TEHIC Conference on Museum Mediation and Heritage Interpretation

TEHIC Conference on Museum Mediation and Heritage Interpretation

On the 5th of April, the Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciência in Lisbon hosted the TEHIC Conference on Museum Mediation and Heritage Interpretation, a gathering of more than a hundred heritage interpreters. 

They all came from varied contexts. They are artists, tourist guides and museum staff. They work with artistic, archaeological, natural heritage, and eager and enthusiastic souls. They use experimental dialogic and unidirectional techniques to interpret the heritage in their care. These colleagues of ours came to speak, share, and inspire one another, in conversations that were structured around six pressing issues. But those issues, while decisive to prompt conversation, were not what animated it. The attitudes towards heritage interpretation and museum mediation were. Listening to them, two fundamental attributes could be found in all those present that day: the unwavering commitment to the respectful preservation and valorisation of the heritage in their care, and the socially engaged desire to serve the needs of the people who come to meet that heritage. Listening to them, we also found the rich diversity with which they give shape to these principles.

We found gardeners, those who see the potential in every object for stories to flourish and who see the power in every person to expand their worldview, those who plant seeds even when they will not see them bloom.

We found butterfly catchers, ones that see multiple perspectives, infinite possibilities, fluttering in that uncanny expanse between the eye of the beholder and the object of contemplation, ones that come with their nets ready and set, and show us that it is possible to catch these wandering slivers of understanding to all our delights.

We found fishermen, those who adventurously shift with the moving waters trying to catch those quick and agile, furiously animated things: the attention of visitors, the secrets of objects.

It is for people in this extraordinary gamut that the TEHIC project is designing a curriculum. It is for us and those like us. A curriculum that recognises that different attitudes and attributes will make use of different strategies and tools. All of us have, to some degree, found our voices as mediators, interpreters, and storytellers. But we lacked that wonderful place of playful experimentation that is often found in education. A curriculum that can share multiple skills with its students, and incentivize them to play, to experiment, to boldly go wherever these instruments can take them, can fundamentally reshape the diversity in our sector. The students that test these methods and tools without the pressures of financial sustainability, or the compromise with political agendas, will learn to use them to their fullest range of possibilities. They will cheerfully try new arrangements and compositions from diverse and sometimes “incompatible” perspectives, enriching our communities with marvellous new ways of engagement. Ones capable of stealing those irresistible words from the mouth of Carrol’s little Alice: «Curiouser and curiouser!

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Ivo Oosterbeek

Mapa das Ideias (Portugal)

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