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TAEC ASEMUS 2012 Presentation


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The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) is an independent, non-profit museum dedicated to promoting the appreciation and preservation of cultural diversity in Lao PDR. Like most museums, TAEC maintains a collection of artefacts, curates exhibitions, and promotes scholarship and learning through research and outreach activities. However, TAEC is also a museum representing living cultures in a developing country context, and as such faces a unique set of challenges for which it has developed specific approaches.

In a country with low education levels and a lack of museum and non-traditional learning opportunities, simply drawing in Lao visitors and creating a meaningful experience for them requires creativity and active visitor management. TAEC has developed a range of activities for children visiting the museum and also conducts sessions in schools to broaden its reach. Attracting adults has remained more elusive. To facilitate the building of further cultural heritage resources in Laos, TAEC conducts capacity-building activities for government staff of museums, NGO workers, and tourism professionals.

TAEC’s most challenging but meaningful objective is to promote cultural pride and revitalisation within ethnic minority communities themselves. TAEC has explored approaches including an ethnic minority intern programme, collaborative exhibition development with villages, and an ethnic cultural festival. Recognising that rural ethnic communities are amongst Laos’ poorest populations, TAEC also runs a handicrafts development programme, generating income for over 600 artisans in 11 provinces of the country.

TAEC views all these approaches (and others) as part of its education and advocacy programmes, and crucial to the sustainability of the organisation, its mission, and cultural heritage management itself. The challenge is how to progress from simply educating local populations to understand and value the idea of cultural diversity, to adopting the task of fostering cultural diversity, and finally, to taking leadership in their own communities to tackle their specific cultural heritage issues through home-grown approaches.

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TAEC ASEMUS 2012 Presentation

  1. 1. Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre Museum Education as a Sustainable Approach to Community-Driven Heritage Management Alicia Akins, Programmes Director
  2. 2. Contents• Background of TAEC – Mission – Areas of Activity• Challenges of Developing Country Context• Education as a Sustainability Approach• Enduring Questions & Possibilities
  3. 3. Traditional Arts andEthnology Centre• Private, non-profit museum• Started in November 2005 by an American anthropologist and a Lao museum professional• Start-up funding from private donors and foundations• Opened in July 2007 in heritage building in Luang Prabang• Dearth of accessible, accurate and engaging information on Laos’ ethnology• Dedicated to the understanding and preservation of ethnic diversity in Laos
  4. 4. Mission & Objectives To facilitate pride and investment in Laos’ ethnic diversity and cultural resources byhelping visitors and locals to understand and value the changing lifestyles of Laos’ manyethnic groups, and providing an outlet for thedevelopment and selling of their handicrafts.
  5. 5. Operational vs. Missional• Operationally functional: financially sustainable• Missionally sustainable: local investment in mission beyond our organization• Both necessary for long term success
  6. 6. Activities• Collections• Exhibitions• Research• Advocacy and Livelihoods• Education and Outreach
  7. 7. Challenges of a Developing Country• Education levels & systems• Physical and intellectual access to resources• Different local priorities• No precedent for museum  community engagement
  8. 8. Education and Outreach as Sustainability Strategy TAEC’s most challenging but meaningful objective is to promote cultural pride and revitalisation within ethnic minority communities themselves.
  9. 9. Limits of traditional museum activity areasExhibits, research, and collection arebased on a model that assumes:• comfort with self-guided discovery and reflection• an ability to engage with large quantities of information at higher cognitive levels
  10. 10. Community Integrated Education: A Sustainability Opportunity• Moves beyond more static education approaches to more community-led, dynamic ways of sustaining heritage• Meets people in their communities with learning opportunities based on their needs
  11. 11. Our ApproachUNDERSTANDING ADOPTING PROPELLINGTAEC’s mission TAEC’s mission TAEC’s mission“I understand.” “What can I do?” “Here are my plans,“Interesting.” would you like to partner with me?”students participants leaders
  12. 12. School Programs• 2-member education outreach team that visits schools in surrounding areas• Collaboration with other educationally-focused local non-profits on book and literacy projects, knowledge fairs, and ethnology curriculum for school use
  13. 13. Staff Training• Recruiting ethnic minorities• Taking TAEC staff to conferences abroad related to heritage management• Research projects where staff can explore ethnological topics based on their own interests and share final report with staff team• External guide training
  14. 14. Capacity building with regional museum professionals• TAEC engaged to provide support to government and project staff in five provinces. – Training on community research, cataloguing, devel oping displays, and visitor management – Study tours – Exhibition development
  15. 15. Ethnic Minority InternsIn 2009 TAEC hosted four ethnic youthinterns for a month – Oral history projects – Introduction to heritage management – Local cultural tour – Accompanied by local knowledge resource persons
  16. 16. Ethnic Cultural Festival• Held in 2010• 156 ethnic participants from 11 different villages representing 7 ethnic groups participated• High turn-out for local Lao visitors attending• Cultural performances, learning activities and handicraft stalls
  17. 17. Training artisan communities• Took Yao Mien artisan to participate in Santa Fe International Folk Art Market• Helping artisans set up distribution channels
  18. 18. Enduring Questions & Possibilities• How else could we encourage greater engagement and ownership of preservation of traditions and informed adoption of new ones?• How can we use the challenges of our context to help shape a locally sustainable model of museums?• What can and does our experience add to the broader discussion of the relevance of museums?
  19. 19. Enduring Questions & Possibilities• Given the correlation between rise in education levels and decline in practice of traditional arts, how can we integrate traditional arts within schools so attendance does not lead to decline but to a flourishing, “reimagining”, and fresh appreciation of traditional skills?
  20. 20. THANK YOU