16 Feb 2017
Posted By: Caroline Sandes
Comments: 0

ICOMOS-UK’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee (ICHC) has been funded fifteen thousand pounds by the Arts Council England to facilitate five one day workshops which will be planned and executed jointly with selected museums and local communities in the South-East region, England. The project will explore intangible elements in museum collections and identify how these new dimensions could be used as a catalyst for audience engagement and participation. An independent evaluation and a publication will record the various methodologies tested during the project for sharing with others in the museum sector.

The participating museums are: Weald and Downland Living Museum, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, The Cambridge Museum and Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery.

The project is also expected to raise awareness about intangible cultural heritage (ich) among museum staff, practicing communities comprising lone practitioners, small voluntary groups and NGOs, and the wider public. Artists would be employed to bring together all three groups to identify connections between the tangible collections located in museums and local landscapes and the past and evolving cultural traditions or living heritage being safeguard by local people to pass on to future generations.

Clara Arokiasamy, Chair Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee, ICOMOS-UK, said: Intangible heritage has provided us with a means of living and a way of life, while informing us of our history and shaping our identities. Awareness of intangible cultural heritage within the museum sector remains low. This project is a key step towards helping museums explore and use the intangible elements in their collections to engage with the ich communities who often can be lonely voices involved in safeguarding their traditions and cultural practices some of which are constantly evolving to meet the changes in demography and environment and others under threat of extinction. We hope that this pilot project will capture some lessons and methodologies which should benefit other museums. We are appreciative of ACE’s and our museum partners’ support for this catalyst project.”

John Orna-Ornstein, Director Museums and South East, Arts Council England, said:Museums are incredible places, housing so many wonderful collections that give audiences an insight into our cultural heritage. But our cultural heritage is so much more than just objects, it is also about our traditions, social practices, festivals and skills. These are equally as important, but are more challenging for museums to integrate into their work. This project will be an important catalyst for museums in the South East and one we’re pleased to be able to support. It will help equip more staff with the skills they need to showcase these intangible elements to their audiences and ensure they are not lost to the sands of time.”

The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage groups the various cultural traditions and practices into five Domains/Specialisms : Each participating museum will focus on one of the following UNESCO Domains): Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; Performing arts; Social practices, rituals and festive events; Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; Traditional craftsmanship. (http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/what-is-intangible-heritage-00003)

The 2003 Convention stipulates that practicing communities – the owners of ich - should define and decide which ich should be safeguarded and promoted. Independent artists will be employed by participating museums to work with local people and museum staff in achieving this key tenant of the Convention.

All four museum partners are pleased to rise to the challenge of bringing to life the intangible elements of the tangible objects and artefacts and the environment they look after. Their comments amplify their support for the project.  

“We are delighted to be partners with ICOMOS UK, Arts Council England and other museums in our region on this exciting pilot project. Our team is looking forward to collaborating with an artist and local community members on activities inspired by our nationally designated collection located within the South Downs National Park. The Weald & Downland Living Museum is currently inviting artists to submit proposals for a project under the Domain of "knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe".

Martin Purslow, CEO, Weald & Downland Living Museum

"We're delighted that Hastings Museum & Art Gallery is taking part in this exciting pilot project. This initiative from ICOMOS-UK and supported by the Arts Council England will enable us to work with the Hastings Fishermen's Protection Society to explore the relationship between the fishing community, their culture and the collections at the Museum.  Working with an artist to capture their traditions is a great opportunity, which we hope will help us to develop similar projects in the future."

Councillor Dawn Poole, Lead Member for Regeneration and Culture, Hastings Borough Council.

“Our longest serving Curator, Enid Porter was a folklorist in the 1940’s and believed that the preservation of objects must be coupled with the recording of ‘…the whole way of life, which of course includes folklore and tradition, of their past owners.’ This project will help us to build on her ethos, updating this thinking to encompass significant social, lifestyle and demographic changes, to explore the oral traditions and expressions of people in our local communities now, connecting them with our collections through the intangible cultural heritage they represent and want to protect.”

Lorna O’Brien, Manager, The Cambridge Museum

We are looking forward to being involved in this exciting project and will be engaging with the local artist community and our collections to explore the intangible cultural heritage of performing arts.”

Richard Hunt, Director, Peterborough museum and art gallery

For additional information please contact Caroline Sandes Office Manager on 020 7566 0031 or email caroline.sandes@icomos-uk.org

Clara Arokiasamy, Email: clara.arokiasamy@btinternet.com

Michael Cooke, Email: Michael.cooke@artscouncil.org.uk