Day 2: Communities

December 1st, 2023 

Day 2: Communities

(Un)Common sense – an inclusive exhibition project: from idea to implementation and practical experience – Constanze Hampp

Short Talk

What is it like to be a bat? Or a sunflower? The exhibition “(Un)Common Sense” is about how humans, animals and plants use different senses to perceive the world around them and master the challenges of everyday life. But the exhibition is not only about the senses, it is also intended to be an experience for the senses and accessible to everyone. This talk takes a look at the development of the exhibition, which was realised with the support of an advisory board with people with disabilities. Constanze Hampp discusses practical experiences with the exhibition and its accompanying education programme.

Constanze Hampp is Head of Communications at the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe. She is responsible for the exhibitions, the education and outreach department, as well as the public relations and marketing department. Constanze studied communication science and psychology in Munich and Innsbruck and worked in various fields of science communication. She started her museum career at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, where she spent several years researching the effects of authentic objects in exhibitions. After completing her PhD in science communication at the Technical University of Munich, she switched from research to exhibition and outreach practice.

Engaging with communities in a post-communist country – Inesa Sulaj

Short Talk

This presentation begins with the museology sector in Albania, from the opening of the first museums until the present day. Inesa Sulaj then presents information about how museums function nowadays, goes into community engagement, and also briefly mentions some of the challenges that the museum staff face. In the third part of her presentation, Inesa talks about the community centre she and her colleague opened a few years ago and how they managed to work with several local communities. At the end of this presentation Inesa shares some practical experiences.

Inesa Sulaj is one of the founders of MuZEH Lab, a non-profit organisation and community centre based in Durrës, Albania. Since opening this organisation, Inesa and her co-founder Dorina Xheraj Subashi have focused on developing community projects in the cultural heritage and museum field. Inesa started her career at the Ministry of Culture in Albania, worked for USA embassy projects and was also a consultant for different NGOs in Albania. She then received an offer to work as a Museum Educator at the National Gallery of Arts in Albania, the most important figurative art institution in the country. The challenges and limitations she encountered in this institution inspired her to open her own space. While opening MuZEH Lab together with her co-founder, Inesa also completed a Master of Arts for Museum Studies at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Her research during this time focused on education and engagement of communities.

Co-creation with local (intangible) heritage communities: experiences from the Netherlands –  Mark Schep

Short Talk

In a collaboration between the Dutch Open Air Museum, KIEN, and youngsters from Presikhaaf University an exhibition and activity program was developed about the heritage of Presikhaaf, a neighbourhood in Arnhem. This project and three other co-creations of museums and (intangible) heritage practitioners are the focus of this presentation. Mark explores and discusses the do’s and don’ts for museums when setting up a co-creation with local communities. The projects and lessons learned are also described in the  publication Experiences with co-creation. A museological platform for intangible cultural heritage: Tips and recommendations 

Mark Schep is a researcher at the Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage (KIEN), which is part of the Dutch Open Air Museum in Arnhem, and a teacher at the Reinwardt Academy for cultural heritage in Amsterdam. He holds a PhD in museum education from the University of Amsterdam, specifically focusing on the role of museum guides in art and history museums. The PhD project resulted in a practical guideline for museum guides, Guiding is a profession. Two of the articles are published in Museum Management and Curatorship. After his PhD, Mark researched several educational programs of museums and published Interaction and Inclusion – The 2019 Trend Report on Museum and Heritage Education. In his work for KIEN he focuses, amongst other things, on the relationship of bicultural young adults and intangible cultural heritage.

World Café

At the end of the second conference day, an analogue and digital World Café served as a platform for sharing experiences. Together with experts, participants were able to discuss various questions and topics related to the conference theme. In addition to exchanging perspectives and experiences, the World Café promoted the advancement of target group-appropriate approaches.

During our World Café, experts gave brief insights into their work and started discussions by posing questions regarding current challenges they face in their work. Below you will find each of these questions followed by a brief summary of the World Café results. A summary of the general discussion and results of the digital World Café can be found at the end.

How can we reach and collaborate with underrepresented target groups? – Alexandra Moormann (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin)

During the discussion, different aspects that (we as) museum professionals need to consider when reaching out to and collaborating with underrepresented target groups came to light. Firstly, participants agreed it is important to involve a lot of people and institutions from a community from the start (e.g. schools, kindergartens, social workers). Furthermore, they concluded that we can’t expect people to come to our museum, but that we should visit people in their communities or neighbourhoods. In doing so, it is very important to create a welcoming atmosphere, for example with food and drinks in a nice surrounding. When successfully reaching out, we have the opportunity to speak with people that know the community and plan programmes together with them in a co-creation process. As the language barrier is an important aspect to consider when collaborating with certain underrepresented target groups, World Café participants shared examples of how drawing, games and music were successfully used as alternatives to language. Of course, museum objects can also be great ways to connect with your target groups, because objects can be associated with people’s personal lives and people in your target group may be specifically knowledgeable or have strong feelings about specific objects. As museum professionals, we need to look for these connections and use them as a starting point for conversations and collaborations.

What makes people talk about very personal and emotional topics in a(n archaeological) museum? – Antje Kluge-Pinsker (LEIZA)

A first result from the World Café discussion surrounding this question can be summed up with the word “reciprocity”: if you invite people to tell their stories, you have to tell your own stories. There may be a risk involved in opening up too much (as came up during Marlene Altenmüller’s talk on day one of our conference), but World Café participants concluded that there are different ways and levels of opening up and, accordingly, different relationships that you can create in a museum. Of course, these “relationships” are usually volatile. However, even during a single visit you can create a relationship by opening up and starting a conversation on a personal or emotional topic. 
A second point that came up as means to overcome barriers and start personal conversations was the necessity to identify and enlist the help of people that both parties know and trust. These people act as mediators and multiplicators to reach others. Participants agreed that it is much easier to talk about personal or emotional topics if you are in a group of people you know, rather than being confronted with some people from a museum. By inviting groups of people that already know each other before the visit (including a mediator), museums visitors find it easier to open up and start conversations. As a result of the visit, they get to know each other even better!

Museums as a social space for schools. What should museums do to (1.) be a better place for pupils, and (2.) to be of higher relevance for teachers? – Dominik von Roth (Germanisches Nationalmuseum)

In order for museums to truly become a social space or “third place” for schools, World Café participants discussing this question acknowledged that museum professionals need to understand the museum as such. They need to provide pupils with an afterschool space where they don’t have to do anything, but where they can for example do their homework or see the exhibitions if that is what they want to do. A keyword that came up was “safe environment”: as museum professionals, we want pupils to know that they will not be graded or judged for what they are doing. An issue that arose during the discussion is that such an afterschool space will likely only work well in cities, i.e. in places where museums a centrally located, close to a school or an area where pupils live.
Linked to the idea of a safe environment is the need to give pupils a place for meaning making. Museums have a lot of information and knowledge to share, which can be very helpful for teachers, but an important goal in our interactions with school classes is to create connections for pupils to make up their own minds and come up with their own ideas. While discussing this as an important goal, participants concluded that these efforts are, regrettably, only “finetuning” efforts. A final conclusion therefore was the need for museum professional to get (more) involved in education politics and drive change in our educational systems.

Visualisation of visitor data: How must data be presented so that museums can benefit from it in the best possible way? – Lorenz Kampschulte (Leibniz Centre of Excellence for Museum Education)

This World Café discussion started by identifying groups that may be interested in or need to have access to visitor data, both inside and outside of the museum. The resulting list of ten specific target groups included groups such as management, the curatorial team, and of course colleagues working in the education department and visitor service. This last group ranges from guides on the floor, to the security team, to the head of education, i.e. anyone who has direct contact with visitors and needs to know who is coming to the museum (and who is not – making sure we can welcome these people too!). World café participants also talked about the general public as a separate target group to share visitor data with. However, participants were worried that, by presenting who is currently visiting our museums, museums may (further) discourage those that are not (yet) visiting. It is therefore important to carefully consider how we can best present such data if we do decide to share visitor data with the public.
After listing target groups, participants discussed for each of the identified target groups which type of data would be most relevant and which way of visualising would be best. The challenge is to provide short and easy to understand findings while still providing a full and accurate picture of our heterogeneous audiences and the large amount of available visitor data. Although there was no all-encompassing solution or conclusion, the World Café discussion brought some fruitful ideas that Lorenz Kampschulte and his colleagues plan to implement into the evaluation platform that is currently being developed as part of the LePAS project.

Open topic: what roles can museums play in the problems some people face in their day to day lives? – Alexandra Dicks (Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education) and Eva Roßmanith (Senckenberg Natural History Museum Frankfurt)

The question that was posed at our “open topic” World Café table was: what roles can museums play in the problems some people face in their day to day lives? The discussion that arose from this question can be divided into an internal and an external perspective. For the internal perspective, world café participants discussed problems regarding museum staff and how the (lack of) diversity of museum staff influences our ability to relate to the problems many people face in their daily lives. As an example, many of us (conference participants) are concerned about the climate crisis, but for a lot of people, this issue is not very high on their list of daily problems and concerns.
The external perspective in the discussion focused on societal problems such as e.g. poverty or homelessness. Participants agreed that we should be aware of these
problems and although we cannot solve such big societal problems, we can still be part of a solution. One conference participant explained that their museum owned houses that they considered making available to homeless people. Of course, not every museum can contribute in such a concrete way, but participants concluded that through education, museums may contribute to reducing homelessness in the long run. At a minimum, museums can use their power to shed light on problems occurring in the reality of people’s lives.


Digital World Café

During the digital World Café, experts and participants decided to stay in one room and to have an overall discussion combining all the different questions that were brought to the virtual table. Some of these questions were also discussed during the World café tables at the conference venue in Mainz (see summaries above), while others were only presented and discussed online. The online questions were:

How can we reach and collaborate with underrepresented target groups? – Aria Tilove (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin)

What do (we as) museum professionals believe to be the reasons people (dis)trust museums? – Moritz Schmid (Technical University of Munich & Deutsches Museum München)

What makes people talk about very personal and emotional topics in a(n archaeological) museum? – Anna Kieburg (LEIZA)

“Nothing about us — without us“: How can we recognise and make use of opportunities and challenges when collaborating with people with disabilities? – Sandra Kittmann (Deutsches Museum München)

The general discussion of the digital World Café had a strong focus on inclusion and started with the question of how to “keep” the different target groups we reach out to and turn them into recurring visitors. Participants acknowledged that it takes time, patience and continued effort, e.g. in the shape of a youth council meeting up each month as a way to keep people connected. Also, sharing power is key and inclusion is important in all layers of the museum. Related to this is the need for people to see themselves represented in the museum on the one hand and the aspect of (warmth-related) trust on the other. Digital participants then talked about how inclusive approaches can be a trade-off in the sense that they may help one group while disadvantaging or even offending another group, and they then jointly discussed possible solutions. One participant suggested that tours may be a solution, provided that tour guides are trained to engage with different target groups and their respective needs. Participants agreed that soft skills such as empathy, flexibility but also transparency are crucial and therefore sensitivity training for tour guides is a must. Finally, a pragmatic solution that came up besides training tour guides, was to provide objects with several different object labels presenting perspectives from various visitor groups such as for example LGBTQ+ people or refugees. Such labels are a way to give different visitor groups a voice in the museum.