Museums and galleries as actors for social change, human development and well-being

The group's purpose is to pull together people, resources and ideas on this topic and discuss questions such as: Are there any best practice examples of how museums, galleries and arts organizations are contributing to social change, well-being and human development? Are there any policies, strategies and partnerships? Who are the main players? What are the lessons learnt from already existing experiences, and how can we improve our work in this area? 

This interest group grows out of the seminar I presented, 'Putting poverty in the museum: Can museums and public galleries be agents for inclusive development?', at the University of Technology, Sydney, in January 2011.


Art, Design and Health at COFA UNSW 21 November 5:30 - 7:30 pm

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Art, Design and Health

A Presentation co-hosted by COFA UNSW and Arts and Health Australia
Monday 21 November 2011 5.30pm – 7.30pm

Arc Student Common Room COFA Campus, 1st Level E Block 
Entrance from Selwyn Street, Paddington

Featuring International and Australian Speakers presenting at 3rd Annual Arts and Health ConferenceThe Art of Good Health and Wellbeing National Gallery of Australia 14 – 17 November 2011

Panel Presentations:

Carrie McGee, Educator, Community and Access Programs, Department of Education, Museum of Modern Art, New York, including Meet me at MoMA Alzheimer's Program and programs for the visually impaired and people with Parkinson’s.

Clive Parkinson, Director, Arts for Health, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK poses the question “Just how relevant are the arts if you've been given a diagnosis of cancer or dementia?”

Mike White, Research and Development Fellow in Arts in Health, Centre for Medical Humanities and St Chad's College, University of Durham, England and author of Arts Development in Community Health: a social tonic (Radcliffe 2009) explores what makes for human flourishing at any age.

Chair: Margret Meagher, Executive Director, Arts and Health Australia and The Australian Centre for Creative Ageing, NSW


Telephone: (02) 9385 0689 


More Arts and Health

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Post Conference Events in Sydney

In addition to the COFA presentation there are 2 other events

Healthy Ageing and Quality of Life through Engagement with the Arts Panel Discussion

Monday 21 November 2011, 10.30am - 12.30pm
Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Creative Ageing- Policy and Practice

 Arranged in association with NSW Ministerial Advisory Committee on Ageing (MACA) and NSW Office for Ageing.
Tuesday 22 November Jubilee Room 9am - 11am 
NSW Parliament House Macquarie Street, Sydney
Also see: 3rd Annual Arts and Health Conference The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing held at the National Gallery of Australia Canberra 14 - 17 November 2011.

Arts OutWest Arts and Health Program in Regional NSW

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Social return on investment analysis of museum programme!!!

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See here the Social Return on Investment study of the Museum’s Work Based Learning Programme. Its aim is to demonstrate how MEAL’s training programme for long term unemployed people gives them a real chance of getting a job, as well as helping them make new friends and develop hope for the future.  Not only that, the programme provides a boost to families and the community by linking with services that work with some of the most disadvantaged folk in Stowmarket.  The study has shown that for every £1 invested in the project £4 worth of social value is created:


Museums should take more risks!

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Great conference!! Good case studies on museums and developmentp

Vanessa Kredler's picture

So last week I went to the first 'Critical Conversations in Culture and Development ' put on by the University College London and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. There were some prominent museum people there talking about the role of museums and development, including Christina Kreps, whose work is some of the only stuff published on museums and development (see especially her book: Liberating Cultures, 2003). Her CV contains a list of all publications:

People introduced lots of great case studies from all around the world, including Ghana, Indonesia, Suriname, Kenya, Malawi amongst many others that illustrate museums' contributions to culture and development. I hope that we can feature some of them here so watch this space!

Critical Conversations in Culture and Development 1st seminar Tr

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Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, 21-23 September 2011

Critical Conversations in Culture and Development is a new series of workshops and publications devoted to pushing the debate on culture and development forward. Bringing together different stakeholders and interlocutors in sustained critical and reflexive conversations, we seek to move beyond the seeming impasse between scholars critical of development policy and practice, skeptics among governments and voters in donor countries, and NGOs, multinational aid agencies and beneficiaries in developing countries to identify workable models for thinking about how culture can work for development. 

The first Critical Conversation will be concerned with the roles that museums and cultural heritage more broadly can play in sustainable international development. We want to explore recent initiatives by museums and heritage organisations involved in projects in developing countries under the umbrella of development, conflict resolution, capacity building, civil society strengthening or cultural diplomacy. With the aim of sharing knowledge, experience, and expertise, and informing the development of better practice and policy, we would like to engage with the politics and problematics of these initiatives, understanding their failings as well as learning from their achievements. Mindful of old and new relationships of power between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries, we are particularly interested in exploring how these projects can be done in equitable ways and the degree to which they can contribute to a reconfiguration of international and cross-cultural relationships. 

Participants of the workshop include Christina Kreps, Malcolm McLeod, Deirdre Prins Solani, Ciraj Rasool, Mike Rowlands and representatives of Banglanatak; the British Museum; the Centre for International Heritage Activities, Leiden; the Directorate for Cultural Heritage, Norway; Meru Museum, Kenya; Timor Aid; Tropenmuseum; UNESCO; the US Embassy Kabul; and many others. 

It is intended that each Conversation will result in an academic publication within a new Routledge Studies in Culture and Development book series. Participants in each workshop will also be invited to contribute to the drafting of a policy briefing document, which will be circulated electronically through the Royal Tropical Institute Bulletin series and the UCL Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies. 

The workshop is being sponsored by the Reanimating Cultural Heritage project based at University College London and the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam. 

It is anticipated that the next coversation will be concerned with the contribution of creative industries to sustainable development. Expressions of interest for hosting or contributing to future workshops in the Critical Conversations in Culture and Development series are also welcome. 

CREARE Foundation summer school

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I recently attended a course called The Value of Culture by the CREARE Foundation:

The course was about cultural economics and its main premise was that current economic models are not sufficient to capture all the values of cultural and arts organizations. Topics covered were management and financing of arts and cultural organizations, economic essentials of the arts and culture, creative economy, creative cities and creative industries, arts markets and cultural entrepreneurship. There were 15 participants from 13 countries!

There is another course coming up on the economics of museums and cultural heritage:

Highly recommended!!!

Cultural mapping + Armidale

Lisa Andersen's picture

Thanks for posting Christine.  I am interested in the outcomes from the cultural research that the artists undertake and how they 'design' the presentation of that information so that it is understood by the communities (lessons to learn here, I suspect, for our CAMRA cultural mapping project and how we are presenting information back to the communities of regional Australia).

Speaking of CAMRA, Armidale is one of the project regions so would be good to keep in contact about the NERAM event.  My email is

Hope all goes - post links to the wiki blog when its updated and I will follow the progress.


The Subak Project

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The Subak Project has three stages: The Paddy Bali Project, The Subak Arts Festival and The Australian context.

It is a collaborative art project which had been developed in a partnership between artists and educators, the Mandila Mathika Subak Museum, Tabanan, Bali, Rotary Denpasar and Interact Youth. We are developing a wiki for the project

The Paddy Bali Project

Paddy Bali is an environmental arts project that engages young children in creative arts activities that aim to instill in them knowledge of Subak.  With support from Rotary Denpasar, 210 primary school students from the Bali Kids Sponsorship project, each created a handmade coconut bowl, and after a guided tour of the Subak Museum undertook a set of observational drawings of the Subak. DrawingThese works will be displayed as part of the Subak Arts Festival. To facilitate the children’s activities, thirty sponsored Interact youth, i.e. older teenage children, were trained in the leadership skills required to guide primary school students in this type of project.

Subak Art Festival

The festival will be held to the Subak Museum and aims to celebrate Subak through the creative arts and involves exhibition, performance and installation in April and May, 2012.  It will bring together artists, children and their families, young leaders in training and other members of the local community to provide each with unique ways of understanding and responding to a specific and local issue.

Artists will be asked to investigate the Subak by undertaking cultural research. Indonesian and Australian artists will be invited to work collaboratively to show the Subak in a new context, coloured by cultural differences. A creative dialogue will be fostered through internet contact before the festival and pre-festival meetings. The festival aims to integrate contemporary arts with long-established Balinese festival structures. It will draw upon traditional arts practices, ceremonies and symbols that are embedded in the everyday organization of the Subak.

Through the festival the Subak Museum’s capacity to connect with local communities, creating pathways for an open dialogue that link their existing collections with contemporary life will be enhansed. It will provide an example of museums as a space for contemporary arts. It will support the development of arts projects in a new environment, building strong high quality arts education programs within a museum context.

Internationally, a Subak Art Festival will raise awareness of the Subak as a unique cultural heritage that is worthy of inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list. We hope it might also gain the attention of environmental organizations like the United Nations Environmental Project, scientists and resarchers.

The Australian Context

Following on from the Subak Arts Festival a similar event at the New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, New South Wales (NERAM) in April/May 2012.  As part of this exhibition schools will be invited to participate in workshops to be conducted through the ‘Connected Class Room Network’.   Experiences in Bali will be translated into engaging interactive lessons using video conferencing.  The event will provide a window into important aspects of Balinese history and culture for Australians in a way that is designed to promote understanding of the different ways the world operates and lessons we might learn.

Links to the Subak with Art Festival

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We have been updating the wikispace

and now have a web site

and  a pozible crowd funding  page

We also have dates: the opening on the 14 January 2012

Subak project

Vanessa Kredler's picture

Hi Christine

That sounds like an interesting project. Are you working on it? It would be interesting to hear more about how it was set up, what works and what doesn't in terms of implementing the project. 



Subak with Art Festival 14 January, 2012

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Yes, Vanessa I am working on this project. We are in Bali and working with all partners, without them the project would not be successful, on the Subak with Art Festival.

For Press Release:

The last week:

Web site:


Museumpreneurs - how can museums be more entrepreneurial?

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We want to explore what it means for a museum to be entrepreneurial, we want to showcase museums already being entrepreneurial, and we want to help more museums be more entrepreneurial more of the time.

How happy are you? Fill in a questionnaire to find out...

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Publications to 'empower' African arts sector

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'Adapting the Wheel: Cultural Policies for Africa' is one of four publications to be launched by Arterial Network (AN) at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) in Zimbabwe, reports the African Arts Institute.

Many African countries do not have an arts and culture policy or have an outdated policy. The publications, serving the continental arts and culture community, will be launched at Poetry Café within the Global Quarter venue of HIFA, in Harare, at 12.00 on Wednesday 27 April 2011.

The four titles are: Adapting the Wheel, Cultural Policies for Africa; a collection of Contemporary Arts and Culture Discourses: African perspectives; an African Directory on Arts and Culture Information; and an Advocacy and Networking Toolkit.

Driven by an Arterial Network Cultural Policy Task Team representing 12 countries, Adapting the Wheel provides a generic cultural policy framework which can be adapted to suit any African country. It is published in English and French.


The Happy Museum - new report on role of museums in well-being

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Research in psychology has shed new light on the factors that lead people to feel their lives are fulfilling, meaningful and worthwhile. One important finding to emerge from this research is that material goods play considerably less of a role in determining well-being than our spending patterns might suggest. For many people the pressure to “keep up” in consumption terms has been actively detrimental to real well-being and perhaps even a factor in increased risk of mental illness. Or as psychologist Oliver James puts it, our society is suffering from Affluenza

 The Happy Museum Project Website

 The Happy Museum Report

 A £60,000 commission fund has been launched for museums to demonstrate how they can promote wellbeing in individuals and communities

 TED Talk: The New Economics Foundation on Happiness:


Culture and well-being resource

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Federation of International Human Rights Museums call for papers

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The second international FIHRM conference will be held:

  • 10-13 October 2011
  • International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, UK

Call for papers

Fighting for equality: Social change through human rights activism

Human rights abuses can be found in every country in the world: child labour, human trafficking, gender inequalities, discrimination and slavery. In order to combat these abuses we need to learn to work together across national and cultural boundaries. This conference will consider the contribution that can be made by museums, which have not traditionally been active in the field of human rights, yet which are among the world’s most powerful cultural institutions.

Opening Minds - Mental Health, Creativity and the Open Museum

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Summary of a partnership between Leicestershire's Open Museum, mental health services and creative practitioners where the Open Museum participated in mental health work by using museum objects as inspiration for creative writing, artwork and exhibitions.

Are there any comparable case studies in Australia? 

Museums and happiness

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Two interesting articles:

Museum of East Anglian Life Appoints Happiness Consultants


Museums as Happiness Pioneers

Cultural mapping in the Pacific to protect traditional knowledge

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From 2004 a UNESCO-backed cultural mapping program was undertaken in Fiji by the i-Taukei Institute of Language and Culture researching traditional knowledge and expressions of culture.  Building a database of traditional knowledge owners that identifies clans and groups and their traditional medicines, the way they plant certain certain crops and make certain kinds of food and cosmetics. Alongside this is the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs' Living Human Treasure Programme identifying traditional knowledge and cultural expressions on the verge of being lost. 

Both projects have led to the closer monitoring of all cultural and biodiversity-related research in the Fiji and the Ministry has developed a policy to protect traditional knowledge and cultural expressions and to monitor research acitivity.

The application of commercial protection tools like copyright to goods and services emerging from local cultures has been difficult in the Pacific because of the traditional nature of ownership. Traditional knowledge like agricultural, ecological, fishing and medicinal knowledge and expressions of culture like cultural dances, songs and music are not individually owned but belong to an entire clan, whether its members are living, dead or unborn. This has left communities vulnerable to others, including education institutions and NGOs, using the knowledge for commercial outcomes.

The Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have also formulated policies and legal frameworks to protect traditional knowledge and expressions of culture.

In December 2010 a Regional Consultation on Cultural Industries was held at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Suva. The meeting discussed national frameworks to protect traditional knowledge and economic support for the development of cultural industries and recommended a more coordinated Pacific approach to implementing Traditional Knowledge Action Plans and the compliance, monitoring and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

The Pacific Cultural Mapping, Planning and Policy Toolkit recently published by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community came out of Cultural Policy Workshop held at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) headquarters in Nouméa, New Caledonia in March 2010. Authored by Katerina Teaiwa and Colin Mercer the toolkit aims to provide guidance for countries and territories in the Pacific carrying out cultural mapping, planning and developing cultural policy.

See also:

Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources

Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Museums and their location in 'culture and development' debates

Vanessa Kredler's picture

I attach my thesis from a few years ago. The bibliography could be of interest. The thesis is an analysis of the status of museums in discourse on ‘culture and development’. It is motivated by the argument that the fields of museology and development are converging because development is increasingly concerned with cultural factors while museums have been reconceptualised as agents for development. It would thus follow that museums are central to debates on culture and development. But an analysis of museological and culture and development discourse shows that despite overlaps in concerns with issues such as social inclusion, cultural diversity and bottom-up methodologies there is little cross-sectoral awareness of such commonalities.