Museums in Dialogue with the Future (Felicia Meynersen)

Questions: Building on the so-called “second wave” in museology and the experiential knowledge from the Syrian Heritage Archives Project (SHAP) in Berlin, the project aims to make a contribution towards examining the potential that archaeological museums in Lebanon have for further development. The two principal questions are:
     - Where does a museum stand in relation to inequality and injustice, and what potential does it have to act against them? 
     - To what extent do museums not only reflect normative concepts like fairness and power relationships between groups, but also contribute to forming them? 

The aim is to describe and compare solutions, reveal similarities and differences, and thereby contribute to differentiated theorizing.
Central thesis: Museums and collections can play a unique role in overcoming social challenges. The results of the project promise for museums and curators an improvement in the circumstances of educational success and refugee participation.

Aim of the project: One outcome of the project should be a thematic dossier available in digital form, which can be made accessible to the entire Institute. In addition the researcher responsible for the project will present its findings at a public event. 

Method: The project has an interdisciplinary approach and combines the findings of empirical social research, experimental education research and the “second wave” of museum studies. Complementing that is a re-reading of museum history with the aid of “museum literature”, which is highly varied in form: visitor feedback, museum guides, coverage in newspapers and the specialist press. The starting point here is the founding of museums and a comparison of their collection profiles (with a focus on national museums). Particular attention will be paid to identifying factors of museum practice (architecture, collection profiles, scientific conception, didactic design, presentation and staging, activities by museum representatives). Leading on from this, it will allow spaces for reflection and open dialogue. Against this background, visitors are no longer mere recipients, but active makers of meaning. 

The project consequently also has the aim of exploring what the possibilities and limits are for museums when it comes to education, creative research and international cooperation. It looks at opportunities for participation and transformation processes and for various forms of participation (spectrum: contributive, collaborative, co-creative, hosted).

Value of the project: The value and importance for the Institute consists, for example, in an array of innovative collaborative activities, better processes in terms of access and participation, intensification of existing contacts, establishing new contacts and identifying new target groups. These are “best practice” data and instruments that can be of use in teams in the area of “museums and neighbourhoods”.

Duration: The project is planned to continue for three years. The first stage comprises the launch of the project and data gathering. Phase two is data analysis. In the final phase the data are prepared and a closing report is compiled. In the course of the project many types of interaction are conceivable – with internal and external partners on a local, regional and transregional level (e.g. UNESCO field office, AUB, affiliated institutes like the Ifpo, NGOs, societies, neighbours and communities) as well as with institutions in other countries (e.g. universities in Jordan, Egypt) which the author has good contacts with. There is a general willingness to cooperate.
Effect: In its public and interactive form, the project will contribute to the development of a new understanding of culture in which modern knowledge dissemination methods are applied. Participation and equal opportunities strengthen local communities in the face of current challenges (Encourage and Empower). Trainees become trainers, multipliers that encourage others to engage more deeply with museums. 

Target groups: Experts, students and refugees. This kind of participation on an equal footing, which involves both refugees and locals, has been and continues to be successfully practised at excavations and in museums.   

Publicity: A laboratory exhibition with photos, models and originals is planned, to be organized in cooperation with tried and tested partners and key institutions of the host country as well as local community partners. The exhibition will be accompanied by a scientific publication (results and methods), which will involve different publics, specialists from abroad, and researchers of the younger generation. Approaching well regarded foundations for third party funding is envisaged in the draft of the project, with the project’s jump-starting character being emphasized.

Author: Dr Felicia Meynersen