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The Inclusive Museum: Broadening the Role of Museums and Cultural Institutions in Society
Internatioanl conference (invited speaker)

U.S. Embassy
British Council
Thessaloniki Concert Hall
State Museum of Contemporary Art
Thessaloniki (Greece), November 27, 2015



The paper analyzes the multidimensional relations and interactions between museums on the one hand, and local communities and the broader society on the other. Some of the intrinsic and external factors are discussed that can support or undermine any attempt of these organizations to enhance social inclusion, not only of certain audiences, but of the creators as well. Museums, even if they seek to become, they cannot be "closed" organizations, because:

  • They manage resources, they have turnover, they generate income and expense, and contribute to the GDP.
  • They produce and manage knowledge, since they employ scientific staff.
  • They apply and create innovation, not only in technological terms, but also in terms of innovative management models, as research centres, and in terms of the activities and innovative initiatives to develop their audience.
  • As employers and places of work, they manage difference in terms of gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, social class etc.
  • As mediators, they manage the access of the public to cultural resources and the access of the creators to the public.
  • Managing the collective memory, they are authorities of interpretation.
  • They are subject to political regulation upon which their margin of initiatives and activities depend.

Museums make decisions and choices on all these aspects of their operation, regardless of the strategy they adopt or the model of management they employ. These decisions and choices concern in both a direct and indirect way several dimensions of social exclusion and there is always space for contribution to social inclusion.

However, there are several internal and external factors that define museums as institutions of exclusion par excellence, although this does not mean that they do not have any possibility whatsoever to moderate this feature that distinguishes them as institutions of cultural identity. In any case, whatever vision inspires the attempts of any museum to contibute for social inclusion, it hardly can ignore the reality of its intrinsic limits, as well as those imposed by the dogma "development through austerity".