ABOUT THE EMEE PROJECT
The ‘EuroVision – Museums Exhibiting Europe’ (EMEE) project explored an innovative interdisciplinary approach for national and regional museums to re-interpret their objects in a broader context of European and transnational history. The necessary theoretical and practical framework was developed, put into practice and evaluated by an international, trans-sectoral consortium bringing together the creative excellence of museums and cultural workers in a project based on the scientific expertise of History Didactics in mediating culture.
THE CONCEPT OF CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE (COP)
The core concept developed and explored by the EMEE project in order to foster a multicultural and transregional understanding of the local, regional, and national cultural heritage at a given location corresponded to a triple Change of Perspective (COP).
It is based on three tenets:
a) It asks to re-interpret existing museum collections in a multi-perspective, transregional and even cross-cultural way.
b) It takes into account that museums in multicultural societies have a social responsibility and purpose and that they are supposed to entrust their visitors with a role that involves active participation.
c) It strengthens the interdisciplinary and international (or interregional) cooperation of the museums in order to encourage a comparative perspective that goes beyond regional and national views.
For visitors, the COP functions as a ‘school of perception,’ i.e. it encourages them to engage with the objects. It illustrates that the visitors themselves are actively involved in constructing the ‘meaning’ of the object. They are supposed not only to detect the multi-layered regional, national, European or global meanings of an object, but also to add their own ‘meaning’ depending on their social or cultural background. Therefore, the tagline of EMEE is: One Object – Many Visions – EuroVisions.
COP 1: CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE THROUGH RE-INTERPRETATION OF MUSEUM OBJECTS (see EMEE Toolkit 1)
First and foremost, the COP aims for the re-interpretation of existing object inventories. In doing so, locally important objects will additionally be situated in a transregional (if applicable European) and cross-cultural context to make the diversity of the dimensions of meaning become evident. The local perspective reveals the transregional one, which – in turn – is illustrated by and tangible in the local view. However, generally the focus is laid on the on-site objects, which can be linked to migration movements, cultural encounters, cultural exchange and aspects of how one sees oneself and the other. Furthermore, the re-interpretation of the objects is geared towards presenting the objects in a way that allows for the visitors to be involved in the construction of the meaning of the objects and to expand their understanding of the local cultural heritage.
With regard to re-interpreting the objects, a primary task of the COP is the careful vetting of the museum objects. The goal is to identify those objects and object groups that carry not only a local, but a transregional/European and potentially even global level of meaning and that thus lend themselves to encouraging visitors to actively contribute to the multi-layered meaning of the object. Over the course of the EMEE project, various ways of identifying the transregional and cross-cultural dimensions of museum objects were developed and tested.
COP 2: CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE BETWEEN MUSEUM EXPERTS AND VISITORS (see EMEE Toolkits 2, 3 and 5)
The COP concept is not confined to the re-interpretation of museums objects, but also seeks to change the differing perspectives of museum experts and visitors. Thus, the museums engage in a process of factoring in the views of their visitors when exercising their prerogative of interpreting the cultural heritage. They gradually evolve into their new roles as facilitators, encouraging (prospective) visitors to reflect on and express their own expectations, experiences and relationships concerning the museum objects. This implies allowing the museum to become a kind of ‘social resonance chamber’ in our multicultural European society by making the visitors’ perspectives visible in the museum itself.
The Change of Perspective between museum experts and the audience may come about in various areas. It might start with museum experts approaching representatives of different social groups that are currently underrepresented in a museum’s audience to work together and learn about their ideas and views on the objects. A step of similar importance is to fully employ the range of interactive visitor involvement with the objects and staging (e.g. hands-on or minds-on elements) and to provide the narrative contextualization, as well as the ‘synesthetic translation’ of selected suitable objects. This implies ‘translating’ the multi-layered meanings of an object into the ‘languages’ of narration, scenography, music, dance and other emotional and aesthetic forms of expression to match changed viewing habits of our multimedia society and to attract so-called ‘non-visitors’ like young visitors with a multicultural background or lower levels of education.
Moreover, the accompanying programs are a very important tool when it comes to changing the differing perspectives of museums experts and visitors. To give an example, inviting certain visitor groups to become involved in designing accompanying programs with considerable societal and present-day relevance enables them to incorporate their expectations, identities, and also their abilities into the work of the museum, and thus enables them to relate to the museum through their own experience. This, essentially, points to the concept of the museum as a Social Arena, that asks museums to take on a new role as agents of social inclusion and develop new strategies to become a place of intercultural dialogue with close links to the multicultural dimensions of the local cultural heritage’. Finally, employing social media and thus up-to-date communication channels (like Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo/YouTube, Wiki, Flickr etc.) is an essential tool to improve participation and integration of visitors. These tools are extremely useful for visitors since it allows them to communicate their sociocultural background and different views on the local cultural heritage.
COP 3: CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE THROUGH INTERNATIONAL AND INTERDISCIPLINARY EXCHANGE AND COOPERATION
The concept of COP can realize its full potential within a given local setting if the museums in question operate within interdisciplinary, international and transcultural networks.
On the one hand, museum work has to acquire a more international outlook to gain deeper insight into new – especially transregional – issues, topics, methods, and means of representation. In this case, COP implies tearing down regional and national borders for the benefit of a European and global perspective. On the other hand, interdisciplinary cooperation between museum experts, scenographers, experts in history didactics and museums educators, music designers, media experts, and cultural producers, as well as visitors can create new perspectives and tear down borders to leave familiar patterns of interpretation of one discipline behind and to deploy hitherto unheard-of ideas and views on local museum objects. In this way, local museums can be turned into places where European heritage can function as a place for constructive dialogue in a multicultural society.