Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums: Exploring Interactions

Intangible Cultural heritage (ICH) has become a buzzword nowadays, in part due to the visibility of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage (2003), which called international attention to the need of giving awareness to a living heritage, in constant modification, that is part of the identity of communities, groups and individuals, and is transmitted from generation to generation. At the heart of this approach towards ICH safeguarding is also the active participation of communities, groups and individuals of the concerned ICH, insofar the most challenging aspect of this international framework. So, where does museums fit in? What is the correlation between the 2003 Convention and museums? It is often said that museums are among the heritage community organizations that could contribute to the safeguarding of ICH. Why? Usually, answers rely on the assumptions that museums are about tangible and intangible heritage, that they are about identity and collective memory; that they are about past, present and future; and that they are spaces of knowledge, celebration, encounter and dialogue. But, beyond these apparent interconnections, what are the challenges of safeguarding ICH in museums? What roles can museums embrace towards safeguarding ICH? Are there new and old challenges to overcome? Does ICH safeguarding represent a shift in how museums operate? These are some of the questions that inform my presentation.

Ana Carvalho is a museologist and is currently postdoctoral researcher at the Interdisciplinary Centre for History, Cultures and Societies (CIDEHUS) of the University of Évora (Portugal). Team member of the UNESCO Chair in Intangible Heritage of the same University. Her research focuses on the implications of the UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) in Portuguese national public policies. She is one of the founders of the Portuguese scientific journal MIDAS, Museus e Estudos Interdisciplinares, and is currently co-editor. Author of the books: Museus e Diversidade Cultural: Da Representação aos Públicos (2016), Participação: Partilhando a Responsabilidade (ed.) (2016) and Os Museus e o Património Cultural Imaterial (2011). She collaborates with the Mu.Sa project (Museum Sector Alliance) (2016-2019) that focuses on the development of digital competences in the museum sector. Author of the blog No Mundo dos Museus. Editor of ICOM Portugal bulletin (2014-2018). She holds a Ph.D. and a Master’s degree in Museology from the University of Évora.