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Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums Project (IMP): concluding Symposium on 26 February 2020

Since 2017 the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums Project (IMP) has been exploring the extent to which ICH practitioners and communities can work together with museum professionals and networks in ways that are sustainable and mutually beneficial, aimed at both safeguarding ICH and fulfilling traditional museum functions.

The ICH NGO Forum has been a supporting partner within the IMP project from the start, focusing on international policies for safeguarding ICH, and the implementation of the 2003 UNESCO Convention.
The IMP project arose from the finding that the intersections of ICH and museums are often fraught with questions and challenges. For instance, the concept of ICH raises many different interpretations. Discussions about its integration into museum settings are often dependent upon the approach of ICH. Oral history and narrative interviews with practitioners, for example, are sometimes used within museums as a means to provide background information to objects or practices displayed. While museum professionals commonly regard such narrative media as intangible heritage in itself, ICH professionals point out that they fulfill a more mediating role: interviews and oral history offer documentation and information transmission, but do not constitute a “living” ICH practice in itself. Another field of tension relates to audience and practitioner engagement when ICH is integrated into museum contexts. Participatory museology currently still features only at the margins of contemporary museum practices, and is not yet a key element in the educational trajectories of museum staff. Nonetheless, the potential for successfully bridging ICH and museums cannot be underestimated, and requires increased attention as to its place in 21st century museums.

In order to address these questions and many other debates, the IMP project has been building a forum for encounters and exchanges of experiences and best practices, both from the side of ICH practitioners and communities, and of museum networks and professionals. The key to success lies in cooperatively refining and developing multiple perspectives, conceptual frameworks, and methodologies with a view to serve practices on museums and collections as much as they can foster the safeguarding of ICH. The IMP project has a strong international orientation through its collaboration between the five partner countries of Belgium (Werkplaats mmaterieel Erfgoed), the Netherlands (Kenniscentrum Immaterieel Erfgoed Nederland), Italy (SIMBDEA), France (Centre Français du Patrimoine Culturel Immatériel), and Switzerland (Verband der Museen der Schweiz / Bundesamt für Kultur). It is additionally embedded in transnational networks such as ICH NGO Forum, ICOM and NEMO – Network of European Museum Organisations. This structure actively encourages transational mobility in order to achieve the goals of the project, including interdisciplinary peer learning, developing professional skills and tools, and creating cross-border networking opportunities. The international orientation of the IMP is part of a broader set of strategic directives, which also include goals such as raising awareness on the topic of ICH and museums among both museum and heritage professionals, and the development of innovative participatory safeguarding measures for ICH. This approach enables the exchange of good practices between museum and heritage professionals within Europe, but the IMP project members and collaborators are also ready to start sharing their collectively gained knowledge and experiences on a global scale.

In 2020, the IMP project will come to its conclusion. To summarize all expertise gained and best practices mapped, a concluding symposium will take place in Brussels on 26 February 2020. The meeting will bring together heritage practitioners, museum professionals, policy makers, academic researchers, and representatives of NGO’s. In different formats such as a roundtable discussion, a keynote speech, parallel working sessions and videographic intermezzo’s, the participants will summarize the theoretical and practical insights that have been pooled together over the past three years, while at the same time valorizing them into best practices for museum and heritage professionals, and recommendations for policy makers in a comparative European context. The Concluding Symposium also provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the many different practical contributions that were made by ICH and museum representatives over the course of the IMP project, as well as the project’s outreach initiatives, aimed at different target audiences. Among the latter are the upcoming IMP toolbox, which will be an open access repository of inspiration and methodology for both heritage and museum professionals. The meeting will also feature the IMP book, which comprises a more extensive reflection of lessons learned and opportunities to follow. IMP welcomes all of you with an interest in the subject of ICH and Museums to join the Symposium in Brussels on February 26 to come and share the outcomes, co-creations and cross-disciplinary, international collaborations initiated by the project.

The Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums Project was made possible with the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, the Flemish Government and the Swiss Federal Office of Culture.

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