Session M38. City Museums as Agents of Change in XXI C.
Coordinators: Jari Harju (email@example.com), Joan Roca (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Like all type of museums, also city museums are in the crossroads. The role of the museums is becoming more versatile than before and it is not enough to be a temple of knowledge anymore. Museum visitors, citizens and tourists alike, expects to have other roles than only passive receivers of information.
Benjamin R. Barber states in his book “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities” (Yale University Press, 2013) that cities have better possibilities to deal with the change than nation states. According to him, change happens faster and there is more room for experiment in the cities. Additionally, changing circumstances need new type of professionals who can initiate collaboration between citizens, civic society, local businesses, universities and local government. Improving life in cities is everyone’s job, so residents of the city share ownership and responsibility for their surroundings and situation.
Many city museums in Europe are in the middle of major renewal. Some museums have already taken up the challenge and started the renewal process, while others are looking for new approaches. In this session, we will reflect and compare the experience of change and renewal in different European city museums. We also encourage the presenters to reflect the change in the local and specific historical context. We are looking for both best practices and critical analysis of the role the museums and museum professionals in improving and activating the citizen participation.
The leading question of the session is how city museums can promote the reflection about the city through urban history perspective with the citizen’s participation. We want to know how city museums can improve life of the citizens and make cities better place to live for everyone. Can city museums bring people of different mindset together and help to build stronger cities in the future? Can city museums make citizens active advocates of democracy instead of passive consumers of the welfare state? How can city museums react quickly and offer to citizens new perspectives to current issues. In all these issues we welcome both theoretical and practical presentations that combine historical perspective to museological and heritage studies.
Keywords: city museums; heritage; participation; urban history