The Role of Museums in Contemporary Society
Efforts to promote access to culture originate from philosophical perspectives which are different and complementary at the same time.
On the one hand, public agencies should be committed to the redistribution of public resources with a view to catering for as wide a segment of the population as possible; on the other, museums and cultural institutions should reach out to new audiences in order to prove themselves socially responsible as well as to secure sustainability.
There is also the issue of culture as an agent of social transformation, which demands careful consideration and is linked to the right of individuals to take part in the cultural life; in other words, the idea of culture as a facilitator of social inclusion and the notion of cultural participation as a means to remove barriers and as a key competence for creativity.
The role of visitors concerning museums and cultural heritage is widely acknowledged: to actively involve the audience is a priority for the EU and evidence of this new attention is provided by the growing interest in audience development policies and by a stronger emphasis on the educational and social role of cultural institutions.
Starting from a theoretical framework based on official international documents and studies, the contribution will explore – through practical case studies – the shift from the notion of museums as exclusive environments to that of museums as places where access to culture, social inclusion and intercultural dialogue can be provided.