• Museum “Peoples and Cultures” of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (Milan)
• ISMU Foundation (Initiatives and Studies on Multiethnicity), Education Sector, “Heritage and Interculture” programme (Milan)
The project is co-financed by the Culture Department of Regione Lombardia and the Museum.
With reference to the project team (museum educators, cultural mediators with an immigrant background, experts in heritage education in an intercultural perspective) that took part in the training and planning process:
• to explore innovative methodologies and tools for the planning and evaluation of heritage education programmes/activities in an intercultural perspective
• to initiate a joint reflection between representatives from a range of institutional and professional contexts, by bringing into dialogue their different perspectives, experiences and knowledge bases
• to foster the intercultural competence of the museum staff by tapping into the intercultural potential of collections and developing new approaches to interpretation
• to foster the intercultural competence of cultural mediators (as the term “mediator” is interpreted differently across the museum sector in Europe, it is worth clarifying that, in the Italian context, the expression ‘cultural/linguistic mediator’ is mainly used to describe professionals with an immigrant background acting as ‘bridges’ with their respective communities in sectors such as formal education and the healthcare system; only recently has this profession started to be developed in a museum/heritage context) as well as to promote their cultural citizenship, by acknowledging them as key actors in the reinterpretation of the museum’s heritage in an intercultural perspective.
With reference to the Museum “Peoples and Cultures”:
• to promote new opportunities for participation of an under-represented audience (adults vs. school students, the Museum’s traditional audience)
• to foster the Museum’s role as an agent of social change, with particular reference to the surrounding communities
• to endorse a shared vision of the Museum not only as a cultural space for interaction, but also as an institution encouraging participatory and cooperative planning
• to re-interpret the Museum’s ethnographic collections in an intercultural perspective
• to include participants’ voices in interpretation and documentation (and subsequently in museum exhibition spaces).
With reference to participants in the “TAM TAM” narrative trails:
• to develop an open attitude towards diversity and “otherness”
• to take part in the process initiated through the narrative routes in a dialogical, reflective and critical manner
• to be able to understand different points of view
• to develop a critical understanding of one’s own experience, ideas, emotions, desires, fears and hopes, and an ability to share them with others through storytelling
• to perceive the Museum as a place where knowledge is not only “transmitted” but co-produced
• to increase levels of use and awareness of the collections.
Native and migrant adults, selected outside formal learning contexts.
Duration of the project
The joint training of museum educators and mediators, the planning workshops and the experimentation of narrative trails took place throughout 2011.
In 2012, new funding from Regione Lombardia will allow the Museum to include “TAM TAM” in its ordinary educational offer (see “TAM TAM” 2012).
“TAM TAM – Tutti Al Museo” was organised in the following main phases:
1. Front-end evaluation (January 2011): at the stage of initial concept development, the working group analysed the proposed project from the visitor angle by involving representatives from a number of contexts (associations working with migrants, teachers/parents of children aged 16 and beyond, educators and mediators...) to explore the motivations, attitudes, understandings, perceptions and pre-conceptions about the kind of activities that the Museum was willing to develop.
2. Shared training (February-March 2011): tapping into the competencies and skills acquired by a group of mediators previously involved in the training course “Heritage education in an intercultural perspective”, promoted by Fondazione ISMU in 2009-2010, this phase of the project was aimed at providing the working group with new insights and expertise in the planning of heritage education activities addressed to mixed audiences (by age, ethnicity, social and cultural background), encouraging new notions of “heritage” and “identity”, and giving participants an opportunity for self-representation and collaborative meaning-making.
The training meetings held in this phase focused on:
• an in-depth exploration of the Museum’s collections through the lens of four thematic strands (“Once upon a time – myths and legends”; “Body language: ornaments and non-verbal social communication”; “Women’s condition”; “Food as a cultural and ritual element”). These themes were selected by the museum staff as examples to emphasise the generative potential of a thematic approach, its ability to foster dialogue and to highlight the knowledge systems, competencies, critical skills and life experiences of both the working group and project participants
• providing the working group with appropriate methodologies for developing heritage education activities in an intercultural perspective, such as storytelling.
3. Participatory planning workshops (March-September 2011): this phase, coordinated by Fondazione ISMU’s tutors, was devoted to the joint planning of narrative trails in the permanent exhibition spaces, taking the cue from the idea that museum objects, however distant and valuable they may seem at first glance, have stories to tell which are not only fascinating, but also relevant to our life experience, and therefore a vital dialogue may be established between them and the “biography” of personal, everyday objects (the “subjective heritage” of both project participants, and museum educators and mediators). Research-action was the methodology employed by the working group in this phase, with a view to devising (and implementing) specific solutions to specific issues as they arose, while at the same time enhancing the planning expertise of museum educators and mediators in a cooperative perspective.
4. Formative evaluation (training and planning phases): regular feedback discussion at the end of each working meeting with museum educators and mediators, and final questionnaire on the planning process and project outputs (June 2011).
5. Testing of the narrative trails developed in the framework of the planning workshops (October-November 2011): these were addressed to small groups of adults (max. 10, involved in three consecutive meetings) and structured as follows:
• first meeting: museum educators and mediators guide participants in a number of narrative trails centred around a “conversation” between their own personal objects (chosen to reflect key episodes/memories of their lives) and some artefacts of the Museum revealing unexpected links with them. The purpose of this first meeting is to shed new light on the richness of potential “narratives” hidden in the Museum collections, and to provide participants with suggestions on how to select their own object, as well as to find out about possible connections with the collections
• second meeting: participants bring with them their own object to the Museum (not necessarily tangible items, but also poetry, dances, legends...); they share its story with the other participants, museum educators and mediators, and describe the relationship with one or more objects from the Museum collections; they fill in a documentation record (with the typical technical data of ordinary museum documentation records) and a “narrative record” (where does it come from? why was it chosen? what story does it tell? ...) of their object, assisted by a museum educator or mediator; the records become integral part of the Museum’s documentation system
• third meeting: participants in the two previous meetings share their experience by inviting friends and relatives and guiding them in their own narrative trails.
The first two meetings are filmed by a video operator, for insertion within exhibitions spaces (on two touch screens) as a means of opening up new interpretation of collections for all visitors.
6. Public presentation of the project (December 2011).
7. Summative evaluation (December 2011): feedback of participants at the end of museum visits and semi-structured interviews; final feedback discussion with project team.
8. New funding from Regione Lombardia is allowing the Museum to revise and expand the narrative trails and objects involved, with a view to including “TAM TAM” in its ordinary educational offer. New opportunities for the integration of participants’ voices in display will be promoted through the development of “scripts” for MP3 players available for all visitors as an alternative audio-guide to the Museum collections (see "TAM TAM" 2012).
Lessons to be learned
One of the most significant features of TAM TAM’s narrative trails is their ability to go against the grain of traditional museum-visiting patterns, often hasty and superficial, by promoting a gradual acquaintance between participants and collections, initiating a dialogue between “museum objects” and personal objects, and creating a shared heritage of stories and life experiences of individuals (not only project participants, but also museum staff, educators and mediators) with different cultural and social backgrounds. Through this ongoing process, project participants engage in a dialogue with educators and mediators, share their perspectives, experiences and knowledge bases, and become in turn storytellers and mediators of the Museum’s collections.
“TAM TAM” is also helping the Museum to enable people to talk across the collections and freely choose the objects with which they want to engage, regardless of their roots and traditions.
Publications / other resources
- all narrative trails are published in: Bodo S., Mascheroni S., Panigada M. G. (a cura di), Un patrimonio di storie. La narrazione nei musei, una risorsa per la cittadinanza culturale, Mimesis Edizioni, Milano, 2016
- excerpts from the filmed conversations and narrative trails are available in the “Video” section of this website and on the YouTube Channel of the Museum
- personal objects’ “narrative records” (example 1, example 2, example 3)
- personal objects’ documentation records (example 1, example 2, example 3)
Museo Popoli e Culture del PIME
via Mosè Bianchi, 94 – 20149 Milano
- project coordinators: Lara Fornasini and Paola Rampoldi
Fondazione ISMU – Iniziative e Studi sulla Multietnicià
Settore Educazione (Education Sector)
via Copernico, 1 - 20125 Milano
- project coordinators: Simona Bodo and Silvia Mascheroni
Project description published in