PRESENTED BY: KEOMI SERRETTE

EXHIBITION CURATOR AND RESEARCH SPECIALIST NATIONAL MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

The experience and value of participating in the INTERNATIONAL MUSEUMS CONFERENCE TRANSFORM MUSEUMS: MUSEUMS, WHAT FOR?

I hold fast to the belief that the fundamental mission of museums is to collect, and to conserve, via critical assessment, a range of objects and materials that are distinctly important in signifying cultural, and other human dispositions. These are the things that will stand through time as historically plausible and authentic markers for a society’s presence in the world. Armed with strict resolve and understanding the great sense of responsibility of a museum, I have endeavoured to be responsible for being a part of the process by employing my best efforts at being a caretaker of my country’s patrimony.

My professional journey began in 2008, when I embarked on building a career at the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago. I first started as a Collections Management Intern, then progressed to the post of Research Assistant. Today, I serve in the operational role of a Fine Arts Exhibition Curator, and Research Specialist at the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago. Over the years, I have gained valuable on-the-job experience working within the museum environment, boosted by working closely with the museum’s curators. I have also had the honour and privilege of being coached for over the past thirteen years by one of the Caribbean’s most significant artists and leading thinkers, Master Artist, Dr. LeRoy Clarke; who in recent years, has established De Legacy - House of El Tucuche, a living/lived-in museum of the Master Artist.

As a Fine Arts Exhibition Curator, Research Specialist and practicing visual artist, my specialisation has specifically been geared towards arts, heritage and culture. After participating in the International Conference "Museums for What?" of the Transform Museums Program, held by the British Council and Museum of Tomorrow on November 21st – 23rd, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, I feel as though my definition of the role, competence and purpose of museums has become more concrete and refined. My awareness of the value that museums have in shaping and revitalizing a society has been drastically amplified.

On November 21st, 2016 prior to the official launch of the Conference, the delegates of the Americas and the Caribbean, accompanied by a number of specially invited speakers, had a congenial tour to Cais do Valongo directed by Laura Taves, Community Relations Manager, Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow). This was followed by a guided tour through the Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) facilitated by Chief Curator, Luiz Alberto Oliveira. The official opening of Conference at the Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) was the final highlight of the conference launch. My experience of both tours proved extremely insightful and presented me, the opportunity for learning, in a new space.

Keynote speakers and moderators at the conference (November 21st – 22nd, 2016) included:

  • Richard Benjamin, Director - International Slavery
  • Maria Ignez Mantovani, President - ICOM Brasil
  • Martin Bellamy, Research Director and Curatorship, Glasgow Museums
  • Laura Taves, Community Relations Manager, Museu do Amanhã
  • Rayén Gutiérrez, International relations, Museo de La Memoria Y Los Derechos Humanos
  • Marilia Bonas, Diretora, Museu da Imigração (Moderator)
  • Joanne Orr, Executive Director, Museums & Galleries Scotland
  • Luigi Di-Corato, Director, Fondazione de Brescia, Italy
  • Eneida Braga, Director of the Department of Museum Dissemination, Development and Economy – IBRAM
  • Renata Motta, UPPM Coordinator/Secretaria de Cultura do Estado de São Paulo
  • Mariana Varzea, Director, Inspirações Ilimitadas projetos Culturais (Moderator)
  • Victoria Pinnington, Communication and Income Generations Director, Horniman Museum & Garden
  • Janaina Melo, Manager, Escola do Olhar, Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR)
  • Eduardo Sarmento, Manager,Paço do Frevo
  • Juan Pablo Gaviria, Parque Explora, Colombia
  • Luis Marcelo Mendes, Museums Consultant (Moderator)
  • Rob Baker, Marketing Director – Tate
  • Jonathan Newby, Deputy Director, Science Museum
  • Raquel Novais, Deputy Executive Director, Inhotim
  • Lucimara Letelier, Deputy Director for the Arts, British Council Brazil and
  • Transform Museums Programme Coordinator (Moderator).

Summarizing

In summarizing the details of the presentations, allow me to present a very brief synopsis based on the discourse analysis of the panel discussions. Some of the ideas conferred were:- The Social Task of Museums and their Engagement with the Contemporary World; Understanding Visitors’ Needs and Ways of Engaging the Public in Museum Programming; Museums Being a Catalyst for Change and the Museum’s Ability to Make Meaningful Connections with Communities and Diverse Cultures; Building Collections to the Service of Communities; The Ability of Museums to Transform Economies; Museums’ Ability to Promote the Quality of Life; The Educational Value of Museums; Museums’ Ability to Reconnect Persons with their Identities; The Humanisation of Museum Objects; Museums as a Place of Remembrance; Public Accessibility to Collections; Culture and Cross Arts influences; the Value of the Staff of the Museum; the Significance of Networking, Best practices and Museum Collaborations.

While I sat as part of this important conference with museum professionals, cultural practitioners, consultants, researchers, and government professionals from across the world, I pondered upon the current state of the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago in a global sense.  It is hereby my recommendation that the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago proceed with devising a mandate to bring strategic, regional and international partnerships to fruition. The National Museum critically needs to rethink and re-evaluate its museum programming and formulate a sustainable action plan. Furthermore, meaningful outreach programmes and community engagement need to be established. Strategies such as branding and marketing, as well as standard museum policies need strict implementation and should maintain priority status. Means, such as museum sustainability, audience expansion and, museum accessibility need be logically examined. Surely, the development of meaningful networking and partnership bonds; professional training for staff and above all, expert research and conservation practices need to be employed.

Concluding, I would like to express heart-felt thanks to the people who have made my attendance at this International Conference possible. Sincerest thanks for selecting me as one of the three delegates from the Caribbean to join the Conference and for the opportunity provided, to be a part of such a professionally rewarding and life changing experience. I have benefitted immensely from participating in the conference through numerous discussions with museum professionals who possess numerous years of experience and knowledge in the field of Museology. Certainly, the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago, and by extension the Caribbean as a whole, will benefit immeasurably via the consideration and implementation of some of the many developmental strategies discussed, on the multiple paths to global networking and the potential for dynamic future collaborations to protect, preserve, and celebrate all of our societies and cultures.