ICOM Webinar – Local Communities Strengthening Museums summary

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ICOM has launched several webinars with experts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, 5 August 2020, the topic was “Local Communities Strengthening Museums”, the session had a part for experts to present their museums’ work and the situation in their respective regions and a q&a.

Local Approach followed the webinar and created for you a summary of the discussion and recommendations. 


Here are the main points museums ought to consider moving forward: 

Reconsider the definition of community.

Can people live without Museums? As they clearly, can and have during this pandemic. 

Will peoples lives be different since 10% of museums will close permanently? 

What kind of museums will there be? The museum experience should be life-changing and offer opportunities to the local communities to be creators and invest in their relationship with museums. 

Invest and cater to your local community. Knowing the community strengthens the museum and helps its growth. Adapt to community needs and designed for them. Engage meaningfully with technology and help ease the digital divide 

Reposition the organisation as a sustainable community organisation. 

Actions to strengthen the community: 

  • Empathy: invite people from the community in, hear and understand their stories. Establish dialogue with local leaders, a personal relationship between members, get to know, eat and have regular contact with them. 

  • Studies in Chile reflect that people do not feel safe to return in the museum space for a year or until COVID-19 vaccination is available. 

  • Archive your community’s stories, like oral history, life story. 

  • Solidarity: make the museum a safe space and build trust with the community so they can become your advocates. 

  • Engage local government, remind them why museums and cultural spaces are essential to the identity of the community. 

  • Diversity: ensure the exhibition narratives reflect diversity such as gender, race, stigmatism, background. Connect with disadvantaged people or people who do not see museums as an important part of their life, and engage them to rebuild the structure of the museum together. 

  • Share the responsibility of curation with your community, learn how they want to engage with their cultural heritage. Design exhibitions for specific audience segments.

  • Rethink space: find ways to create exhibitions outside the physical museum space. Offer a digital experience, go into neighbourhoods or peoples homes, and be creative in your presentation. 

  • Transparency: offer information about museum operations such as cost, and work together with the community to achieve goals. It is more valuable to maintain relevance to your community than having more funding. 

  • Be affordable 

How to include COVID-19  stories in the museum

Strategise on how to present them and jointly create the narrative with the community.  Recognise the layers of each story, such as political, economic, social, and be considerate to the presentation. 

Use different modalities to create a meaningful and diverse experience, working with artists and be creative. 

Collect objects, stories, photographs or even jokes related to COVID-19, create a contemporary strategy for their acquisition, 

During the pandemic Suita City Museum along with other 10 Japanese museums, they collect objects, documents, photographs and stories. 

House of memories, works closely with elders and people with dementia and offers a connection to their memories past and present. 

Examples of Museums and practices, discussed by the panellists:

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Chicago,USA. This museum recreates the community life of the past, creates narratives and hosts public dialogues. 

Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum, Lwandle, South Africa, is integrated into the community and provides housing for the published community to interact with the locals. 

Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende,(Museum of Solidarity), Santiago Centro, Chile. Is a heritage museum of the former president Salvador Allende, part of the neighbourhood, they work with local leaders and members of the community, offer exhibitions and educational activities with the members. 

Casa Museo Pedro Nel Gomez, Medellin, Colombia,  they bring the museum space into peoples houses, by incorporating them as part of the exhibition space, have a variety of projects working with the locals and underprivileged people. 

Hirano  Community  Museum, Osaka, Japan, the surrounding neighbourhood and people are part of the museum and its curation. It is an eco museum designed to cater to locals and does not emphasise on tourism outside their community’s sphere. 

Museums in the Highlands group, Scotland, UK, work for and with rural communities, they collect their stories, connect and have contemporary curating. 

Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG), Minnesota, USA, work with elders, community leaders in a challenging environment to capture and share stories of African Americans of the community. 

Vanuatu Cultural Center

Women’s Museum, Hittisau, Austria, collect objects and stories to share. 

Local Approach found this webinar extremely useful and relevant to our mission. We believe that the best way to safeguard heritage is through local community involvement and are glad to see experts who share our values. 


  • Paulina Roblero. Graduate in Social Communication and in Preservation, Conservation and Management of Cultural Heritage, Paulina co-founded the Colectivo Vamos al Museo! (VAM) in December 2016, an organization that disseminates, stimulates and creates instances of public participation in Chile’s museums.
  • Bonita Bennett. Former Director of the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, Bonita’s background is as an educator and anti-apartheid and human rights activist. After teaching at schools in impoverished areas of Cape Town, Bennett gained an MPhil from the University of Cape Town focusing her research on narrative and memory.
  • Kenji Saotome. Graduate in International Education and Development and in Museum Studies, Saotome has been working for the Suita City Museum in Osaka, Japan, as a curator since 2011. His research focuses on the modern and contemporary history of the city of Suita. Kenji is a board member of ICOM’s International Committee for Regional Museums (ICR) and organizer of the Japan Small Museums Network.
  • Carol Rogers. Awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in January 2015, Carol leads the multi-award-winning House of Memories, National Museums Liverpool’s dementia awareness programme. House of Memories supports people living with dementia, their carers, families and communities. By 2019, 60,000 people had benefited from the programme, which is expanding across the UK, USA and South East Asia. Carol maintains an extensive national and international network of education, museum, health and social care partnerships.


  • Vinod Daniel. Internationally recognised museum specialist, Daniel is currently Chairman of the Board for AusHeritage (Australia’s Heritage Industry Network) and Board Member of ICOM.


  • Peter Keller. Appointed Director General of ICOM in 2017, Keller had been Director of the Salzburg Cathedral Museum (Dommuseum), Austria since 2002. He previously served as Treasurer of ICOM, Chair and Secretary of ICOM-DEMHIST and as a board member of the ICOM Austrian National Committee.

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The webinar was recorded and is available for viewing online: 


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