Isabelle Chassot (Swiss Federal Office of Culture), Andrea Kauer Loens (Swiss Museums Association) and Barbara Keller (Swiss Alpine Museum) welcomed the participants to the International conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage, Museums and Urbanised Society.
Jorijn Neyrinck (Workshop intangible heritage Flanders) continued with a brief introduction on the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums Project (IMP), to which this International conference connects. IMP wants to explore the variety of approaches, interactions and practices on intangible cultural heritage in museums and investigate how museums can play a role in the safeguarding of these living heritage practices, by working together with its practitioners in this process (read more about IMP in the ‘about-section’). IMP does this by inviting people from throughout its five partner countries (The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France and Switzerland), to share their experiences, successes as well as the obstacles they have encountered.
David Vitali (Swiss Federal Office of Culture) continued the introductory phase by explaining the way in which the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage is implemented in Switzerland, where this conference took place.
Next up were Sandro Cattacin and Leontine Meijer-van Mensch, who talked about their views on how Urbanised Society, Museums and Intangible Cultural Heritage interact.
Memory, rituals and mobility. Intangible cultural heritage in the urban context
In his keynote, Sandro Cattacin (University of Geneva), posited the hypothesis that the more cities produce urban rituals, the better they 'work'. According to Cattacin, they induce the feeling of 'territorial beloning'. He illustrates this with examples from Belgium (Zinneke Parade), Italy (derby Inter-Milan), Canada (Montreal zombie walk) and Switzerland (Fête de Genève - Escalade). These rituals create ties, agency, inclusion (and exclusion) to territories more than to groups. They can be invented, top-down implemented or bottom-up created, but, according to Cattacin:
Museums, communities and their practices: safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in our urbanised worlds
In her keynote, Léontine Meijer-van Mensch (Jewish Museum Berlin) reflected on the role of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, in relation to intangible cultural heritage. 'How can you "have" a practice when you are not a community museum?", she asked. Elaborating on 2 examples - playing the shofar in the museum (normally only played in synagogues) and a wedding ceremony that took place in the museum - she asked herself the question: 'Are these practices real, or are they performances?'. In these cases, Meijer-van Mensch continued, context really matters, so you should make sure to document it as a museum.
The conference continued with four presentations by practitioners of intangible heritage in Switzerland. Afterwards, these practitioners were questioned on their views on working with museums in the context of safeguarding their heritage.
The four presentations on Swiss ICH:
Some of the practitioners saw opportunities in working together with museums:
Others posed critical questions:
During the next part of the conference, a selection of museums from Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland and France were asked to present their work on intangible cultural heritage, linked to urbanised society:
Els Veraverbeke elaborated on an exhibition held at Huis van Alijn (BE) – the museum of daily life – on the occasion of the 175th celebration of the Gentse Feesten, an annual ten-day festival in the city of Ghent: Ghent Festivities. It showed the history of this tradition, and focussed on current events. The Gentse Feesten are made up of several sub-festivals on squares throughout the city. The museum invited the different festival organizers of the 2018 edition to include posters of their festival programs in the exhibition. It also commissioned an illustrator to make drawings of the 2018 edition that were included in the exhibition. See PTT
In every partner country associated with the IMP-project, one collaboration project between a museum and practitioners of intangible cultural heritage is supported. In Switzerland, this was the case for a collaboration between the Stadtmuseum Aarau and game communities, in the context of the exhibition 'PLAY'. This exhibition about digital gaming was co-created by the game community. The idea of the exhibition is that you can experience it through gaming. In discussing their collaboration, it was clear that shared authority is not only an issue for museums, but also for practitioners of intangible heritage.
You can find the report of the Expert meeting on ICH, Museums and Urbanised Society (26.09.2018) here.