Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Volos City Museum: creating links with local society and organizations

Part 1: Yannis Aspiotis

Part 2: Chrysa Zarkali

Part 1 : Yannis Aspiotis explained in his power point presentation communication strategies for the ‘Museum of the City’ under the title:

“Integrating and sensitizing the public. Creation of networks”

He explained that the future museum of the city shall have more emphasis on action rather than on texts. Under the slogan of ‘head, heart and hand’ he presented a sort of prioritisation as being something like a 10% for reading (head) while 90% should go into action. The reason he gives is: ‘young people like to be active’.

The aims are:


Basic concept for the Museum of the City


Use of interpretation techniques, as a means to avoid museum ‘educationalism’, sterility of the visitor’s imagination and of course boredom (information management).

This approach follows the path:

Head → Heart → Hands

(10% hear, 30 % read, 50 % see, 90 % do).

Discussion points:

Hatto Fischer: rather than copying the modern media world and follow a current trend towards digital culture, it would be important that a museum contributes to the overall literacy of the people. As a matter of fact, there can be raised the doubt about the statistical figures you use. EKEBI has established a literacy level amongst Greeks of being as high as 54%, so why lower that level by conceptualizing a museum wishing to appeal to something less reflective, more sensational?

Of course, youth do like the interactive media and I am sure there are many good ones which can make visiting a museum ‘fun’. There is anyhow the trend to combine education and technology used for entertainment, so that a new concept has surfaced, namely ‘edutainment’.

But what I am trying to say is that the Museum of the City should give people of Volos a chance to be informed as to what is happening to their city. This means they need information which goes beyond mere patriotism and symbolic identification with the city they live in. Rather they need insights into debates and a showing of a critical path on how certain decisions were made so that they can even challenge social and other issues to be faced by the city. This may well include a review of municipal policy and what gave shape to planning of the city e.g. the military planners who were installed by Athens after the Second World War and especially during Junta time. Once people see to what developments council and other decisions have led to in the past, they may want to be informed better in future and participate in the decision making process. I would call that process of political maturation the putting on the map of Volos the people themselves.

A museum should enable citizens to articulate in a better way their concerns and this in reference to a profound interest in the continuity of Volos. Two major axioms would have to be included: a possibility to compare with other cities on how they evolve and seek their continuity of identity over the years and even centuries; and, as Volos evolves out of the past reveal how the various shades and types of activities have given a meaning to this place. Volos may be perceived still today as a departure point for the Argonauts, but do people see in just the same way this as a departure into a life with future? Volos suffers under loss of meaning: it grew due to its port and how the hinterland was connected by rail to the port into an important industrial and regional centre, but then that significance was lost in the post Second World War years. While a powerful earthquake struck and the industrial basis declined, Larissa became the regional centre. Volos is trying to regain its importance and meaning lost in history. A museum of the city should reflect, therefore, different models of how cities in general rise and decline in importance. It would enable the people of Volos to deal better with their contemporary situation.

Also by stressing a communication and media strategy aiming to link citizens with the opening of the Museum of the City, I would recommend to examine and to use, if possible, the website of DEMEKAV www.i-politismos.gr. So far that website has not evoked any kind of participation by citizens. Yet as an interactive media, it does raise the question not about literacy in general, but the degree to which people would want to use that media to reflect their opinions and views on how to plan the Museum of the City. It is very important if we are to take seriously your recommendation, namely to involve people in the build up of the website of the museum. That would be possible if this webpage is made accessible and managed wisely. So far the website has not been visited by users or even managed to involve students in planning discussions.

There is still the other case, namely the path taken by the Municipal Council to give to the Piraeus bank the Rights to manage the Industrial Heritage Museum inside the Tsalapatas. Here too participation by citizens is completely lacking, and as Katerina pointed out, they have a very centralized system for managing museums from Athens – Piraeus. You may want to consider the spill over effects of that approach – top down, centralized, outside of Volos itself – and anticipate a rather deep seated scepticism amongst the people of Volos when it comes to any kind of participatory model being proposed. They feel rightly so everything in practice indicates another language and model of implementation prevails. Things will remain as always in the hands of experts.

Carol Becker: In Chicago, at our school – the Chicago Arts Institute – we have this odd experience of having as well a museum. So she can see the creative process of artists on the one hand and the traditional approach taken by a museum wishing to collect, to categorize and to archive art works. Also there is now the development towards making the building appear to be more important than the content. Consequently everyone wishes to imitate Guggenheim in Bilbao were the building itself becomes the most important art work while they are doing now efforts to invite artists to make some fantastic exhibitions within that space so that people are again eager to come and see it. For there is the danger that once you have seen the building, that is it! Now, in the case of her most recent experiences, the museum of her school wants to add just one wing of modern architecture. The addition costs $ 300 Million: a lot of money. Raising the money means resources are taken away from other activities.

Part 2: Chrysa Zarkali

Volos City Museum

Building bridges with the local society and organizations

Two types of surveys

1. Locals (Palaia-Neapoli)

2. Citizens’ Organisations-Associations

In her presentation she outlined the survey she will be conducting in order to have the citizens of Volos participate in the creation of the Museum of the City. She would foresee two types of interviews: individual citizens and citizen groups or organizations. Methods of the interviews would differ insofar as group interviews have to be conducted differently, also evaluation will change when going from individual to group level. She contextualized the Museum for the City by showing what exists in a contradictory way side by side in the old part of the city where the museum is going to be located: run down houses besides newly renovated houses and even villas, not well kept archaeological sites and Tsalapatas, the renovated former brick factory. She showed as an example of evidence a stone with an engraving of a date on it: 1967/68. It was in front of a former bakery. Without wishing to romanticize, still such evidence of two people leaving a trace behind is an indication of what she thinks a Museum of the City should be about: rooted in the local community.

Hatto Fischer: it would be a mistake to identify people being questioned about their opinion of a future museum as being participation; rather it appears more to be the case of legitimization. Participation is when people found the museum, but in this case the Museum of the City in Volos is top down, even if a decision of the Municipal Council of Volos. Compared to Leipzig where citizens started a collection which is now the invaluable base of their art museum, it seems not even clear what will constitute the collection of the museum or rather how the archive shall be unpacked, as Peter Higgins put it. Unpacking the archive presupposes the citizens were involved in building up the collection. For instance, the Museum of the City in Leipzig organised once an exhibition for which people were asked to donate one piece or item for certain time periods: before 1933, 1933 – 45, 45 -89, after 89. One Jewish man who had survived concentration camp and immigrated to the United States donated one suitcase with which he had travelled to the States. It meant this as piece of history for the time period 1933 – 45. Sometimes such items say it all. We also have discussed in the CIED project (1997 – 99) already that people should gain access to their own history, hence the Museum of the City as ‘memory institution’ must enhance story telling. So then people should be invited as is the case with Neighbourhood museums on a weekly basis to the café to tell their stories. Since this is partly a curator job, but also a part of training needed before these stories can really be told (along with all verification and validation), integration of citizens in the work of the museum is crucial for the success of the museum. As Katerina in her case of the football museum pointed out, fans, in particular the older ones already on pension, can be asked to make conducted tours through the stadium. The same could be developed as a program by the Museum of the City insofar as elderly citizens take visitors from the museum on a tour through the old part of the city. This will link well with civic pride and with a museum becoming an organizational basis for many other activities by citizens. As such one can define participation.

There is one more thing to be mentioned: a Museum of the City should not be only focused on the local community but be actively interested in reconnecting with those people who have left Volos and live now elsewhere in Australia, United States or Canada. The museum must perceive its role as a gateway to the world and as linkage to something beyond the local community to all those interested in Volos.

One word of caution: by tapping into local resources by conducting surveys without having a concept of integrating further these citizens into the future program of the museum, these local resources may very well dry up very quickly. It is an art not to engage people if there is no follow up or further involvement.

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