MAS is a museum where one can discover objects and stories, a place where one looks at the world, at Antwerp and at oneself. MAS works at the crossroads of a diverse collection of about 500.000 objects and the vibrant city of Antwerp with its superdiverse citizens and visitors. MAS opts for a thematical approach which connects people to heritage, the present to the future and the past, the local to the international.
MAS believes in the natural links between material and intangible heritage, leading to two approaches to ICH:
The Corner Shop was a participatory project with both autonomous goals as an aim to contribute to the revision of a permanent exhibition on the relationship between food and the city (Antwerpen à la Carte).
Subject were the local food shops, such as bakeries, butchers and groceries, from the 1950s till today. They make part of the daily life of every one: as costumer or as passer-by. Food shops can be placed in the food chain between production, distribution and consumption. MAS had a keen interest in how the practice of keeping a food shop evolved throughout time: how do shopkeepers come by their products, (how) do they process goods themselves, what are the techniques to display and promote food, but also how do they interact with costumers? Shopkeepers make deliberate choices that are inspired by their predecessors as well as by the interaction with costumers, neighbourhood, policy makers, etc. So they prove themselves (often unconsciously) bearers or innovators of traditions and practices of salesmanship.
MAS embarked on a participatory project with an array of partners. At the chore was a team of volunteers, the Shop Explorers. They were sent out to three Antwerp shopping axes with a different profile. The volunteers interviewed shopkeepers and identified collections of documentation. Their efforts resulted in 57 personal stories, giving insight on how local food shops changed throughout the years.
Their research was supplemented with information, documentation and objects coming from many other experts, keepers of collections and students. A photographer contributed with a series of double-portraits of the participating shop keepers, ingeniously connecting these people to their shops and merchandise.
MAS brought these stories back to the shopping axes by means of a travelling exhibit that was adapted to the specific context of each place. These expo’s were placed in public accessible places, such as the local social centre, a home for the elderly and the district house. On demand, the exhibition afterwards visited two service centres and the municipal bureau of integration.
MAS also integrated the documentation and portrait-series in its boulevard (a free accessible exhibition space) and introduced 20 stories into the permanent exhibition, each one connecting the biographical to culinary heritage and historical events. An online storyboard was developed in partnership with the CAG (centre for agricultural history). Currently the MAS is testing an educational program for primary schools which shall be downloadable next year.
Since every one of us gets in touch with local food shops, and because the practices concerned are not happening in an organisational setting, the MAS chose different approaches to involve a variety of individuals and groups:
The exhibition at the MASboulevard was a success, clearly catching the attention of the visitors, quite often leading to discussions (private, but also with the MAS). The display of 20 digital storylines is a success among visitors. To the inhabitants of Antwerp they are a moment of recognition. The combination of personal stories to more general happenings and phenomena, make them interesting for international visitors too.The educational program will be useful for schools in Antwerpen Noord to explore the food shops in their neighbourhood and the restaurants close to the central station. Teachers can offer information, but also offer the pupils to bring in their culinary and shopping experiences. The program also makes suggestions for intergenerational contacts via local homes and service centres for the elderly.
© portrait photo: Ake van der Velden
Sofie De Ruysser works as Consultant policy and strategy for the MAS | Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp, Belgium. From within this museum she builds networks with a myriad of communities and both professional and non-professional heritage partners in Antwerp. She contributes to the MAS’ policy, especially concerning the domains of participation and ICH. Sofie co-ordinated the participatory heritage projects Giants of Antwerp and The Corner Shop and is currently working together with the urban dance scene. She contributes to the municipal heritage policy, linking the Museums and Heritage department to the Local Culture Policy teams in the Antwerp districts. Sofie graduated as Master in History of Art (KU Leuven) and obtained additional degrees in Philosophy (KU Leuven) and Cultural Management (UAMS).
Together with good partners, a museum can offer a program of participatory activities with different levels of ownership and exchange.
20 December 2017 from 10:50 to 10:50
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