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PhD Defense Csilla Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke

27 September 2018
Academie Gebouw
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

The Social Museum in the Caribbean: Grassroots Heritage Initiatives and Community Engagement

A mosaic is the only image which can do justice to museums in the Caribbean. They are as diverse and plentiful as the many communities which form the cores of their organizations and the hearts of their missions. These profoundly social museums adopt participatory practices and embark on community engagement processes in order to embed themselves firmly in contemporary Caribbean societies.

This dissertation presents 195 Caribbean museums and the results of a unique research project. It begins with a macro view of 195 Caribbean museums and their participatory practices and continues by zooming in to a micro level to explore the dynamics of community engagement processes in two case studies. The Kalinago Barana Autê in Dominica shows the ongoing process of an indigenous grassroots initiative that became a governmentally owned but locally managed museum. The Bengal to Barbados exhibition in Barbados reveals the complex dynamics of a co-curation project between a heterogeneous migrant community and a national museum.

By giving voice to grassroots museums, this dissertation shifts the museological discussion away from the usual suspects to consider topics such as the ephemeral museum (i.e. non-permanent museums). From ecomuseums and object donations, to multi-vocality and participatory styles, and the need for negotiation and representativity, the study reveals a multitude of facets of the social museum in the Caribbean. Recognizing the different forms the museum can take, it becomes apparent that people everywhere in the world – no matter their circumstances – need museums, create museums, and visit museums.

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