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2001 "Museums: building community"

   

DEVELOPMENT - A model community museum in a village in the High Atlas

Ali Amahan
Inspector, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Morocco.
Vice-Chair, ICOM-Morocco.

Community museums are currently developing in every corner of the world, particularly in Africa and Latin America. These museums differ from traditional institutions in that they go beyond simply preserving and valorising cultural heritage, enriching it through the direct contribution of the local community. They thus not only enable all the members of the community to realise their potential but also help them seek solutions to problems they come up against in daily life. The Aït Iktel Development Association in a village in the High Atlas in Morocco is a noteworthy example.

The community museum has been fitted out in a disused dwelling in Aït Iktel village, and is accessible to the entire population. Women, for instance, can go there quite freely, not as if they were going to an official place, which traditionally, would often be reserved for men. Moreover, this community space should not be confused with an official public place. On the contrary, it has been created in conjunction with the beneficiaries and organised by the group, thus differing from public places that are often run by city-dwelling government officials working for the public utilities.
The museum has an area for conserving the cultural heritage (collections of cultural objects that are produced or used in the region, photographs, etc.), and an area for passing on ancestral knowledge and for making objects (a tapestry workshop). There is also a space for schooling (an informal school and an area for teaching reading and writing), an activities and meetings room with the necessary equipment (TV, video recorder, satellite dish, PC, etc.) and a library.
The museum enables people to see the potential of the community as an essential asset for development, through its institutional heritage (systems for social organisation, mobilisation, solidarity, etc.) and ancestral knowledge, in such domains as governance of "public" community affairs, and technology. As an example, the Association has brought the solidarity between the community and its diaspora (emigrants) into play, which can provide both the intellectual and material requirements for implementing and running projects. Thanks to the Aït Iktel village community museum, the Association has been able to carry out some important development projects such as drilling for and laying on enough drinking water for the local population. This has meant that some children's diseases including diarrhoea and typhoid have been eradicated and that women and young girls have been spared a great deal of time and work. Furthermore, an irrigation canal has been built, resulting in twice the amount of irrigated land, the possibility of growing summer crops in the dry season, and the introduction of new, more profitable crops. The village now has electricity and good lighting, resulting in a decrease in the consumption of wood. The electricity bill is a good deal lower than that for the traditional lighting used in the village before the project. This saving has encouraged all the families to equip their kitchens with butane and has given them access to the media, especially television. As a general rule, the museum takes local capacities and competencies into account, and the cost of the projects corresponds to the purchasing power of the beneficiaries.
A local dispensary has been fitted out and equipped. Consequently, mortality among young mothers has been eradicated, all the children and the women of childbearing age have been vaccinated, and family planning has been introduced.
The institution of informal schools has meant full-time education for 100% of those under 21 years of age, particularly girls. Lastly, the information and training centre has made it possible to organise awareness raising sessions in various fields (social, economic, health, cultural), has provided access to professional training for women and has introduced young school children to reading thanks to the library. The school, like all traditional institutions, notably the Koran school, belongs to the local community. And so, as each project finds its roots in the local culture, the community museum is able to adapt to its cultural, social and economic environment.

Ali Amahan
Ministère des Affaires culturelles,
1, rue Ghandi, Rabat, Morocco.
Tel. (212) 6317 6726. Fax (212) 3770 6941.
Email: aamahan@atlasnet.net.ma

Articles around the theme:

EXCHANGE - Key to memory
INNOVATION - Cyberspace Communities: MUVA, the Virtual Museum Of Arts El País
DEVELOPEMENT - A model community museum in a village in the High Atlas
INTEGRATION - Celebrating Australia's multicultural history
PARTICIPATION - A community regulates its own heritage

Articles published in: "ICOM News", Volume 54 - 2001 N°1

 
 
   
Updated: 22 September 2005