serve brand new audiences, you have to do surprising events and find ideas beyond the museum field. At the same time, the events become topics and receive media coverage. It strengthens the museum's image as a vibrant and interesting cultural actor. Event production is usually very agile and allows the museum to react quickly in the public debate. Event production is also a profession of its own, and Event Producers are still a relatively new professional title in museums.

The number of visitors in National Museum doubled in four years (120,000 in 2014, 240,000 in 2018). Events were one engine of that change. At the National Museum of Finland, one of five visitors attended an event, workshop or guided tour in 2018 (all together 53,604 people). It is a significant figure and shows that community events are not only an additional part of supporting exhibitions, but also an indispensable part of museum operations. They also maintain and create an intangible heritage, at the very moment, right now.


Alan Kirwan

National Museum of Qatar (Qatar)

Building National Museums with Strangers; Intercultural Dynamics and the National Museum of Qatar 

In March 2019 Qatar’s new national museum opened to the public. The opening was the culmination of over a decade’s planning, construction and interpretation. At the heart of all this work is a diverse, multicultural workforce consisting of local Qataris and expatriates from around the globe. Such a concentration of diversity raises interesting questions about the creation and curation of such an institution. Is there a demarcation between the local voice and the foreign? Does this even matter in a globalised world? What aims and values are sometimes lost in translation? Has the museum managed to ‘tell the story’ of the nation through such a kaleidoscope of voices and opinions? And indeed, what story is it trying to tell and are the public recognising such a story? This paper explores some of these questions by focusing on the workings of the museum’s learning and outreach department as a case-study. Educators are most commonly at the front line of inter-departmental communication and wider public consultation and are therefore well placed to gauge and reflect upon diverse messaging. In the case of the National Museum of Qatar, the learning team itself is diverse and confronts its own inner dialogue and sense of expectations of what a national museum is and what it should do. In addition, educators routinely encounter the ‘external voices’ expressed at outreach initiatives in schools and community settings. What do these voices say and are their opinions discernible in the new national museum?


Melanie Orenius

Amos Rex Art Museum (Finland)

A New Hope (Yes, This Is A Star Wars Reference)  

My paper is from a museum pedagogical perspective. It is also from a rather personal perspective – but I would like to ask: what indeed is more personal than finding relevance in your work? 

Before starting in the current position as Curator of Education at Amos Rex, a newly opened art museum in central Helsinki, I struggled with relevance. So much in fact, that it made me repeatedly decide to “leave the art world”, meaning I would have denied a big part of my identity (which, surely, many who work with the arts can relate to). 

Although this is a personal subject, I find it a crucial one. If museum professionals do not articulate how they find their work relevant to themselves, how are they supposed to make their work relevant, or even seem relevant to others? 

So, what happened in Amos Rex? I aim to open some examples of how the work of the Educational Department at Amos Rex makes a difference on the public (and on me personally), though art workshops, pricing, inclusive material and events. The museum had half a million visitors during its first year, how can a small public programmes team possibly handle a crowd that large? How does one measure the relevance of a new museum? I will also comment on the new ICOM Definition of Museums, and on the key words we work with; accessibility, immersivity, entrancement, fun, solidarity and hospitality. 

For anything to feel relevant, whether we talk about the existence of museums, public programmes, collections, people’s personal input in their work… We need one ingredient: hope. A pressing matter in all fields is the future of our planet and that of human rights. If we do not have hope, these matters quickly become too heavy to bear. 

I want to share examples of our work at Amos Rex, with the hope of sparking hope in fellow professionals struggling with their relevance.


Panel 10: Difficult Past


Linara Dovytaitytė

Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania)

Being Relevant to Everyone? Museums and Their Communities in Representing the Difficult Past  

The paper will explore the concept of community involvement into museum practices within the context of post-Soviet memory culture in Lithuania. After 1990 the museums of newly re-established post-Soviet countries not only took an active role in shaping new collective identities but also faced a challenge of dealing with different narratives of a recent past. A survey of Soviet heritage representations in Lithuanian history and culture museums reveals what kind of narratives of the difficult past have been produced over the course of 30 years, which narratives dominated while others were side-lined or even silenced. The paper’s theoretical assumptions are based on Tony Bennett’s concept of the museum as a modern form of governmentality intended to produce rather than represent culture and values. Such ‘contradictory political rationality’ of the museum is especially important when thinking about museum representations of ‘dissonant’ Soviet heritage. Referring to the concept of museum as an active producer of images and stories of the past, I will discuss the role of ‘source communities’ and ‘history owners’ in building museum displays of life under Soviet regime. What are the forms and practices of museums’ collaboration with interest communities in Lithuania? Has the role of community participation in the process of musealization been changing over 30 years? How musealisation of difficult past contributes to the historical legitimacy (and agency) of certain social groups?


Terje Anepaio

Estonian National Museum (Estonia)

Different Pasts: Memory Communities and Collaboration with Museum


[abstract coming up]

Ene Kõresaar, Kirsti Jõesalu

University of Tartu (Estonia)

Difficult Narratives in Estonian and Latvian History Museums: from Hegemonic to Pluralistic Approach? 

This presentation relates the issue of relevance of a museum in the society to its role in advancing inclusive and critical dialogue of and between different mnemonic communities. The curatorial practice of the Baltic history museums from the immediate post-communist transformation period has been criticized by memory scholars for its role in mediating and fixing antagonistic nationalist narratives on the 20th century and excluding the experience of the ‘Other’ from it. This presentation aims at discerning the dynamics of museological memory work in Latvia and Estonia by focusing on exhibiting WWII and communism in the national history museums and occupation museums. As these exhibitions demonstrate, the representation of WWII and the communist past in the Baltic museums is diversifying in terms of incorporating new historical actors, allowing new subjective agencies, and internalizing cosmopolitan museological and mnemonic discourses on the 20th century violent past.


Panel 11: Space


Dortje Fink

Humboldt Forum (Germany)

How To Deal With Relevance? – The Humboldt Forum as a Cultural Institution in the Making 

The Humboldt Forum, which is currently being built in Berlin's historic centre, is in an exceptional situation: Already before its opening, in autumn 2020, the institution receives enormous attention from the public and political spheres. This relevance is both a blessing and a burden, because every step is precisely registered by the public. Similar to the museum renewal at the Estonian National Museum the start-up in Germany’s capital is set in a particular societal context with sometimes contrary expectations. This tension is due to the historical location, the prominent partners and the political significance attributed to the project: Where a partial reconstruction of the Berlin Palace is now being built, once stood the Palace of the Republic, whose demolition remains controversial to this day. As a joint venture between the state of Berlin and the federal government, the creation and activities of the Humboldt Forum are regarded by the media as a symbol of current cultural policy. Although it will house permanent and temporary exhibitions, it is not a museum. 

So what is the Humboldt Forum? In which context does it emerge? How will it deal with the relevance attributed to it? The presentation will explore these questions by discussing the construction and future use of the building through its four partners: Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Stadtmuseum Berlin. Special attention will be paid to the programmes of cultural education and outreach. 

The Humboldt Forum owes its name to Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose ideals and impact have not lost any of their relevance to this day. Thus, the new institution should become a forum where ideas, opinions and individual perspectives can be shared. To achieve this new ways of cultural cooperation between museums and universities, cultural institutions and communities are developed and the relationship between Germany and the world is constantly renegotiated.


Jānis Dripe

RISEBA University (Latvia)

Outstanding Architecture as a Precondition and Opportunity – the Case of the Latvian National Museum of Art 

Since its construction in 1905, the building of the Latvian National Museum of Art has been an important landmark on the city’s ring of boulevards. Together with the Esplanade park and the Neo-Gothic contours of the Academy of Art, it forms a magnificent ensemble of public buildings in the city landscape.

Three international competitions were held (1876, 1897 and 2010) to achieve today’s excellent result. In 1901 a project for the historical museum building was entrusted to the future director of the museum Wilhelm Neumann. The result is the majestic Neo-Baroque edifice that, with its elements of classicism, late renaissance and Art Nouveau, corresponds with the early 20th century European tendencies in European museum building. 2010 architects’ tender was more like a competition for the restoration, reconstruction and expansion of the LNMA. The highly diverse projects envisaged both ambitious new construction and a cautious attitude to the museum’s historical building. The international jury and art museum directors from Denmark, Estonia and Slovenia selected the project by the Lithuanian architects’ office Processoffice.

The extension and restoration of the LNMA was a strategically important event - Museum plays an essential role in meeting society’s educational and cultural needs, offers greater access to cultural treasures for the widest audience. It attests to the quality and level of Latvian art.

The main values achieved during restoration and extension process are:

clearly expressed language of contemporary architecture and design solutions, full and modern provision of the museum functions with the help of functionally and aesthetically balanced architectural solutions, optimisation of the functionality of the existing museum building, organic integration of the new underground space into the common publicly accessible zone as well as the creation of a unified system of the service accommodation.

Museum becomes a place for the most diverse activities, it satisfies the desire of visitors to acquire information, holds exhibitions, carries out research, organises scientific conferences and various art and cultural events and in the same time serve as an enjoyable space to spend time.


Elena Montanari

Politecnico di Milano (Italy)

(Museum) Architecture Matters: The Role of Museography in the Enhancement of Museums’ Relevance 

The relevance of a museum institution can be measured according to various parametres – e.g. the services it provides to its visitors, the meaningfulness and usefulness of its role for the community, the tools it manages to fulfill its cultural and social responsibilities. These aspects seem not to appertain to architectural matters, also drawing on the fact that many promising opportunities for contemporary museums seem to exist independently of their physical space. Nevertheless, architecture still plays a crucial role in the communicative tasks of cultural institutions. On the one hand, the design of the building can boost the (physical and metaphorical) visibility and recognizability of the museum, and turn it into an urban icon; on the other hand, the design of exhibition settings conserves a major part in the reception of the contents on display, in the construction of the visitors’ experience, and in the orientation of their perception and behaviors. The proposed paper aims to verify if, how and at what extent Architecture can be included among the instruments that can have an impact on the relevance of contemporary museums. Drawing on a selection of significant experiences, the contribution will not only refer to the possibility of architectural tools to improve their memorability and attractiveness (and audience figures), the quality of their services, and their ability to convey contents and meanings, but it will also question the opportunity to exploit them to support the renovation of the role of museums towards the complex contemporary societal context (e.g. by facilitating encounters, triggering interactions, enhancing the impact of educative practices, interweaving new relationship between the museum and the physical and social texture of the city).


Panel 12: Future Building


Nina Robbins

University of Helsinki (Finland)

The Relevance of Object Energy  

My paper discusses how museological value discussion can offer a tool for museum professionals to engage themselves in current discourse of building relevant futures. The concept of object energy will be introduced to describe and emphasize the need for a deeper view and a longer perspective when discussing the relevance of museums and value of collections. Museums are in the business of originality. There are various contemporary ways to reflect this towards the intended audience, but the original museum object nevertheless remains at the core of this. In this work, it is essential to consider the long line of museological tradition and not rely only on current trends. 

Museology is an excellent example of a discipline that bridges theory and practice. We need to be aware of the theoretical thinking that guides our practical everyday work. This endeavor aims to prepare future museum professionals to fruitfully take part in value discussions. It is important to inspire students, as well as professionals already working in the field, to actively engage and challenge themselves in value-related discussions. No doubt, practice is needed to achieve this. It is essential for professionals to be fully prepared to justify the importance of their work. 

One has to keep in mind that values cannot reach a culmination point over one museum career, but are accumulated century after century. This can be seen in key-objects of museum collections and in such statements as immeasurable museum objects. This discussion resonates well with the current global demands for sustainable future, thus making museums potentially strong policy makers in society.


Katriina Siivonen

Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku (Finland)

The Transformative Power of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Museums  

Culture is like an ever-changing stream (Ulf Hannerz 1992) which flows from person to person and from past to future intentionally and unintentionally. In the stream of culture, cultural change and resistance to change are constantly produced by human beings as cultural tangible and intangible traditions in everyday life. Thus, continuity defines traditions only partly, and they have also an implicit transformative power. Traditions defined as heritage make always an impact and promote some changes in everyday life, in the society and in relation to nature. Consciousness and transparency of the targets of heritage processes should thus be always present in museums. 

The role of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is stronger than ever in the current era of globalization for instance due to the Unesco Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage from 2003. ICH is living actions, skills and thoughts of human beings. It is not possible to separate it from human beings. Thus it is not possible to collect living ICH in an ethical way in museum collections, or to keep living ICH unchanged and define it by authorities. The strengthening position of ICH has changed practices and power relationships in different heritage processes in the society and in museums. 

Museum collections become a part of everyday life of museum visitors in their interpretations of exhibitions and activities in museum events. In heritage processes, different individuals and communities may sometimes lose their power to define what is important in their everyday traditions. In this context, intertwined tangible and intangible cultural heritage could serve as a multi-perspective tool in co-creative, transformative processes of everyday culture in the society and in relation to nature for instance towards sustainable development. In order to be ethical, this happens in participatory processes with museum visitors.


Saša Tkalec

Cultural Innovation Center (Croatia)

Museums: Between Playground and Battle Field? The Security Perspective 

In search for contemporary relevance for the museums, have no fear: the museums are crucial. The only thing that is not certain is whether this importance would destroy, excel, or disfigure them. But they will almost certainly change drastically in years to come, for (national/human) security reasons alone.

The key question is would it be a culturally more favourable situation in the long run if museums established their relevance themselves and took a stand, as an alternative of being taken by the stream of events into any of the fluid futures?

This paper will discuss what is the original security reasoning behind the ideas of museums, some thoughts why heritage policies seem to be failing (diverging), and provide a security perspective on the possible new roles and relevance of heritage institutions, especially the museums.

It will discuss how the contemporary fluidity and understandings will shape the relevance of museums in the eyes of stakeholders and publics. There is good and bad news with this. The bad news is that it's a bit tricky situation that requires a lot of wit and a smart, customized vision for each museum – solutions should reflect the challenges, in their diversity, locality, and globality. Good news is that we know that, and that the entire affair can be confidently owned by the museums, and made to become a next-level joy in culture.


Panel 13: Engagement


Stefania Savva, Nicos Souleles

Cyprus University of Technology (Cyprus)

“Museums without borders”: addressing inclusion and social change through the lens of Museum Affinity Spaces (MAS) 

Emergent technologies are increasingly ‘popular tools’ in our globalised, multimodal, digitally-mediated world and are inevitably frequently employed to enrich museum engagement in the form of immersive and/or virtual learning experiences/exhibitions. The importance of such innovative experiences among others lies in the blurring of boundaries between the real and virtual, sharpening the processes of inquiry and learning, and enhancing seamless participant collaboration and exchange. Working alongside these realisations, is a growing interest in the affordances and promises of meaningful cultural practice and awareness to nurture inclusion and social change. The focus is on the creative potential of the relationships arising while interacting within the virtual or augmented learning environment.

It is within this spectrum of realisation that we address the conceptual and empirical evidence, on whether museums are relevant and can act as agents of social change. To examine the latter, this presentation delves into the findings from the Museum Affinity Spaces (MAS) project, an empirically based, pedagogically-driven research, targeted at formal and informal learning institutions, educators and students from across Europe. The developed platform features technical and practical infrastructure such as partnership finder, pedagogical resources and a virtual museum environment, in accordance with the MAS Pedagogical Framework. There is specific focus to accommodate for culturally and linguistically diverse students’ needs and provide design principles for curriculum development.

Our intention through this paper is to address the question: What are the premises of virtual museum learning environments for social change and inclusion? What kind of citizens are virtual museums creating? How do these environments help tackle burning social issues?

The theories of socio-materiality, affinity spaces, sociocultural theory, and multimodal learning, are brought into the foreground of the discussion to point towards the breaking of the boundaries of exclusion in museum settings "because of the fierce urgency of now" (Luther King, 1963).


Maria Engberg, Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt

Malmö University (Sweden)

Activate Audiences: Cocreative Crossmedia Activation of Cultural Heritage 

This presentation is sharing the results of a series of exploratory workshops that shape collaborative ways of working with cultural heritage exhibitions (CH). The emphasis is on co-creative, inclusive processes with museum professionals and audience representatives, building on work by e.g. Sandell 2003, Drotner et al 2019, and Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt and Runnel 2019. A core challenge for museums and other cultural heritage institutions today is their continued relevance in a society driven by processes of mediatization and increasing use of digital media and technologies that foreground user generated content, social media publication and sharing, and co-creative platforms. The goal of the workshops is to create more inclusive and open ways of activating CH objects and stories, by way of the method of thing (tingens metode, Huseby & Treimo 2018). The workshops serve as a means of developing and evaluating audience engagement of CH objects with museum professionals as co-creators. We combine the method of the thing with a co-creative method that allows us to invite different audience groups, including those who may not otherwise come to the museum. Therefore, the collaborative workshops that put museum objects at the centre inspire discussions about connections between objects, their role over time, or the personal importance for audience members. Emanating from the workshops are stories that can then presented for a general audience in exhibition. For instance, a typewriter can become the focal point for personal and general memories about the role of journalism or literature. A cigarette box, a series of representations that ponder the role of human vices, throughout history as well as from personal points of view, inviting museum audiences to contribute to a growing story. We use both traditional and experimental museological tools and in order to understand visitor engagement with the exhibition, we analyse visitor reactions to the exhibition. One of the key points of the project is to adapt visitor analysis and evaluation of engagement and experience to better suit crossmedia inclusive exhibition modes. 

Drotner, K., Dziekan, V., Parry, R. & Schrøder, K. C. (eds) (2019) The Routledge Handbook to Museum Communication. Routledge.

Huseby H. & Treimo H. (eds) (2018) Tingenes metode. Museene som tingsteder. Oslo: Norsk Teknisk Museum

Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, P.&Runnel, P. (2019) The museum as an arena for cultural citizenship: Exploring modes of engagement for audience empowerment in Drotner, Dziekan, Parry & Schrøder (eds). The Routledge Handbook to Museum Communication. Routledge.

Sandell, R. (ed.) (2003) Museums, Society, Inequality. Routledge.


Ursula Zeller

Alimentarium (Switzerland)

Engaging for Relevance 

Some years ago, the Alimentarium started an ambitious project to go global in order to stay relevant for its audiences. Until today, Alimentarium has achieved much of what was set out to do. We reworked the scenography and opened up the ground floor to the general public in order to create a public space for the region. Alimentarium reinforced impact with in-depth knowledge, in particular for youth with an international learning platform for teachers, parents and children, an outreach program with workshops for kindergarten children and schools, but also for adults with an eMagazine and short info texts. Through these extensive online programs and offers, Alimentarium moved from a regional museum to an internationally recognized player (45’096 visitors in 2013 to 56’921 onsite and over 1 million online today) by developing a classical museum into a digital content provider, too.

The reach of the museum now goes much beyond the museum visitors’ onsite. But what about the quality of this reach? In order to become even more relevant to our public we decided to go a step further and to move from sending out ‘objective’ messages towards ways of working in which engagement takes centre stage. Engagement as we understand it means creating content with our audiences, giving them a critical role in the development of our organization by engaging with their interests and needs. This engagement can be digital and physical. 

With a portfolio of campaigns that engage the visitor on all levels we want to reach and interest audiences who have not heard of the Alimentarium before or who have not been to visit the Alimentarium (and in many instances will most likely never go there) through its digital activities. Campaign 1 starts December 1, 2019 with the theme The Food We Love to Hate. Our presentation at the RELEVANCE conference will share insights on learnings and results of the engagement journey of Alimentarium.


Marina Zasetckaja

Department of North-Western Russia and Baltic Region of the Russian Museum of Ethnography (Russia)

On the Role of the Living Communication Factor in a Museum in the First Century of the “Virtual Era” 

In the introduction, the author proposes own interpretation of the phrase by Kenneth Hudson, which was used as the epigraph to the conference: “A good museum is one which I come out feeling better than when I went in” because I've become a little better myself

The public museum, the brainchild of philosophers-enlighteners of XVIII century, was destined to serve the idea of perfection of man, to help his intellectual and spiritual-moral development. It was the primary mission of the museum in the past; it continues to be the same in our days because man is still far from perfectness. However, we observe the tendency to decrease of museum's authority. Therefore, today, the problem of return to the museum its social recognition and former high social-cultural status is relevant. 

Further author refers rich experience of the Russian Museum of Ethnography which been able to find new methods oriented toward provoking interest to the traditional culture of peoples of Europe and Asia among representatives of various generations and social groups throughout the entire XX century. According to author's observations in last decade, when the most of people, in particular, youth “live” almost on the edge of the real and virtual worlds, the factor of living communication with bearers of ethnic culture, folk craftsmen, and talented professionals: lectors and guides acquire particular importance. (The author gives concrete examples of the RME events related to the culture of the Baltic Region peoples). These events permit a visitor to meet the foreign culture directly, to look at “strange eyes”, to hear “strange voice”. As a result, the visitors learn to empathize to the history and the culture different from their own. In consequence, man gets free of false stereotypes, imposed by some mass media. Gaining independence of the thought combined with the ability to empathize, a man takes the next step on the path to self-improvement.

Irina Kotyleva

National Museum of the Komi Republic (Russia)

Mirror or Lighthouse: Projects of the National Museum of the Republic of Komi on National Culture. 

One of the main tasks of the National Museum of the Republic of Komi is the formation, study and presentation of collections on the culture of the Komi-Zyryans, historically the main people in the European North-East of Russia. With the implementation of this task is associated with the creation of two permanent exhibitions: “Traditional culture of Komi in the rites of life cycle” (Department of Ethnography) and “History of language, writing and literature of the Republic of Komi” (Literary museum). This exhibitions is not only the result of a research staff of the Museum, but also a platform for a variety of educational projects. The offered excursions (interactive, theatrical, etc.) are aimed at forming children's interest in the national culture.

The development of interest in national culture is the basis for a number of exhibition projects. Among them, I would like to note the exhibitions of recent years “In search of Aslad flower” and “Canvas of the world”. The value of these exhibitions in the presentation of the relationship between traditional and modern culture. In the same context, the Museum presents exhibitions of ethno-futurist artists. Exhibitions of p. Mikushev and Yu. Lisovsky become a bridge between the present and the past, allowing to find new approaches in understanding of cultural heritage. This is in tune with the concept of the Museum.

The search for new approaches to the representation of traditional culture pushed the Museum to create animation films, that it based on the legends and fairy tales of the Komi people (“Chukla”, “Yirkap”, “Girl growth with spindle”, “Zyryanskaya bath”). This animation films are used by the museum staff during classes for children and adults, including outside the museum.

In the understanding of the National Museum of the Republic of Komi, projects on national culture should not only be a “mirror” reflecting the past, but should be like a “lighthouse” to help find the way from the past to the future.