Module 2 – Collecting and Documenting

Participative strategies for past and present

Guiding questions:

  • How can a museum stay current and relevant for the present?
  • What is participative collecting and documenting?
  • Which forms can be distinguished?
  • How can we engage the public as stakeholders?
  • What should be collected and why?
  • How to collect and document intangible heritage?

Museums usually collect and represent the past. But what can we do to turn them into relevant places for today’s societies? This module introduces the four stages of participatory museum work as defined by Nina Simon: Contributory, collaborative, co-creative and hosted. This typology helps to understand, distinguish and learn ways to initiate different forms of participatory museum work.

The idea is that accessibility and active participation of diverse audiences in all working fields of a museum creates a better understanding of how museums work while simultaneously giving them space to introduce and represent their issues. Thus it fosters people’s “sense of ownership” in a museum and supports the feeling of having made a long lasting investment.

Taking participation seriously consequently challenges the idea of professional museum work done by experts. It rather advocates a concept of the professional as a facilitator who is more interested in the process than in a finished product. It may also redefine who has the authority in curating or what form the museum should take on: being foremost a meeting- and communication place or rather a shrine for the preservation and research of objects.