MUSEUM Internacional 231
Urban Life and Museums
The relationship of museum and city is indeed an overarching subject for the international community of heritage. Cities can no more be considered in a restrictive sense as place where symbolic expressions of political powers can expend; museums being only one of these symbolic cultural expressions. Cities internal changes, whether they be cultural, political or social, are major subjects of museums' concern and action. Museum professional are thus confronted to two categories of question: those which relate to the programming of the museum in the city and those that partake to defining a museology that represents the city.
In this context, the creation of the International Committee of ICOM of Museums of Cities (CAMOC) and the start of its intellectual and professional work were most welcome. This issue of MUSEUM International on "Urban Life and Museums" presents most of the papers of the CAMOC International seminar held in Boston last May. They combine theoretical approaches and practical examples from various fields and cultural backgrounds.
I wish to thank Ian Jones, the dedicated Secretary of CAMOC, who spared no efforts to ensure the publication of the papers presented at the international seminar in the UNESCO's Journal.
The historic dominance of cities as wellsprings of intellectual, cultural, political and economic energy and their recent extraordinary population growth have made it imperative for the contemporary world to have an understanding and appreciation of a city’s past, present, and possible futures. The recognition of this need has led to the creation and expansion of museums about cities throughout the world and the formation of an International Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to serve this growing city museum community. The International Committee for Collections and Activities of Museums of Cities (CAMOC, www.camoc.icom.museum), the thirtieth international committee of ICOM, was established in April 2005 at a meeting in Moscow hosted by the director general of the Moscow City Museum, Mrs Galina Vedernikova,. The creation of CAMOC achieved a scheme that was set in motion at a meeting at the Museum of London in 1993. Subsequent gatherings of museums of cities’ professionals in Barcelona and Luxembourg led to the formalization of the forum as part of ICOM.
The “museums of cities movement” that spawned CAMOC is found on every continent. In Europe the Museum of London has embarked on an £18 million “Capital City Project” that will increase the museum’s gallery spaces by 25%. In Latin America the city of Sãul Paulo, one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities with a population of 17.9 million, is creating its city museum in the historic Casa Da Marquesa de Santos. In Asia the movement is represented in the recently opened $150 million Capital Museum in Beijing. In the United States the Chicago Historical Society is celebrating its 150th anniversary by changing its name to The Chicago History Museum and spending $27.5 million in renovating and enlarging its exhibition galleries. San Francisco, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta have recently announced plans to either create or expand their city museums. Noteworthy among these efforts is the Boston Museum Project with the goal of creating a $100 million museum about one of America’s most historic and dynamic cities.
It was therefore fitting that Boston was the setting for the CAMOC’s inaugural conference, Museums of cities: gateways to understanding urban life. For three days, April 30-May 2, 2006, seventy-five delegates from 15 countries heard thirty one presentations on topics ranging from serving increasingly diverse audiences to the latest technologies in presenting urban history. The gathering of museum professionals, urban historians, exhibition designers and museum specialists was an informative and stimulating exchange of ideas led by speakers representing museums of cities from Kazan to London, from Melbourne to Copenhagen, from Montreal to Saul Paulo, and from Moscow to Philadelphia. Conference delegates found common ground in the challenges and opportunities inherent in having a city as your subject and urban dwellers as your audience. Emerging from the papers and discussions was a consensus that museums of cities are not solely about the past, but deal with contemporary urban life as well as providing an important context in which to contemplate and plan a city’s future.
Although museums of cities are by their very nature tied to place, they share much in common as the world’s population urbanizes. By connecting with their international colleagues through such organizations as CAMOC, city museum professionals, historians of cities, city planners and those involved in the exploration and interpretation of urban life will enhance their ability to advance the missions of museums of cities as sources of knowledge and inspiration for their audiences. This is CAMOC’s charge. The publications of papers presented at CAMOC’s Boston Conference by Museum International advances that commitment.
Robert R. Macdonald
Through a tour of St Luis, the author introduces the notion of urban museums and pinpoints their importance. He offers various readings of the city: his point of view and that of an Indian visitor. TOP
The role of culture in the 21st century has become central to the discourse on how an increasingly ‘global’ world can survive. There is therefore a need to engage this issue within the museum community itself. Such a topic is at the centre of UNESCO’s concerns whose conviction is the respect for cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. TOP
This article will explore the ways in which ethnicity is defined and expressed in both Canada and Quebec. It will also examine the challenges faced by the public museum in the collection and preservation of the material heritage of Canadians in light of the country’s ethnic diversity and political directions. To conclude, it will try to understand the role of the history museum in engaging the community with the history of this place and develop a sense of belonging and shared citizenship. TOP
This article communicates three key messages. Firstly, that promoting a role for museums of cities in urban planning is more one of revival than invention. Secondly, that the culture and practice of urban planning is changing in interesting and relevant ways to museums of cities. Thirdly, that in many ways, museums and urban planning are fields in convergence. It goes further as to propose the above as main objectives of the new international Committee for the Collections and Activities of Museums of Cities (CAMOC). TOP
The article first approaches the different contents and communication modes that interact in museums, with a closer look to information technologies such as wikis, blogs, forums and mirror neurons. Then, it considers the question of the city museum through the perspective of space cognition. TOP
Tatiana Gorbacheva suggests discussing three aspects of contemporary activities of city museums, based on Moscow City Museum activities and international experience: first, the relationship between the museum and its urban environment; second, the change of the city in time; and thirdly, the relationship between a museum and society today. TOP
Stockholm Education project proposes a special education programme for people working in the city's infrastructure i.e. bus drivers, police, public library staff etc. It is intended to arouse the participant's interest and curiosity for the city, to give them knowledge and thus feel that they play an important role in the city's life and culture. In Stockholm the city itself creates a grand museum - without walls and ceiling and in constant development and change. TOP
Rita Davies describes with great enthusiasm the culture project she has in mind for her city Toronto. A project which goes beyond the “museum of old” and will grasp the whole complexity of this new museum. Humanitas initiative will be a new and innovative city museum on Toronto’s waterfront. TOP
Mike Houlihan highlights how the history of Northern Ireland holds a specific impact upon the Ulster Museum. As he says “there is no objective history; passion is everything.” TOP
The article defines place-based education as any educational approach that uses the local environment as the context for teaching and learning. It proposes that urban museums should consider it as a guiding construct in order to explore the possibilities for interpreting history of sites in communities whose importance is not widely recognized. TOP
The article accounts the journey undertaken by Melbourne’s Immigration Museum as it has developed its products and position in the leisure marketplace. It allocates the Australian experience and stories of immigration and gives a sense of significance to the culturally diverse and multicultural society which is Melbourne. TOP
The Boston Museum Project was conceived from the start as a new cultural common ground for Boston. A museum rooted in history but with a role of social catalyst. Emerson retraces the story of the museum its challenges and future aspirations. TOP
The article considers the discussion of the museum-city relation from an architectural and urbanist approach through the introduction of a case-study of the ‘museum of the city of São Paolo’. TOP
Finding common ground between the protection of traditional and cultural values and assets and the necessity to evolve is the major issue of the Shemanovsky Yamal-Nenets Museum in Siberia. It establishes the link between this mission together with the indigenous and migrant population. TOP
The article relates how the museums of Kazan achieved the display of genuine aspects of past and present cultures and the realization of the multinational character of the region. TOP
© 2007 - UNESCO