Training Module 1

Heritage, Community and Territory


TM1: Heritage, Community and Territory




Module’s Guideline for the User

This Training Module presents a general conceptual framework for the following modules, trying to reach a common ground for concepts and theories regarding contemporary Ecomuseums. It has three units, each one focusing on specific issues regarding Heritage, Community and Territory. It starts with a historical overview of the conceptual development of ecomuseums in the 1960´s, presenting practical examples to understand the socio-political and economic environment related to the emergence of new theories and experiences. The second unit concentrates on the social role of museums addressed by sociomuseological approaches. The third unit brings contemporary examples of life-oriented ecomuseums to inspire the practical approach of the following training modules.

Module’s Overview

A group of sociopolitical issues nurtured the conceptual development of ecomuseums in the 1960s, observed in the changes in traditional comprehension of museums: from the traditional museum notion of “building + collections + visitors” to the ecomuseum idea of “territory + heritage + populations”. The historical momentum in the 1960s has widened the understanding of heritage and museums, highlighting issues related to intangible heritage, natural heritage, community, social cohesion, sustainability and territorial development. This module starts with a historical discussion on the conceptual development of ecomuseums, addressing contemporary issues to facilitate the design and implementation of ecomuseums. The module is structured in three units, dedicated to heritage, community and territory. They will facilitate the conceptual understanding and the design of strategies for acknowledging the diversity of contexts where the ecomuseums could be developed, considering different approaches locally and connecting them to broad contexts. The concept of ecomuseums was developed during counterculture movements since the 1960s – contesting imperial museums and opening new perspectives related to local development. The roundtable of Santiago de Chile, in 1972 and the creation of the International Movement for a New Museology (MINOM) converged in the academic knowledge, resulting in recent discussions developed under the concept of sociomuseology – a school of thought present mainly in Ibero-American contexts. This module will broaden the discussion focusing on the three main pillars of ecomuseums: heritage, territory and community. The following ones will then connect the conceptual framework to practical perspectives.

Module’s Aims & objectives

The aim of this module is to offer a conceptual approach to ecomuseums grounded on specific cases related to sociopolitical developments since the 1960´s. It is expected that this general framework will encourage participants to develop their own projects and to share experiences in the following modules.

General Objective:

Provide participants with a general understanding of concepts relating to ecomuseums, focusing on the contemporary comprehension of heritage, community and territory.

Specific Objective 1:

Understand the historical background of the concepts of heritage and ecomuseums since the 1960´s.

Specific Objective 2:

Comprehend the social dimension of ecomuseums, relating to the solving of communities´ problems.

Specific Objective 3:

Recognize ecomuseums as life-oriented organizations and networks, connected to the development of territories.

Module Learning Outcomes

  1. Participants outlined the historical background of ecomuseum conceptual frameworks;
  2. Participants comprehended the possibilities for diverse approaches to ecomuseums based on their geographies and cultural assets;
  3. Participants improved their capacities to carry out contextual analysis and cultural diagnostics for the development of practical initiatives in the following modules;
  4. Participants presented a clear comprehension on ecomuseums, considering their theoretical understandings, the diversity of experiences observed in different regions and the possibilities of designing projects based on local resources and addressing sustainable development.
Learning Unit 1

Understanding Heritage: A Historical, Conceptual and Institutional Approach to EcoMuseums

This unit will present the conceptual framework of heritage and its relation with ecomuseums. What is heritage? Which typologies define heritage nowadays? How to map and identify cultural heritage locally? The unit will focus on how can an ecomuseological approach address cultural heritage, defining baselines for the development of sustainable projects and debating international normative documents guiding cultural heritage policies.

The section starts with a conceptual debate on the contemporary understanding of heritage. The ecomuseums approach to heritage is then presented, addressing issues related to community, environment and territory (Davis, 2011; Rivière, 1985; Varine, 2017; 2006; 2002). A series of international documents is introduced, linking heritage and ecomusems to international context and concepts.

The cultural heritage is part of our daily life, observed in the transmission of expressions, knowledge, and habits. From generation to generation, we have been inheriting cultural references which highlights the cultural diversity of humanity: the music played in our local festivities, the way we produce our bread, the traditional buildings contemplated in different locations, our spirituality, traditional medicine, handicraft, etc. As human beings, this heritage is related to the comprehension related to the uses of culture and to the relation established with the natural environment.

Since the 1970´s, the understanding of cultural heritage has been changing: from the recognition of tangible heritage referring to monumental buildings, “brick and mortar” structures, to natural heritage, environment, landscapes and intangible heritage. The comprehension of heritage nowadays is agreed in different perspectives, observed in international consensus documents, most of them published by UNESCO. The conventions framed the heritage concepts, adopted by specific international documents: i.e. Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO, 1972) and the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003).

The institutions and public bodies have been trying to classify our heritage, in order to facilitate the safeguarding of the cultural references inherited from our ancestors. According to UNESCO, these are the current definitions of the three main typologies of heritage:

  • Tangible Cultural Heritage: “(…) includes artefacts, monuments, a group of buildings and sites, museums that have a diversity of values including symbolic, historic, artistic, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological, scientific and social significance.” (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2009)
  • Intangible Cultural Heritage: “(…) includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.” (UNESCO, 2003)
  • Natural Heritage: “refers to natural features, geological and physiographical formations and delineated areas that constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants and natural sites of value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty. It includes private and publically protected natural areas, zoos, aquaria and botanical gardens, natural habitat, marine ecosystems, sanctuaries, reservoirs etc.” (UNESCO, 1972; UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2009)

Museums, spaces historically dedicated to the safeguarding of cultural heritage, have also been changing in the last decades. The emergence of democratic movements was also interrelated to changes noticed in the role of museums in our societies: from traditional institutions dedicated to the protection of material references of humanity to institutions with an important social role related to human rights and sustainable development. Ecomuseums have then emerged in times of contestation, and their references nowadays serve as orientations for culture and sustainability.

Following the international standards, each region in the world has also adopted their own documents, setting baselines for the development of projects. In the European context, two conventions are mentioned as references for assessing cultural landscapes, topics specially undertaken by Ecomuseums: European Landscape Convention (2000), and the Faro Convention (2005). It is important to acknowledge those standard-setting documents to reach a common-ground, maintain dialogue and enhance cooperation between ecomuseums, civil society, governments and international organizations. The interconnections between culture and development are also noticed by the encouraging of cultural diversity (Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. UNESCO, 2005) and the alignment of the projects and institutions to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it will be presented in the next unit. The links to each document are available to facilitate the comprehension of the cultural heritage field (see references below, in the end of this unit).

How could each context be analyzed considering the conceptual framework promoted by UNESCO and other related institutions? Which are the main cultural references of your community? Can you draft a general framework of your tangible heritage, natural heritage and intangible heritage, after observing the cultural landscape where your institution is based? Can you identify the tangible, intangible and natural heritage of your community? These and other questions are important to start the understanding of your community and territory. Mapping the local heritage is a key issue to develop ecomuseums, using the available resources to foster sustainable development.

In the last decades, conceptual changes have been observed in the heritage and museum sectors. The raise of ecomuseology brought new perspectives to heritage, understood as a resource to local development. In this sense, according to Hugues de Varine (2002), education and sense of responsibility play an essential role in the safeguard of cultural diversity, when the development agendas are then tied to cultural heritage, territory, landscape, memory, lifestyles of inhabitants. Cultural heritage turns into a core issue for collective action linked to the life of citizens.  If we adopt participative management, not only in the use of heritage, but in strategies for identification and promotion, we can amplify networks and involve diverse citizens. (Varine, 2002).

International Documents

Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972). Available at this site.

Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003). UNESCO. Available at this site.

Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005). Available at this site.

Declaration of Quebec (1984). Basic Principles of a New Museology. Available at this site.

European Landscape Convention (2000). Council of Europe Landscape Convention. Available at this site.

Faro Convention (2005). Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society. Available at this site.

The Santiago Roundtable (1972). Programa Ibermuseus. Available at this site.

Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections, their Diversity and their Role in Society (2015). UNESCO. Available at this site.

Learning Unit 2

Engaging Communities: A Sociomuseological Approach to Ecomuseums

What is an ecomuseum? What differences can you find between traditional museums and ecomuseums? How are the relations stablished between the ecomuseums, communities and nature? How to connect your community´s needs to an ecomuseum project? Ecomuseums work largely based on local participation, as shared processes of recognition, management, and protection of cultural and natural heritage, aimed at promoting sustainable development of their communities. Nowadays, the social role of ecomuseums is also addressed as a main issue, strengthening the significance of the projects to local communities.

Since the 1960s, diverse approaches to ecomuseums have been adopted. This diversity is observed as regional developments nurtured various possibilities of managing heritage locally through ecomuseums. The engagement of communities is one of the key issues addressed during the development of ecomuseums, considering the diversity of regional contexts where they are operating. How to understand community and engagement considering the contextual diversity where the ecomuseums are operating? For the ecomuseums approach, the idea of community is closely related to local development. The importance of identifying local resources and design sustainable strategies is preeminent for community development, strengthening social cohesion and fostering the people to engage in sustainable agendas. The identification of local needs and expectations facilitates the development of socially grounded and realistic projects, using sociomuseological approaches always with a participative perspective, as it will be further discussed in Module 4.

It is important to set the floor for a discussion presenting the main historical references for building up the concept of Ecomuseums, relating to New Museology and to the raise of Sociomuseology (Moutinho, 2016; 2014). The debates on Ecomuseums and Sociomuseology are conducted with a general understanding of how community-based experiences have been developed, considering the sociomuseological approach in a series of case studies in Latin America and Europe. The baselines established by the Declaration of Santiago (1972) and the rise of the International Movement for a New Museology (MINOM) in the 1980´s encouraged social movements and communities to promote their own initiatives, and the UNESCO and other international documents have been nurtured by these ground-based experiences, strengthened by the development of public policies from the 1960´s to the present day.

Can you identify different experiences developed by museums in your region? How are the museums addressing local issues, cultural heritage, and cultural landscapes? How are the communities involved in these processes?

The changes observed in the understanding of cultural heritage is also observed in the comprehension of museums. If the traditional understanding of museums used to focus on the ideas of building, public and collection, the ecomuseums shift is observed in the focus on territory, community and heritage (Varine, 2002; 2006; 2017). In 1972, in Santiago, Chile, UNESCO and ICOM promoted the Santiago roundtable, addressing local issues and questioning how the museums could participate and coordinate efforts to promote local development (The Santiago Roundtable, 1972).

Source: Presentation by Leandro França. Department of Museology, Lusófona University, 2022.

This turn has been nurtured by democratic values, fostering communities to assume their heritage and the interpretation of their territories, foreseeing the social development of localities. The latest recommendation of UNESCO related to museums was adopted in 2015, and the recognition of the social role of museums was assumed as prominent for the development of museums and societies:

“Museums are increasingly viewed in all countries as playing a key role in society and as a factor in social integration and cohesion. In this sense, they can help communities to face profound changes in society, including those leading to a rise in inequality and the breakdown of social ties. (…) Museums are vital public spaces that should address all of society and can therefore play an important role in the development of social ties and cohesion, building citizenship, and reflecting on collective identities.” (UNESCO, 2015. Art. 16 and 17).

Nowadays, the strengthening of ecomuseums is connected to the promotion of cultural diversity, considering that “cultural diversity is a defining characteristic of humanity” and “that cultural diversity creates a rich and varied world, which increases the range of choices and nurtures human capacities and values, and therefore is a mainspring for sustainable development for communities, peoples and nations” (Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. UNESCO, 2005). After the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in September 2015, the enhancement of cultural heritage has been considered prominent and strategic for the sustainable development of communities. The ecomuseums can be protagonists in this process, addressing local issues in the present time and envisioning a sustainable future.

Source: Presentation by Prof. Mario Moutinho. Department of Museology, Lusófona University, 2022.

At least two approaches can be used for the first steps of the ecomuseum´s development: the mapping of the local heritage, considering the natural, tangible and intangible heritage; and the identification of local problems, needs and aspirations of the community. All this process must be oriented with a life-oriented tendency, as museums are institutions in the service of human-being and societies (Moutinho & Primo, 2017). The identification of local needs and local problems, if discussed democratically, will promote ecomuseum as a place to hold meetings for territorial development.

How to identify strategies and respond to local needs with the use of heritage-based resources? How to comprehend your community´s heritage as a resource for social development? It is important to maintain democratic processes for mapping and identifying the heritage of your communities. The knowledgeable management of local heritage can be identified as key issue for solving local problems and for promoting sustainable development. How can you promote these issues in your community? All these issues will be further discussed and developed with a practical perspective presented in the modules 2 (Ecomuseums & Sustainability), 3 (Planning, starting & sustaining the Ecomuseum) and 4 (Participation and active citizenship. Participatory processes).

Learning Unit 3

Life-oriented EcoMuseums

In-depth contextual analysis is essential for the development of ecomuseums. To this end, it is necessary to understand the territory, the local heritage and the citizens’ needs. What is understood as territory? How to identify a territory, considering its cultural assets? How to interconnect citizens’ needs to cultural heritage? The ecomuseum is a space for gathering diverse perspectives present in the communities, acting as a forum for democratic debates on the social role of museums for sustainable development.

The territory is one of the three pillars of ecomuseums. It is here understood as a landscape attached to a group of citizens and populations, which have previous cultural references linked to the use of local resources. The territory converges time and space, natural and cultural sources, portraying nature in its wilderness, but also as adapted by traditional and industrial society in their own image. It (the ecomuseum) is an expression of time, when the explanations it offers reach back before the appearance of man, ascend the course of the prehistoric and historical times in which he lived and arrive finally at man´s present. It also offers vistas of the future, while having no pretensions to decision-making, its function being rather to inform and critically analyse. It is an interpretation of space – of special places in which to stop or stroll. (Rivière, 1985).

Each territory has specific problems to be addressed by local inhabitants. The cultural assets can serve as valuable resources for community working focusing on the answers to local questions. It is important to identify local problems and issues to be addressed by the ecomuseum, considering that its social role is related to local development, highlighted by the democratic values of heritage and cultural diversity. Participative tools are very valuable for this democratic process – from the discussions of local issues to the decision-making processes to design strategies for local development, as it will be further discussed in Module 4.

Some of the tools developed for mapping the cultural heritage in specific territories are based on heritage education. Observation, Registration, Exploration and Appropriation are examples of these processes (Grunberg, 2007). The observation is based on sensorial means for identifying the main cultural references, using sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch for mapping cultural heritage. The registration uses drawings, verbal descriptions, maps and other logic and intuitive means. The exploration is based on the analysis of the identified cultural references through public discussion. Finally, the appropriation is related to the use of creativity for expressing the cultural heritage through drama, music, paintings, filming and other artistic actions.

The ecomuseum can provide communities with solutions for local territories issues, considering the economic, social and cultural development – i.e. sustainable solutions for water and energy use; promotion of peace in conflict zones; promotion of economic opportunities for local enterprises, considering handicraft production, tourism attractions, local products; strengthening interrelations with schools, in close collaboration for the development of educational actions; promotion of local expressions and festivities; act as an opening space for community meetings etc.

Can you identify any local issues and social problems to be addressed by the ecomuseum? How can the ecomuseum cooperate locally for the territorial development? How do you see the ecomuseum as a hub for gathering diverse people and communities, for network building and for the development of cooperation projects?

One interesting perspective to be developed by ecomuseums is the understanding of the power and poetics of citizenship for life-oriented ecomuseums (Chagas, 2007; 2010). Ecomuseums should embrace the needs of societies, focusing on democratic values, the diversity of cultural expressions and the sustainable development. Museums must serve life and society, and ecomuseums committed to sustainable development must adopt a diversity of positions to face contemporary issues, respecting local needs and aiming for fair and well-being societies.

Do you have anything similar developed in your ecomuseum? How can you explore these tools to explore the territory and enhance education actions for the promotion of cultural heritage? Can you identify local issues and design strategies based on cultural resources found in your territory and community?

The organization of available information will enrich each project developed by the ecomuseums, based on the idea of identifying local problems and analyzing how can you respond to issues identified in the local territory. The next modules will present a practical perspective with specific tools and strategies for linking ecomuseums to SDGs, strategic planning for the development of ecomuseums and territorial diagnostics for participative management.

Some examples of old and new issues in heritage management. Source: Penna, 2018.
Number of hours to be dedicated6 hours (2 hours per unit).
EFQ level3


Chagas, M. (2007). Memory and Power: two movements. In. Cadernos de Sociomuseologia, Nº 27. Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias.

Chagas, M. (2010). Museums, memories and social movements. In. Sociomuseology IV, Cadernos de Sociomuseologia, Vol 38.

Chagas, M.; Gouveia, I. (2014). Museologia social: reflexões e práticas (à guisa de apresentação). Cadernos do CEOM, 27(41), 9-22.

Davis, P. (2011). Ecomuseums: A sense of place. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Grunberg, E. (2007). Manual de atividades práticas de educação patrimonial. Brasília, DF: IPHAN.

Mayrand, P. (1985). The New Museology proclaimed. Museum, XXXVII(4), 200–201.

Mayrand, P. (2007). Manifeste de l’altermuséologie—Proposition de Pierre Mayrand et Luisa Rogado. Présenté lors du XIIème Atelier International de Nouvelle Muséologie. Setúbal.

Moutinho, M. C. (2014). Definição evolutiva de Sociomuseologia: Proposta de reflexão. Cadernos do CEOM – Centro de Memória do Oeste de Santa Catarina, 41, 423–427.

Moutinho, M. C. (2016). From New museology to Sociomuseology. 24th General Conference of the International Council of Museums. Milano. Joint meeting MINOM/ CAMOC/ ICOFOM.

Moutinho, M.; Primo, J. (2017). Sociomuseology’s theoretical frames of reference, Keynote at the International Conference The Subjective Museum? The impact of participative strategies on the museum, Historisches Museum Frankfurt & Department of Museology of the Universidade Lusófona, Historisches. Museum Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, 26-28th July 2017.

Penna, K.N. (2018). Cultural heritage as an educational base for the traditional pillarsof sustainable development. 6th International Conference in Heritage and Sustainable Development. Granada, Spain. Available at this site.

Penna, K.N. (2018). Cultural heritage as an educational base for the traditional pillarsof sustainable development. 6th International Conference in Heritage and Sustainable Development. Granada, Spain. Available at this site.

Rivière, G. H. (1985) The ecomuseum—an evolutive definition, Museum International, 37:4, 182-183

Rivière, G. H. (1985) The ecomuseum—an evolutive definition, Museum International, 37:4, 182-183

UNESCO (1972). Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

UNESCO (2003). Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2009). UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics.

Varine, H. (2002). Les Racines du Futur – Le patrimoine au service du développement, Ed. Asdic.

Varine, H. (2017). L’écomusée, singulier et pluriel, Paris, Ed. L’Harmattan, 2017

Varine, H. de. (2006). Ecomuseology and Sustainable Development. Museums & Social Issues, 1(2), 225–232.

Varine, H. de. (2012). Santiago do Chile—1972—La museología se encuentra con el mundo moderno. In. Mesa Redonda de Santiago de Chile—1972. Programa Ibermuseus.


Scientific Coordinators