I’ve taken a rather long break from this blog. Now it is time to restart.
However, the scope of this blog will widen. It will become clear why, and how, once I’ve set out where I’m currently at in my experiences and my interests.
It’s been two years and eight months since I left the formal museum (and heritage) sector. I was recently asked if I would not consider going into museum consulting in Germany. Participation and to some degree co-creation and power sharing have finally arrived at least on the political agenda, as the recent establishment of the Zentrum für kulturelle Teilhabe (Centre for Cultural Participation) in the State of Baden-Württemberg shows. And participation, co-creation and power sharing have always been the primary goals in my professional practice.
Unfortunately, in the three years that I worked in the German museum sector upon my return, these goals were also the ones which I was repeatedly forced to defend. In the end, this meant taking several steps back in my professional practice and fight for something that to me and most of my international colleagues is a given. I was not prepared to do that. I am still not prepared to do that. I leave that fight to others.
I am now fast approaching my three-year anniversary in the further education sector, which in its day-to-day practices is firmly rooted in what in Germany is called Soziokultur. There is no term for that in English. This is highly illustrative of the underlying issue of my experiences in the German museum sector: museums are high culture, fairly separate from wider society, while Soziokultur is all about people and how they live together.
In other words, I have arrived in a professional environment that is dedicated to what has always been most important to me. I still work with heritage, and indeed we are currently in a collaborative project with our local Roman history museum. However, I am now engaged with the dynamics of heritage, history and culture far, far beyond museums and heritage sites. Where before I used to reflect on heritage primarily in the context of interpretive practice and heritage management, I am now challenged to think much more deeply about the role of lived heritage and its impacts within societies, as well as the impacts of history and culture.
I now work in an organisation whose very reason for existing is democracy. Volkshochschulen were founded to enable people to participate fully. Every course we offer relates back to that vision in one way or another. Not being bound to a museum collection or a particular site gives me the freedom to engage with issues that perhaps at first glance are nothing do with heritage. Take for example the Symbolic Elections that we organised last year for all the people in our town who were not allowed to vote in the German Parliamentary Elections on the grounds of their nationality. Upon closer examination, this has everything to do with history, our culture, our definitions of Germanness and who we want to be as a society. In other words, it has everything to do with questions about our heritage now and in the future.
So, getting back to the scope of this blog. I will still write posts purely on cultural heritage, and heritage interpretation, too. However, I will also write more broadly about heritage, history, and culture, and especially about how they manifest, impact, and (re-)shape society. Occasionally, I may write about technology and the Third Space, or developing a co-created vhs programme. The essence of this blog will remain the same: I am all about furthering professional practices around heritage and culture that are inclusive and people-centred.
I do hope that many of you will continue to accompany me on this journey. Do share your thoughts with me. I look forward to exchanging ideas with you.