Cultural Landscape as a Didactic Strategy for the Recognition of The Otherwas a workshop offered during the 24th general conference of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) on July 3 in Milan, Italy.

It was offered by Elyse Resnick of the US-Italy Fulbright program and Jorge Albuja of the Committee for Education and Cultural Action (CECA) Ecuador. It brought together museum educators from fifteen nationalities around the world, as far-ranging as Brazil, Azerbaijan, Australia and Taiwan for an afternoon of reflection and discussion.

As the theme of the ICOM conference was “Museums and Cultural Landscapes,” the workshop explored problems faced by participants in their role as museum educators and as members of multicultural communities.

Landscape communities are constantly changing and being shaped by all forms of migration and human displacement. When the fabric of society changes, how are museums impacted? Should museums be responding to these changes and, if so, how?

The workshop started out with each participant explaining the migration patterns impacting their communities as they answered the question, “who is the other and how has that changed over time?”  They were also asked to share their experiences related to cultural diversity and museum programming. Case studies of museums that excel at fostering intercultural understanding were featured, such as the Jugend Museum in Berlin and specifically their “Villa Global” exhibit which introduces visitors to Berlin teens from diverse backgrounds by giving them a look inside their bedrooms.

The second part of the workshop focused on methodologies developed by the workshop leaders that could be useful to museum educators in their efforts to incorporate intercultural perspectives.

Mr. Albuja presented the “Living Lab Methodology” which promotes the creation of cultural museums within schools to showcase the diverse backgrounds of the students themselves.  By curating their own heritage and culture and sharing it with the student body, students end up realizing that the commonalities that bond the human race together are much stronger than the differences.

Ms. Resnick presented “The Milan Model of Youth Engagement” which reframes the adolescent visitor’s experience with cultural heritage in such a way that objects in a museum are conceived as a platform for exploring big-picture ideas and forge a connection with the past that can help shape a young person’s vision of the future. It also encourages museum educators to allow youth to participate in the learning process and draw their own conclusions through problem-based learning strategies.

The workshop concluded with a sampling of delicious snacks from Ecuador and Italy. Participants were also given a handmade butterfly from students at the Colegio Americano in Guayaquil, Ecuador with a special message and contact information for a possible pen-pal friendship.

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