The place of the mad, the bad and the dead… which is no longer that at all

Urška Purg

Whenever in London, I’m sure you treat yourself with at least a sneak peek into some of their exquisite museums, right? How not to? They have those massive, impressive and amazing cultural houses, which attract millions for their objects and artifacts, architecture or promised experiences. Sometimes also because of the name itself – admit it.

Well, next time in London, consider taking yourself for another, this time slightly different museum adventure, only 30 minutes away from London by train – to Woking. Why? Because it is a home of not so large and not so famous however, appealing mixture of gallery and museum – The Lightbox. Smaller, but from a museum geek’s perspective extremely interesting because of its tight connection to the surrounding society and their feeling of responsibility to the local area. Marvelous.

It’s an institution, where everything just simply functions while breathing with its society. A place that could be called a plus museum – museum with added value, or as they are saying: “More than just a gallery” and could easily be an example of good practice for museums who cannot build their reputation by Van Goghs, Rembrandts, Egyptian riches, or any other buzz-museum objects. Sure, you won’t run into masses of tourists, which is liberating at some point, instead, you will be welcomed by a friendly greeting by one of their staff at the entrance. You will be surrounded by the sounds of live music from their café, or will be flirting with local products in their shop. You will pass by a curious family, a few local visitors, a group of children on their exploratory mission … and a lot of things that will steal an hour – or better two – from you just like that.

For an introduction of this area and building of a local identity and a sense of belonging, the permanent exhibition takes care under slogan: Once known as the place of the mad, the bad and the dead, even though it is much more than just that. However, merely by this well-chosen slogan, a fair share of Woking’s history remains in your mind, when leaving The Lightbox. The exhibition works perfectly, it guides you through all you need to know by neatly intertwined technology, so you don’t even realize you have been tackling with it and it does not compete for the attention over the displayed objects.

For a break from history, or just for inspiration, you can take a walk down their art exhibition, where they take great care for exhibiting their permanent collection as widely as possible with always fresh artifacts. If you really feel like pampering, you can hire the place for a lovely dinner among the arts. Besides this, they keep up with the offer by bringing the hosting temporary exhibitions, or preparing their own. To my great pleasure, while I was there, an exhibition on Quentin Blake’s illustrations was on. The child in me was happy and satisfied.

What I cherish most about them is the fact, they never, never forget about the relevant topics, participation, accessibility, and involvement of the locals, and thus they really put their effort into being a relevant cultural building of that area. In a way, they’ve managed to become Woking’s cultural core in their nearly a decade of existence. Just a small illustration of that: when I arrived from the train, of course I had no idea where to go, because I forgot to print screen the map on my phone or check for directions from their useful website. Instead I just asked the first person, who walked by, if she could direct me to the Lightbox. “Oh, no problem love, I was just heading that way.” a lovely elderly lady replied, while a man next to us heard my question and interfered: “It’s just down there and then a bit to the left, see.” So, absolutely no map needed and you’ll reach it anyway.

To wrap it up – it’s a lovely experience, it has a little bit of everything and a good cup of coffee as well. I absolutely wouldn’t mind having a Lightbox a bit closer to me. Well, see you next time, when I’ll be in that parts of Europe.

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Well, I wouldn’t quite be myself, if I wouldn’t come from the back side of the building, now would I./ Nedvomno jaz ne bi bila jaz, če ne bi prišla iz hrbtne strani stavbe.

 

 

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Museum Tea Party: The future of museums with the young museologists

Video

On Tuesday, 17 November 2015, we performed our third museum tea party at the National Museum of Contemporary History in the framework of projects of the EMEE – EuroVision: Museums Exhibiting Europe and Accessibility of cultural heritage to vulnerable groups. The third museum tea party was dedicated to the views, thoughts and experiences of the young museum professionals and museologists. We chitchatted with PhD Saša Starec, Meta Kordiš, Neja Tomšič (MoTA – Museum of Transitory Art) and Sebastian Weber (Museum of Recent History Celje).

Our guests have presented their experiences in working in museums or the research they have been conducting on the museums. Saša Starec talked about her doctoral research, which was carried out in two museums, in Celje and Berlin, and explained the differences in their operation. She defined the concept of post-museum (Hooper-Greenhill, 2000) that advocates the public participation in the creation of museum content. It enables the creation of polyphony in museums, which allows the stories of those who have so far been overlooked or ignored in museums to be heard. Neja Tomšič presented the MoTA status for their placement in a museum world. It is a multidisciplinary platform, released from what at first was a society, dedicated to the research and presentation of transient, experimental and live art practices. Naming themselves as a museum, was a decision they came upon, because they want – through their practices – question the role of the museum today, introduce new work processes and create different collections. Meta Kordiš spoke about her cooperation with the Maribor Art Gallery, where she co-curated an exhibition US, YOU, THEY. Fragments of 80’s alternative practices in Maribor. Her efforts have coincided with the social developments in Maribor in 2013, as she investigated social changes and alternatives that have taken place in Maribor in the 80’s. She approached the matter by researching this heritage, in cooperation with its most prominent representatives, while every inhabitant of Maribor was invited to supplement the exhibition. Sebastian Weber has described his love for work on the field and working with people, both of which he is trying to – as much as possible –implement in all of his projects. Upon his arrival at work at the museum, almost a decade ago, he has noticed the lack of the younger generation in museums, who in his opinion do not come, either because of lack of interest, or lack of time. Therefore, he tried to get closer to this generation by usage of social networks and its integration in the creation of exhibition called Virtual Spaces.
You are invited to listen the museum tea party (unfortunately only in Slovene language).

Muzeji v prihodnosti z mladimi muzealci 1/2

Muzeji v prihodnosti z mladimi muzealci 2/2

Ethical issues in anthropological research and ethics in museology

Tina Palaić
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Before we started to study their perinatal customs, practices and experiences, I have visited Roma women to determine the research issue and project activities together. All women, to whom I spoke to in two Roma communities and at the society which one of them leads, were willing to talk about maternity. They recognize the identity of being a mother crucial for them and they immediately started to talk about their different experiences. It was extremely important for me to plan the activities together and to give them the opportunity to express their fears and possible obstacles and also to suggest some changes in the process of cooperation. With my colleagues – Nika Rudež and Anja Božič, performers of the theatre of oppressed – we discussed a lot about how to do the research into such a demanding and complex issue with the group of women, being often discriminated both – in contact with the wider community and within their own group. Ethical considerations were also necessary when we were curating the exhibition.

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Mosaic of our realities – creator of the exhibition, Jasmina Ahmetaj’s dress / Mozaik naših realnosti – obleka Jasmine Ahmetaj, ustvarjalke razstave

A lot has been written about the research ethics in anthropology. Additionally, I also used the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. As a starting point, we decided to conduct all the project activities together with Roma women; they actively participated in all stages of the project. To avoid causing any harm to them either inside their group or inside the majority community, we had to get acquainted with their needs and habits and of course respect them. Several factors had to be considered when preparing the activities: Slovene language skills, household, business and study obligations of the women, presence of children at the workshops in one of the groups, group dynamics and willingness to cooperate. We adapted the intensity of the research process to all of these factors. It was also important that we were focused on the process and not on the end results of the project, which empowered Roma women and gave them the feeling of control over the collaboration process. In my opinion, this was the crucial decision, since it enabled them with the power and security to stop the process at any time, due to the voluntary basis of the collaboration.

While curating the exhibition, we had to combine professional competence of museum curator and the needs and wishes of Roma women – as the holders of their heritage. Roma communities understand their heritage variously and the fear of the possible discrimination inside their community and in contact with majority population impacted the selection of presented content. Thus, the exhibition was the result of negotiations and compromises between the museum curator and Roma women and also between the participant Roma women themselves. They are experts in their heritage however, we cannot expect that they are familiar with the museum mission and the museology. Therefore, it is not ethical to enable them an entirely free creative expression, but it is the duty of the curator to create the exhibition in a proper way together with them. This means he or she has to include only accurate and valid information and be aware of the purpose of the museum interpretation. While curating the exhibition, we discussed about contents and images, which could possibly harm the Roma community and especially women and even strengthen stereotypes about Roma in the wider society. We had to avoid some presentations that could do harm also to other groups, for example majority community or some groups of Roma people inside Slovenian Roma community. We also turned the perspective and rather than presenting the Roma women in the position of victims, we presented them as active creators of their own lives. With the mosaic of their stories, we emphasized the differences between Roma groups and especially between women in a particular group. Therefore, we tried to overcome the image of homogeneous Roma culture and, what is more important, of powerless individual determined by it.

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Prenatal customs/ Šege v času nosečnosti

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Child protection against evil / Zaščita otroka pred zlom