MUSEO-POLIS: A Summer School on Museum, Democracy and Citizenship in Southern Europe

by Erika Delgado Rubio

 As an EUROSUD student, I recently had the opportunity of participating in a short course from the CIVIS alliance, a prestigious network of ten European universities that aim to promote higher education and research. On this occasion, I joined MUSEO-POLIS: A Summer School on Museum, Democracy and Citizenship in Southern Europe, which took place in Marseille, France.

Under the coordination of Aix-Marseille Université and within the premises of the MUCEM – Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée –, I became part of a diverse environment, as the course considered students with different backgrounds and nationalities, as well as many specialized professionals like anthropologists, curators and historians. For three days, I listened to and debated on discussions about migration, religion and democracy in relationship with museums as representative institutions of historical and contemporary events. The course enriched my knowledge of democratic development in Southern Europe and the current re-foundation of democratic citizenship. It was dynamic and entertaining not only because of the lectures received but also because of the organization of guided tours to temporary exhibitions of the Mucem, like “Abd el-Kader”, a display of the life of an Algerian religious and military leader that fought against French colonial occupation, and “Pharaons Superstars”, a cultural approach towards Egypt and its presence in the Mediterranean.

Additionally, the course included a visit to two other relevant places: La Vieille Charité Museum and the Mucem Conservation and Resources Center. The first exhibited “Objets migrateurs, trésors sous influence”, where I could compare ancient and modern precious objects that characterized a migrant’s journey and that distinguish societies today; while on the other hand, the second allowed us to understand the museum process of acquisition of objects and how they conserve and classify them for future exhibitions. As a matter of fact, I examined this last place in the company of two senior curators, being able to ask questions and dialogue directly with them regarding their valuable work.

From a museum perspective, the recognition of national treasures contributes to the notion of identity and assists in the task of writing history for increasing representation and maintaining democracy construction. Thus, it is important to acknowledge these institutions for the progress of the own nation.