Corvo Ecomuseum


Corvo Ecomuseum

Case Study Contents

1. Ecomuseum Data

Ecomuseum Name

Corvo Ecomuseum

Date of Creation

2013 (Project) / 2015 (Implementation)


Vila do Corvo, Corvo Island, Azores, Portugal


+351 292 596 063

1.1. Description of the Ecomuseum

The Corvo Ecomuseum comprehends the entire Corvo Island, the smallest and most isolated of the Azores archipelago (Portugal). This project was created in 2013 by the Azores’s Regional Directorate of Culture, and its implementation started in 2015.  It is considered to be a museum of the territory, of its community and for their sustainable development. Its aim is to recover and preserve the island’s traditions and heritage, in all aspects (human, natural, tangible, intangible, etc.), for the present and future generations.

They started with one physical structure, the Technical Support Office for the Ecomuseum. This is a space for working, planning and researching. In 2019, the House of Time (Casa do Tempo) was inaugurated. House of Time (Casa do Tempo) is a welcoming space for local and foreign visitors. There, they have access to information, videos and explanations about the island and its community, and it is fully equipped with all the necessary knowledge and material to explore the territory.

A modern space was recently offered to the ecomuseum by the Regional Directorate of Culture. This is the Corvo’s Multipurpose Pavilion. There is place to host and organize different cultural events, such as heritage preservation activities, colloquia, conferences, meetings, exhibitions, Fado concerts, theater plays, cinema, music, photography, and other forms of artistic expression.

It’s planned to move forward with three more physical structures: the House of the Lookout (Casa da Vigia), the House of Memory (Casa da Memória), and the House of the Looms (Casa dos Teares). In these spaces, it is intended to recreate and promote local traditions, organize workshops and events, and offer more activities for the community and visitors.

1.2. Members of the Ecomuseum

Name of the person in charge

Drª Deolinda Estêvão

Number of ecomuseum team members


Qualification/training of team members

History and Heritage Studies


The ecomuseum has identified that there are local traditions on their way to extinction, so it is absolutely necessary to train community members in how to preserve them. There have been several meetings with local elders in order to learn from them and document their testimonies, getting their knowledge preserved to pass it to future generations. Trainings in this matter such as weaving workshops to recover and keep this tradition alive have been already planned. A mandolin group was formed, in articulation with the school, in order to recover folklore and local music. This partnership with the school is considered very relevant in terms of heritage education, in its different aspects. The ecomuseum will continue doing these educational/training activities in order to foster youth engagement in valuing, preserving and disseminating the heritage that surrounds them.

The Ecomuseum currently counts with three staff members: its Director, Drª Deolinda Estêvão, and two technicians, Drª Andreia Silva and Dr. Manuel Oliveira. The recruitment process for three other positions was ongoing. The Regional Directorate for Culture offers training to ecomuseum staff, both in person and online, on different themes: communication, dissemination, capacity-building, etc. For the Ecomuseum staff, it was identified the need for training on Museology/ecomuseology and strategic communication in order to strengthen their relation with the community and foster public engagement and participation in the activities. As for the local community, more capacity-building activities are needed in order to foster the recovery of extinct traditions, such as weaving, and artistic training to support local groups, such as music and theatre. Due to the island’s isolation and lack of human resources, they have to bring external trainers to develop trainings on-site, as they are considered to be more effective.

Some Examples of Training offered by the Ecomuseum

Heritage educationEducational/training activities to foster youth engagement in valuing, preserving and disseminating the heritage that surrounds themX
Music trainingFormation of a mandolin group to recover and preserve folklore and local musicX
Corvo Heritage CampaignRaising awareness on heritage issues and presenting the results of research activities to the communityX
General trainingsTrainings on different topics offered by the Regional Directorate for Culture: communication, dissemination, capacity-building, etc.X

Some Examples of Training Needs Identified

Museology/ecomuseology and strategic communicationStrengthen their relation with the community and foster public engagement and participation in the activitiesOn-siteX
Capacity-building on local traditions and heritageFoster the recovery of extinct traditions, such as weavingWorkshops on-siteX
Artistic trainingTrainings to support local groups, such as music and theatreOn-siteX

3. Funding and Resources

Type of entity
Museum of territory
Official status
External service of the Azores’ Regional Directorate for Culture
Annual budget
€5,000 (for activities)

The budget comes exclusively from the regional government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores, as the Ecomuseum is a service of the Regional Directorate of Culture. The activities of the Ecomuseum are free, including the admission to the House of Time, with no external revenue. Personnel costs, maintenance of buildings, and all other expenses are covered by the government. Besides having the fixed costs covered, the government allocates an annual budget of €5,000 for the Ecomuseum to implement its planned activities.

However, they also try other sources of funding for some initiatives. For example, they entered as partners in a consortium that is competing for European funds, from the Erasmus Program, to establish exchanges between institutions in the field of Education and Culture.

In the future, they envision to charge a symbolic contribution from tourists for activities and services that are planned to be provided in the House of Memory and House of the Looms. Visitors would be offered immersive experiences, such as learning the local heritage and traditions from community members on workshops and buying their products (such as wool articles and local food). This would generate some income for the local community and foster its socio-economic development.

4. Social and Community Participation

The local community is encouraged to actively participate in the planning of the Ecomuseum’s activities. There is a “Corvo Ecomuseum Friends Group”, a focal group that provides valuable feedback and inputs (by email and online forms) that are taken into account when planning the activities. There is a great attendance and involvement of the public in the activities promoted by the Ecomuseum, especially cultural events in the Multipurpose Pavilion, since Corvo is an isolated island and has a very close small community.

However, even with all the publicity, many community members still haven’t visited the House of Time. But little by little, the interest in also getting to know the physical space of the Ecomuseum is awakening. “There was a young local who came to visit the House of Time with a family member for the first time after a tourist recognized him on the street. The tourist told him that he had seen him in a photo of the Ecomuseum. As he was so young, he would hardly be in a photo of the archive. It turned out that he actually appeared in the film where the local mandolin group he belongs to appears”, the Director recalls.

At the House of the Time, visitors have access to instruments that allow them to interpret the territory. Unfortunately, the Ecomuseum doesn’t have enough human resources to always have a guide available to accompany people. So, a leaflet was created with an interpretive circuit of Vila do Corvo, so people could explore the territory on their own with the information in there. In the future, with the expansion of the Ecomuseum’s physical structures, it is intended to offer more participatory activities, for both locals and visitors, that recover and promote local traditions and heritage.

4.1. Local Population

Number of inhabitants of the territory/locality where the ecomuseum is located
386 (2021)
Number of members of the local population involved in the ecomuseum
20 (“Group of Friends”)

Ways of participation

The ecomuseum’s objective is to encourage people to actively participate in their activities planning. This has already been done through open calls advertised on posters, on Facebook, and also through the “Corvo Ecomuseum Friends Group”. People in this focus group were invited to fill out an online form indicating if they were following the activities, what kind of activities they would like to see being implemented, etc. They left several suggestions that are being used for the development of the activities’ plan. There is a lot of interest in cinema, handicrafts market, as well as events linked to ancient traditions, such as the “Wool Day” and the Wind Mills Day”. Most of the times, is the ecomuseum who invite the community to participate, however come some people have contacted them spontaneously offering their support and help in the organization and planning of activities.

Participatory museological processes, such as the Participatory Inventory of Corvo’s Cultural Heritage and for the Photographic Archive, are often carried out. People were asked to bring old family photos to the Ecomuseum, and now the Photographic Archive already has more than 1,000 photos. The photos are digitized and then returned to their owners, who provide information about their context and consent to share them. The idea is to build a database to preserve the community’s memory, creating a repository available for public consultation. The exhibition “Retalhos de Saudade” was conceived with some of these photographs, on different themes related to traditions, selected together with community members.

Personal contact is considered a very effective strategy to engage the community: talking to people, explaining activities, calling for participation. The Ecomuseum’s staff have reached to people individually: “come, participate, it will be interesting, we explain”, the Director says that this is what attracts people the most.

Corvo’s community members (386) participate mainly in activities outside the House of Time, especially the cultural events at the Multipurpose Pavilion. Some activities had an audience of more than 150 people, such as theater, book launches, Fado concerts, etc. As Corvo has a very close small community, this stimulates a greater public participation, especially in activities related to traditions.

4.2. Social milieu

Number of visitors from the territory/locality where the ecomuseum is located
2,123 (Portuguese)
Number of foreign visitors

Forms of involvement

The ecomuseum, as a museum of the territory, provides instruments that allow people to interpret that territory. Based on the information and the videos that are available at the House of Time, and the explanations given by the technicians, visitors are sent to explore the island. It would be preferable that visitors could be led by a guide. But, unfortunately, the Ecomuseum doesn’t have enough human resources to always have a guide available to accompany people. A leaflet was created with an interpretive circuit of Vila do Corvo, so people could walk the terrain alone with the information in there.

Andreia Silva, ecomuseum technician, explains that they tried to articulate with tour operators so they could offer this circuit to their clients. Unfortunately, there was only one that adhered, as most of them work alone and lack resources to enlarge the scope of their work. “We have a compiled dossier that we provide them. I myself recorded what I tell at the various stations so that it would be easier for them to take the information and tell their customers. We need to continue to work hard in this direction. People arrive here and are often a little lost in the territory”.

There are plans to enhance visitors’ participation, both local and foreigner, with future new spaces. At House of Memory, it’s intended to recreate a typical household from the mid-20th Century where they want to recover and promote traditions, organize workshops and events, offering activities for the community and visitors. In the House of the Looms it is envisioned to recreate the wool cycle, as the island is historically linked to sheep farming, wool production and weaving. They want to install recovered looms, provide capacity building on weaving and serve as a space where local artisans could work and commercialize their products, generating some income for community members.

4.3. Website analisis

Type of intervention made possible by the website

Only information Chance to suggest actions Complaints or Compliments Purchase of tickets Open access or under registration
Facebook and email
Facebook and email

Kinds of suggestions available

Proposing museum objectives On funding issues About museum planning On accessibility

Quality of Feedback

Receipt message is sent The proposal is discussed at the museum management level Results of the discussion are sent

The creation of a dedicated website is planned to take place soon. Its content will have the ecomuseum’s mission, objectives, team, programming, call for participation, etc. Currently, it is at the ecomuseum Facebook page, created in March 2021, where most content related to their activities, calls for participation and a space for digital interaction can be found. The page has 923 likes and 987 followers, as of January 2022. An Instagram profile was created recently, but it has not been frequently updated, having only 2 posts and 31 followers, as of January 2022. The existing website belongs to the Regional Directorate of Culture and its content is outdated, mainly links to official documents and press coverage when the project had started. The objective with a new dedicated website, linked to the Ecomuseum’s social media profiles, is to broaden the dissemination of its activities and to reach a wider audience, not just the community.

For the community, they have other ways of publicizing the activities, such as putting up posters in cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, on their own premises, etc. However, many times the message does not arrive. “The most effective communication is personal contact, here we can do it because we are a small community, perhaps in other places this would not be possible”, explains Deolinda Estêvão.

5. Innovation and Research

For Deolinda Estêvão, the ecomuseological project is itself a factor of social innovation, as is a community museum, at the service of the local community and aiming to its sustainable development. Besides the recovery, preservation and promotion of traditions, memory and history of the community, the ecomuseum Director considers it also innovative to take steps towards modernity. By carrying out activities and events in the Multipurpose Cultural Pavilion, it has been possible to expand their action. They have been organizing different events such as cinema, theater, exhibitions, dance, concerts, all kinds of artistic manifestations that the local population lacked access to.

In addition to the Ecomuseum’s concern with the territory’s natural and intangible heritage, the Participatory Inventory of Corvo’s Cultural Heritage and the expansion of its physical structures will also allow for innovation in the identification and preservation of the community’s tangible heritage. “This heritage exists and needs to be recovered, rescued, documented, disseminated”, says Deolinda. They have a collection of ethnographic objects that are not yet at display (such as an old loom and a series of objects that were donated by community members), but will integrate the House of Memory and House of the Looms. They have organized calls for donation, restoration, exhibitions, workshops and raising awareness on this type of heritage, involving the community.

Digitization is also considered a factor of innovation. They aim to digitize their processes, digitally organize their archives and make them available online, giving access to these elements that can be useful to researchers, who cannot come to Corvo on purpose, for example.

Ecomuseum staff receive many requests and cooperate with master’s and doctoral students in their research work. They give interviews and access to documentation from their collection and archives, for example. They also carry out their own research work with the support of experts from different fields, such as Archeology and Anthropology. They had organized a Heritage Campaign, focused on Archeology, to find more information about discoveries that were made on the ground. Namely to find traces of a possible mill that may have existed on the island, and of a tide well. It is often the Ecomuseum team that provides information to researchers on traces that may possibly be of interest for research. Once they reported that a storm uncovered a tidal well and a team came to dig the well. These are some examples, there are still many fields of interest in the area of research that are still open. The intention is to contribute to the study of the history of Corvo Island and its community. They organize events to transmit this knowledge to the population, presenting the results of the research activities of the Ecomuseum and its partners to the community.

Architects and engineers have already worked in the Technical Support Office, preparing projects for free so that people could rehabilitate their degraded houses. Based on these projects, people can apply for funding that exists in the Azores’ Autonomous Region for the restoration of housing. The Technical Support Office continues providing support to community members who want to apply for recovery support for their homes, with information and in filling out the paperwork and technical requirements. The objective is to promote the preservation and requalification of the built heritage, also stimulating the socio-economic development of the community.

6. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Number of SDGs that the ecomuseum is working on
At least 6.
Preferential SDGs
None specifically defined.

SDG-related projects/actions

Heritage education activitiesEducational/training activities to foster youth engagement in valuing, preserving and disseminating the heritage that surrounds them (natural, human, tangible, intangible, etc.)4, 11, 14, 15More valorization, preservation and dissemination of the community’s common heritage (natural, human, tangible, intangible, etc.)
Capacity-building on local traditions and heritageFoster the recovery of extinct traditions and the commercialization of local products/services, such as tourism, weaving and artisanal cheese8, 11, 12Foster the socio-economic development of the community
Support for the rehabilitation of degraded housesProvide technical support to community members who want to apply for funding to recover their homes8, 11Promote the preservation and requalification of the built heritage

When the activities plan was prepared, guidelines were given so that these meet the SDGs. Therefore, the ecomuseum activities already try to cover these objectives. There is an educational core aimed at young people (SDG 4), so they can have trainings on the importance of preserving the community’s memory, history and heritage in its most different aspects (human, natural, tangible, intangible, etc.) – SDGs 11, 14, 15. The ecomuseum is still beginning to take these steps. But, even with a reduced team, they have these objectives present in the Ecomuseum’s work in favor of the community’s sustainable development.

In terms of traditions, they also want to encourage the revival of the production of local products as they were in the past (such as wool and artisanal cheese) – SDGs 8, 11, 12. They are trying to make Corvo’s artisanal cheese certified as a product of origin, they claim “We want to make the Ecomuseum play an active role in promoting some local products that could be marketed to boost the local economy”, Deolinda explains.

By providing technical support to community members for the rehabilitation of degraded houses, helping them with projects and funding applications, they are promoting the preservation and requalification of the built heritage (SDG 11), also stimulating the socio-economic development of the community (SDG 8).

7. COVID-19

Although for a long time, due to its isolation, Corvo Island had no Covid cases for a long time, the community still had to comply with the same restrictions imposed in the region and the country. For some time, physical structures were closed to the public, and technicians worked from home. House of Time received no visits. Communications were only done via email, and they didn’t have a Facebook page or website yet. The 2020 activities’ plan was not implemented, and the budget allocated for those planned activities was transferred to the following year. However, there was no impact on the revenue, since activities and visits to the House of Time are free.

As soon as a little reopening was possible, the ecomuseum found great demand. Corvo Island only had one only case of Covid, the virus did not spread, and Corvo community was one of the firsts in the world being fully vaccinated, people felt safe there. In the summer of 2020, there was a greater influx of visitors, including from the other islands, to visit Corvo and the House of Time.


Maristela Simão, Leandro França

Scientific Coordinators

Leandro França, Barbara Kazior, Óscar Navajas, Manuel Parodi-Álvarez, Lisa Pigozzi, Raul dal Santo, Julio Seoane, Maristela Simão