Cultural heritage through youth’s eyes

Jan 18, 2023

Alice Strömberg is a seventeen-year-old curator at the ‘My Castle, Your Castle project’ in Sweden. Last October, she spent three days on an immersive visit to the ancient city of Zaragoza, as part of Cultural Heritage in Action. After her stint in Spain, Strömberg shared her impressions in a series of blog posts and that you can find below.

 12 October 2022

“A couple of months ago, Julia Göransson, the leader of ‘My Castle, Your Castle’ – the project I work on – asked if I wanted to join her in applying for the Cultural Heritage in Action peer-learning visit to Zaragoza. I was eating lunch with my friends and I was in a hurry because my class was about to start, but after getting more information I replied: ‘Of course, that would be amazing.’ A month later, we found out that we got accepted.”

Fostering young people’s involvement

My Castle, Your Castle’ develops methodologies and structures to increase the participation of young people like Strömberg. Through the project, youth can influence local and regional cultural heritage and contribute to community-building actions.

The scheme gives children and young people a chance to choose their ‘castles’ – that is, urban sights that are important to them and that they can contribute to creating and maintaining. The results and findings will be collected and presented in a digital handbook.

 24 October 2022

“We got to the host-city of Zaragoza on Monday evening. The following morning, at breakfast, we met the other participants. I remember Julia and me on the elevator with another participant, all of us with a green apple in hand. After that, we became ‘the Apple Ladies’ for the rest of the visit. It was an amazing start, and later that day, it only got better.

It’s important to know that I am 17 and the only young person represented. But soon, I was able to know some amazing people from Zaragoza, young people like me, who were participating in their own project called ‘Rompe Puertas’, or Doorbreakers in English.”

Bringing down doors

The Doorbreakers are a group of young people aged 16-21 who act as advisers and curators to Zaragoza’s  five municipal museums. The Spanish city created the programme when it noticed that young people did not engage with local museums because of a perceived gap between more traditional or academic culture and popular culture.

Zaragoza’s Culture and Youth departments run the programme together and create a permanent link between youngsters and museums. Participants are selected through a call and take part in a year-long programme of activities. From museography to the development of sociocultural projects, the Doorbreakers devise plans for young people, give voice to their needs and demands, helping to design strategies to attract and retain young audiences in the museums.

26 October 2022

“During lunch, the Doorbreakers invited me to talk to them. We exchanged experiences about working in a museum, but I also had the opportunity to get to know more about Spanish culture. The Doorbreakers had worked for less than a year, but they could host a whole festival in the city museums in just two months. This, of course, amazed and inspired me. I want our project to be able to do something as big as that; it would be a dream come true. In the evening, we ate dinner together. The day ended very late, but I wasn’t tired because being there had been so exciting and educational. I couldn’t wait for the next meeting.”

27 October 2022

“The other days we focused less on youth engagement programmes and more on how the museum is structured as an organisation. It was interesting, of course, but all I could think about was brainstorming ideas for what we could do at the regional museum in Västmanland, Sweden, where I work. There, my role is to find out how young people can influence the work of the museum’s cultural heritage department. Together, we want to create opportunities for youth to shape our society.

I shared ideas and experiences with the other participants, and I look forward to developing them. For example, they created an escape room in the museum, which would be amazing to have here in Sweden.”

28 October 2022

“Julia and I wrote down our plans and goals on the last day. We decided that we would use some of the methods we learned. Also, we will document them for future project participants, so they can use them.

It was very relevant for me to talk to the other participants who are leading youth engagement projects and  to other young people from Zaragoza. I learned that when you are engaged in a youth group at your local museum, collaborating with similar groups from other museums or countries can be important for your own development.

We also had the opportunity to establish ties with the other participants. The best thing about the experience is how much respect I had from those older than me and how I was treated equally.

Cultural Heritage in Action has been a great opportunity for me and something I will always be proud of doing. I have many great memories from the visit, and even better, many great new contacts for our project.

Reach for the stars, dream big and do not let anything stop your creativity flow. Especially when you work in a museum!”

You can read more in the recently published report from a peer-learning visit organised in Zaragoza in October 2022: the visit focused on inclusiveness and participation in the city museums.

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