Author(s): Corsane G, Davis P, Elliott S
Abstract: Abstract Currently, key issues for museums in many countries relate to notions of access, inclusion and the building of new audiences. In response to these challenges to open up to a wider public, museums are attempting to demonstrate their important educational role within society and to increase their validity as resources for identity construction, meaning-making and the exercising of citizenship. In order to extend their programmes, ‘traditional’ museums have initiated ‘outreach’ activities to advance their societal responsibilities. However, the whole notion of outreach is problematic, as it seems to indicate that there is some form of gap between the museum and society that has to be bridged and reached across. If museum action is to be liberated and liberating, then it needs to be embedded within society itself and the notion of outreach (with its inherent perception of a gap and distancing trait) needs to be replaced with a process of participatory ‘inreach’, where museum action is located centrally in society. Where this occurs, museums can reach into communities and communities can reach into museums, thus making them genuinely of the people, with the people and for the people. This paper will explore these ideas and will propose a democratic process model based on the principles of the ecomuseum ideal, community museology and ‘holistic’ museology in a way that empowers people and encourages shared ownership and sustainable development. This new dynamic will then be considered as a way forward for democratic heritage management and museum action in Turkey, where the ecomuseum paradigm has yet to be fully recognised and understood. However, even a cursory examination of existing heritage frameworks in that country suggests that there is potential for adopting the process model. There is a prevailing belief from many quarters in the country about the ‘ihtisas’, or specialist nature, of museums and their perceived and guarded primary functions of preservation and research, rather than as educational facilitators for their many users. The imperative for change in Turkey is also located in a museum context that denies pluralism of identity and pays scant regard to the heritage resources of minority communities. This has particular resonance in the southeast of the country where the destruction of cultural information by large dam-building programmes continues unabated.