Queenie Maloney from Bay Bulls and her mat frame. Credit: Gerald PociusMuseums are changing. They are no longer just places for artifacts in display cases. Museums are more and more aware of their responsibilities to their communities to be places where people can tell the stories of their lives to others, whether from inside their community or from outside. The tradition of just focusing on objects accompanied by texts from “experts” has been challenged by communities wanting their own stories told, as reflected in their intangible cultural heritage.

ICH is increasingly an important part of museum programming, with people explaining objects, demonstrating skills, or performing stories and practices important to them. Museums are becoming as much community cultural centres as buildings with artifacts in cases.

And ICH is more than programming; it can be a part of every exhibit. Facets of ICH surround every object, and can be found in the explanation for how the object was designed, used and modified. Many museums believe that this knowledge is the important story. The explanations of people who are connected with objects are quoted throughout an exhibition, and audio clips and video images are now part of many displays.

International organizations are leading the way in bringing ICH to museums and historic sites. ICOMOS (the UN-affiliated International Council on Monuments and Sites) has compiled a bibliography on ICH and historic sites, and organized its 2003 conference on the theme of ICH and historic sites.

ICOM (International Council on Museums) has compiled a bibliography on ICH and museums and the organization has issued what is called theShanghai Charter to encourage ICH work.

Finally, UNESCO’s own academic journal, Museums International published a special double-issue (volume 56, 2004) devoted to ICH , much relating to museum work.


Intangible Cultural Heritage

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