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  • In 1971, Hugues de Varine also invented a word to encapsulate the idea of creating museums, using local heritage and driven by local communities, to aid development.
  • The word he invented was ’ecomuseum’ – specially developed for use by the French Mininster for the Environmment when he spoke to an ICOM conference in Dijon, France.
  • So, two Frenchmen, two new words, same meaning. Ever since, in many countries, the terms new museology and ecomuseology are applied to community heritage projects concerned with social and economic development.
  • The ‘ecomuseum’ movement originated in France in the early 1970s initiated by George Henri Rivière and Hugues de Varine.

    Prostor013_lightboxThe House of Batana / Ecomuseum

    Defining the ecomuseum

    • Museum = building + collections + experts + techniques: Ecomuseum = territory + heritage + memory + population (Rivard).
    • An ecomuseum is a dynamic way in which communities preserve, interpret and manage their heritage for sustainable development. An ecomuseum is based on a community agreement. (Long Network).
    • An ecomuseum is a community driven heritage project that aids sustainable development (Davis).

    stonehenge1_2767826bStonehenge Ecomuseuum – Visitor Center

    So ecomuseums are:

    • About place, they are not confined to a museum building; they incorporate and celebrate ICH.
    • Able to select aspects of heritage from their territory to conserve and interpret.
    • Are a radical departure from the authorized discourse on museums, a form of alternative museology.

    3 main pillars of the ecomuseum ideal

    1. Sense & spirit of place – through an holistic approach to heritage resources in their environments.

    2. Community involvement – public participation and the ‘democratisation’ of processes.

    3. The ecomuseum ideal is malleable and should be responsive to unique contexts.

    Oostvaardersplassen_900x439_1_Olaf_GipserOostvaardersland Ecomuseum

    21 key indicators/principles of the ecomuseum

    1-6 = democratised participation.

    7-12 = ecomuseum functions and ways of working.

    13-21 = what an ecomuseum might achieve.

    Instituto Ricerche Economico Sociali (IRES) Piemonte, Italy (Corsane et. al. 2007).

    Ecomuseum & Community Museology Principles

    1. Originated and steered by local communities.
    2. Allow for public participation in a democratic manner.
    3. Joint ownership and management – double input system.
    4. Emphasis on process rather than on product.
    5. Encourages collaboration with network of partners.
    6. Dependant on substantial active voluntary efforts.
    7. Covers both spatial and temporal aspects – diachronic rather than simply synchronic.
    8. Fragmented ‘museum’ with network of hub and antennae of buildings and sites.
    9. Promotes preservation, conservation and safeguarding of heritage resources in situ.
    10. Equal attention given to immovable and movable tangible and intangible heritage resources.
    11. Stimulates sustainable development and responsible use of resources.
    12. Allows for change and development for a better future.
    13. Encourages an ongoing programme of documentation of past and present life and interactions with environmental factors.
    14. Promotes research with different inputs – from local ‘specialists’ to academics.
    15. Promotes multi-disciplinary and inter- disciplinary approaches to research.
    16. Promotes a holistic approach to interpretation of culture/nature relationships.
    17. Illustrates interconnectedness between: nature/culture; past/present; technology/individual.
    18. Provides for an intersection between heritage and responsible tourism.
    19. Brings benefits to local communities e.g. sense of pride, regeneration, and economic, social and cultural capital.

    1258059985-15-grandteton-nl-335-055Craig Thomas Discovery Ecomuseum

    Ecomuseum principles and ICH

    • The following principles are particularly relevant to the conservation/continuation of ICH.
    • Encouraging collaboration.
    • Focus on local identity.
    • Specific reference to ICH.
    • Focus on local pride and sense of place.
    • Focus on local identity.
    • Specific reference to ICH.
    • Focus on local pride and sense of place.


     Resource: Peter Davis – Newcastle University, UK