Opening conference of the event The Museums, What for?

Dr. Shani Roper

conference created a space for dialogue among museum practitioners from Brazil, Europe, and the Americas that forced delegates to think critically about the role of museums in our respective societies, the necessity of potential collaborations, and the sustainability of museums in an era of economic insecurity. The conference was the culmination of four years collaborative work between the United Kingdom and Brazil on the Transform Museums Programme supported by the British Council. The initiative, which ran from 2012 – 2016, focused on using the arts to ‘inspire and connect people, challenge exclusion by investing in human dignity and creating a sustainable future through the creative industries.’ Projects under the Transform Museums Programme emphasized capacity building, leadership and development as well as artistic excellence to name a few areas of interest. Museums, What For?” as a forum, therefore, centred the museum within this larger discussion on social inclusion and sustainable development.

Daniela Fifi, Keomi Serrette and I were selected to represent the Caribbean at this conference. Delegates attended panel discussions on the role of museums in society, public policy, strategic planning, social activism, branding and building visitor-ship. We also visited local museums and spoke to professionals about their vision for that particular space, main factors shaping their development and work with the community. Repeatedly colleagues spoke about their efforts to identify and speak to and with their stakeholders while at the same time clearly articulating their values within the planning process and through their programmes. Coming from an organization that works to affirm positive self identity among persons of African descent, the conference opened my eyes to different ways in which museums can engage in transformative work in its communities through social activism.

We as Caribbean nationals recognized the kind of collaborative work and capacity building that was needed to make the museum sector functional and sustainable in the region. More importantly, however, the conference brought home the importance of speaking to each other across the Caribbean. In doing so, we were able to think through ways to help each other and specifically, ways to facilitate creative development through cultural industries. Thank you British Council Caribbean for this opportunity."

Daniela Fifi, Keomi Serrette, Dr. Shani Roper and the attendees of the Museums, What For? forum
Keomi Serrette and Shani Roper at the Niterói Museum of Contemporary Art
Choir singing at the opening of the Transform Museums Program supported by the British Council
Photograph of Keomi Serrette and Shani Roper in the city of Niterói, Brazil