Social Museology and Social Role of Museums

Panel details

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Number of paper presentations 5


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Museums have a primary role in society and, as stated by the latest Unesco Recommendation (2015), provide “a factor in social integration and cohesion”. In this sense, social museology, or sociomuseology, a school of thought developed mainly in Portugal and Latin-American countries, “aims the recognition of museology as a resource, or a tool for sustainable development, based on social and economic inclusion” (Moutinho, 2016). Several experiences come from the “Global South”, and from below, out of traditional and imperial museums, striving for new ways of dealing with social memory for local development.

Based on the premise that “a boundary is not that at which something stops, but that from which something begins” (Martin Heidegger), the museums and memory practices go beyond any established formal borders. They focus human interactions responding to contemporary social demands, reacting to crisis situations but, above all, acting on structural causes of communities’ problems. The local cohesion could be undermined by questions like gentrification processes, urban growth, expansion of agribusiness or weak institutions, based, for example, on violence, intolerance, wars and social inequality. And the solutions could come from local actors from below, having museums and memories as key factors converging poetics and politics.

This panel welcomes papers from experiences based on the social role of museums and memory spaces in bringing answers and solutions to contemporary problems and crisis in local communities. Museums have a primary role in local development and are key actors in topics relating them to migration, human rights, right to memory, local cohesion, re-writing of histories, activism, cultural heritage, response to humanitarian crisis and development.

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Marcelo Murta