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Workshop: Museums and Intercultural Dialogue Chester Beatty Library, 4 April 2014 Museums as Places for Intercultural Dialogue and Learning. Workshop Outline: 14.30 – 14.45 A context for discussion around research findings 14.45 – 15.15 Group analysis of visitor comments on: Motivations

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Workshop: Museums and Intercultural Dialogue

Chester Beatty Library, 4 April 2014

Museums as Places for Intercultural Dialogue and Learning

  • Workshop Outline:
  • 14.30 – 14.45 A context for discussion around research findings
  • 14.45 – 15.15 Group analysis of visitor comments on:
          • Motivations
          • Experiences & Perceptions
          • Irish majority feedback
  • 15.15 – 15.45 Discussion and your perspectives
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Minority Ethnic Communities and Irish Museums -

Museums are one element within a wider information pool

  • Consider the question of how minority ethnic visitors might view your museum? What do you imagine they would make of your institution, your collection, how you and your museum presents itself? Why would/should they visit you?
  • For many recently arrived migrants over the past 15 years, museums are information points, portals into Irish culture and identity (past and present). Museums are for these communities just one source of knowledge within a wider public information pool of how they might adjust to their new life in Ireland – the museum as tourist office!
  • Although your museum is one site of information amongst many (media, public services etc.) minority visitors see museums as trustful and authoritative public spaces.
  • You and your institution is held in high regard – this therefore brings responsibilities around issues of the representation and acknowledgement of diversity.
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Exploring and questioning what it means to be ‘Irish’

  • Recently arrived migrants look to your museum to understand how the ‘Irish’ define themselves (past and present).
  • They are investigating the meaning of national cultural and civic norms/values?
  • They are questioning what it might mean to be Irish? How did the concept evolve?
  • Is it still evolving and is it inclusive?
  • In many ways your museum will touch on all of these issues – question how does your institution address them in light of actively facilitating and assisting intercultural dialogue and understanding.
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Supporting Schooling

  • For migrant families, your museum is an important (usually free) supplement to their children’s education and can assist their development within the school system.
  • The support your institution provides goes beyond subjects such as history, it is deeper and covers areas such as local history and citizenship – all key areas for new Irish citizens and their children.
  • Consider how your museum might question and interrogate notions of ‘Irish’ identity found within the school syllabus in light of intercultural education and opening up avenues of Irish cultural diversity.
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Nurturing diverse Irish identities

  • Your museum, its collections and the stories you tell can offer recent migrants important cultural and social memories and connections to origin countries and cultures.
  • Consider how your institution can act as an intercultural bridge between people from origin countries and their creation of Irish identities.
  • These new Irish citizens are here now, they belong…….are you including them in your museum narratives?
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Identifying with and becoming part of a locality

  • Your museum is situated in a particular geographical and local community – you are a ‘bastion of knowledge’ about the locality. Recent migrants will utilise your site as an entry-point of information on this community, its culture and history.
  • Migrant communities are not confined to Dublin and other major cities – what roles can your institution play in actively highlighting and developing the diversity of your rural or urban location?
  • Fostering intercultural discourse at your museum goes beyond your collections. Consider your formal and informal learning programmes, events and activities. Have you made contact with local migrant communities?
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Aesthetic presentations are not telling the full story

  • Do you concentrate on visual aesthetics and display over other equally powerful interpretative methods?
  • Displays and interpretation based on European art historical and design approaches often restricts the meanings and uses of objects from other cultures.
  • Storytelling, music, ritual use, are just some of the other expressive elements that should be considered in order to incorporate cultural/sociological/psychological significance for many peoples.
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Awareness of the diversity within

  • Intercultural understanding and dialogue must proceed on a recognition that everyone is different, everyone has their own story and background.
  • In what ways can you orientate your museum and its programming to illustrate the kaleidoscopic nature (past and present) of Irish identitythrough ethnicity, gender, sexuality etc.
  • Do you allow these identities to speak for themselves or do you as an institution control this process? What are the implications (positive and negative) of your relinquishing some of this control through intercultural collaboration?
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Alan Kirwan

Educationalist

House of European History; a project of the European Parliament

Alan.kirwan@ep.europa.eu