São Brás de Alportel Costume Museum


São Brás de Alportel Costume Museum

Case Study Contents

1. Ecomuseum Data

Ecomuseum Name

São Brás de Alportel Costume Museum

Date of Creation



R. Dr. José Dias Sancho 61, São Brás de Alportel, Portugal. 8150-141


+351 289 840 100

1.1. Description of the Ecomuseum

The Costume Museum headquarters are in São Brás do Alportel, a city in the south region of Portugal, at Faro District (Algarve). The museum has been developing a series of community-based activities, integrating the various populations and immigrants present in the region. The museum has also additional structures to complement its projects – the Museological Center of Alportel, located in the surroundings of the city –, and supporting organizations such as the Friends of the Museum (AAM).

1.2. Members of the Ecomuseum

Name of the person in charge

Emanuel Sancho

Number of ecomuseum team members


Qualification/training of team members

Museology and Cultural Management.


The museum maintains an open perspective to training and other educational activities. This institution is always open to collaboration with different actors – i.e. local public administration, Friends of the Museum (AAM), local communities, migrants – and most of its activities are developed from suggestions from such actors. These actions are not restricted to the museological field, and most of the events are related to the community needs, such as Portuguese classes for migrants, photography, music, physical activities, theatre, activism related to the promotion of local economy, migration rights and other activities offered by demand and based on the availability of community members.

The identified training needs are mostly related to the necessity to build bridges between theoretical and practical works, bringing together the needs of diverse stakeholders. The necessities are addressed locally, without a direct dependence from academic knowledge – the main idea is to foster knowledge sharing projects, focused on cocreation, and addressing the identification of common problems and common needs bringing together museums and communities. In this sense, the promotion of exchange and capacity building residencies articulated with other ecomuseums could bring a lot of benefits for the museum and for the strengthening of networks, as it could gather people from different contexts in a specific community-based experience, to work together in the identification of shared problems, needs and solutions for a better use of the museum.

Some Examples of Training offered by the Ecomuseum

MuseologySociomuseology course developed together with the University of Algarve; Course coordinated together with the museum; visits to community-based experiences; open discussions.XX
Museum residenciesResearch residencies provided by the museum, articulated with local administration. Daily contact with local communities and with the activities developed by the museum.XX

Some Examples of Training Needs Identified

Exchange & capacity-building residenciesResidencies to exchange experiences with other ecomuseumsOn-siteXX

2. Gallery

3. Funding and Resources

Type of entity
Social Entity – Santa Casa da Misericórdia de São Brás de Alportel
Official status
Museum status according to the legislation of the country
Annual budget
Indirectly financed by a group of institutions – Santa Casa, Friends of the Museum, Municipality, Portuguese State.

The museum is part of a social entity – the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de São Brás de Alportel. This institution is responsible for maintaining the 3 permanent staff present in the museum: the director and two technicians in charge for carrying out the daily activities. Additionally, scholarships are provided for young professionals, financed by the Portuguese State. The local public administration is present in most of the activities organized by the museum, having a direct participation in the resources available for maintaining the institution. The museum is supported by a monthly grant from the Municipality of São Brás de Alportel. Furthermore, the museum staff use to apply for project funding in public calls and to establish partnerships with other institutions locally and nationally. Recently, Portugal Tourism financed a project to build a sensorial garden, bringing together volunteers to support the development of the project in a participative way. The museum is open to residencies for research, with the support of the Municipality.

According to museum´s stakeholders, the institution adopted a so-called “interorganizational museological mobilization”, which values the relational aspects of management as a counterpoint to vertical hierarchies. The management of the institution’s activities is based on agreements between various entities that are related to the organization, whether they are part of its permanent staff, volunteers, local communities, or members of the Friends of the Museum. The museum was present at MINOM (International Movement for a New Museology) on several occasions, given the leading role of its director, Emanuel Sancho, and even as the host of the XVII Journeys on the Social Role of Museums in 2006. When describing the museum’s activities in a 2015 article, Emanuel Sancho and the scholar Lorena Querol articulated the ideas of the new museology with other concepts such as endogenous development, participation and Sociomuseology. The issues raised by Sociomuseology overcame developmental aspects based on purely economic premises, and the concern with promoting human-scale projects is linked to this perception given to local development.

The financed projects are articulated with volunteer initiatives, depending on demands presented by communities. One specific association is very present in the museums activities: the Friends of the Museum (AAM). With more than 800 members, most of them European expats living in São Brás, it has been developing lots of projects and initiatives in the museum such as jazz festivals, exhibitions, courses, and roundtables. The AAM has an active role in the projects design and implementation, having its own staff to develop their activities.

4. Social and Community Participation

The museum was consolidated in Portugal as an experience that highlights the community-based actions and the relations between different social groups. The museum was initially dedicated to ethnographic collection in the Algarve region, based on community donation campaigns. After joining a Social Entity (Santa Casa de Misericórdia), the activities developed by the institution were linked to the city’s cultural agenda. In the following years, the museum became the main meeting place for the different communities inhabiting the city – immigrants from the UK, France, Ukraine, Netherlands, Brazil etc. The diversity of the institution’s actions includes the organization of exhibitions, Ukrainian music festivals, jazz concerts, traditional Portuguese festivities, participatory inventories, oral history records in rural communities, debates on contemporary topics of relevance to the community, information sessions to foreign communities, fashion shows and competitions, photography courses, fado nights and meetings in the museum’s cafe. The social role of the museum was stressed by the growing importance of its activities, and the affirmation of the institution as a space for community participation.

4.1. Local Population

Number of inhabitants of the territory/locality where the ecomuseum is located
Number of members of the local population involved in the ecomuseum
+1000 (considering the members of the local communities, immigrants, schools, the Friends of the Museum, etc.)

Ways of participation

The museum was affirmed as one of the main cultural spaces in the city, acting as a meeting place for different communities in São Brás. Additionally, the Friends of the Museum (AAM) was stablished as an independent organization to promote activities in the museum. This organization has a high level of intervention in the decision-making processes locally, bringing diverse initiatives to the spaces in the museum, such as jazz festivals, yoga classes, etc. The Algarve Photographers Group encourages meetings to discuss technical and aesthetic aspects of photography, with the promotion of exhibitions and competitions.

One of the main participative actions of the museum is the project ‘Photography, Memory and Identity’ (Fotografia, Memória e Identidade – FMId), a collaborative investigation into the city’s photographic collections. A group of local people used to meet the museum staff weekly to hold discussions after analyzing selected collections of old photos. The initiative is based on participatory inventory methodologies to gather the history of local Portuguese communities interpreted in the collections safeguarded by the museum, as well as other photos donated by the local population.

4.2. Social milieu

Forms of involvement

The social role of the museum is not limited to the offer of touristic attractions, even considering the role tourism sector play as a tool to enhance local development. According to the Museum Director, tourists use to see the first layer of the museum in a superficial way. The other layers are related to the daily activities developed together with the community, such as theatre groups, chorus, music bands, yoga sessions, language classes, etc. The museum tries to foster the local community social relations, responding to the community needs presented by individuals and social groups. In this sense, visitors and tourists could benefit from these initiatives, by maintaining an exchanging ambiance in the territory.

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 page

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

5. Innovation and Research

The management system developed in the museum is considered an innovative initiative, as it is mainly based on the needs of the communities. The museum is a meeting place for diverse groups, and the staff is open to suggestions and proposals of activities to be developed. More than 50% of the museum space are multipurpose areas, open the possibility for the development of social and cultural activities continually, enhancing the social role of the museum. This perspective makes it possible to maintain an atmosphere of constant social innovation, as the museum responds to the needs of the communities.

The main research activities are developed using participatory inventory methodologies. As an example, the “Fotografia, Memória e Identidade” group (FMId) meets weekly to gather old photography, identifying and inventorying the collections. Natural and cultural activities are integrated to the museum framework, and the safeguarding of the communities’ memories bring self-awareness and self-confidence to individuals and groups, even after catastrophic events – i.e., after the fire incidents in 2012, one of the ways of helping the communities to comprehend the situation was developed in the museum. After working closely with the collections of the museum, the elders brought their perspectives by studying the territory, the inherited cultural references and the possibilities for a future with dignity.

The Friends of the Museum maintains a newsletter in 6 languages, reaching most of local and foreign communities living in the region. This publication maintains updated the cultural and social agenda in São Brás de Alportel, focusing on the diversity of activities developed by the museum.

6. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Number of SDGs that the ecomuseum is working on
2 (at least)
Preferential SDGs
5 and 12

SDG-related projects/actions

Exhibitions focusing on women and gender issuesDesign of future exhibitions focusing on gender issues, fostering the participation of women.5Raise awareness for gender equality.
Awareness roundtables relating sustainability and ecologyRoundtables to discuss ecological impacts of human action, such as the campaigns against fracking in the region.12Raise awareness about sustainability.
Specific Exhibition directed to the 17 SDGs – process ongoing.One of the next exhibitions dedicated to each one of the 17 SDGs.AllRaise awareness about the SDGs.
Exhibition developed together with the Algarve Museums NetworkExhibition articulated with other museums in the Algarve region – each museum dedicating to one or more SDGs. Proposal presented to the Algarve Museums Network.AllRaise awareness about the SDGs in the region.

7. COVID-19

During the Pandemic period, the impacts were clearly observed by the museum, as the touristic visits reached almost zero. The museum had to stop the organization of concerts and festivals, following the orientations of the Ministry of Health. However, the museum could maintain the development of outdoor activities, using the garden for art classes, tai chi, yoga, language classes, etc. The local communities demanded the return of activities, highlighting the social role of the museum. The museum was revealed as a main meeting place in the city, and after the reopening process observed in Portugal, there was no difficulties in reestablishing the social and cultural activities.


Maristela Simão, Leandro França

Scientific Coordinators

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