Monday, May 9, 2011

Battir Landscape Ecomuseum Project

The village of Battir
Battir is a very nice old Palestinian village immersed in the beautiful environment of Wadi Makhrour valley, west of Bethlehem. The village’s natural and cultural landscape, shaped along centuries of relation between the local environment and the inhabitants of the place, presents many traits of outstanding value and beauty, and embeds the rich and fascinating history of the place, that along the centuries, since the pre-Canaanite era, hosted different people and cultures.  

Today this beautiful landscape is threatened by a variety of factors, both endogenous and exogenous. The most threatening external factors affecting the integrity of this living landscape are the Israeli policies and measures unilaterally imposed within the occupied Palestinian territory. Internal factors of risks consist i.e. of the abandonment of cultivated land, the lack of urban management tools, networks, and services, and pollution due to solid waste and waste water.

Over the past three years, with this inestimable wealth as a basis and in the firm belief that the safeguarding and the valorization of the great natural, artistic and historical heritage of our valley will become a driving force for the sustainable local development of Battir territory, we have worked, and will continue to do so, to create the “Battir Landscape Ecomuseum”.

What is an “Ecomuseum”?
Ecomuseums originated in France, the concept being developed by George Henri Riviere and Hugues de Varine and, who coined the term ‘ecomusée’ in 1971.

The word ecomsuem is made up of two terms: eco and museum...

Why  “Eco”?
The prefix “ECO” comes from the word oykos, that in ancient Greek means “house/living place”.  It is used as prefix in some composed words (e.g. ecology, economy, ecosystem) that refer to the dimension of the environment (natural and socio-cultural) where people live.
In the word ECO-museum the prefix ECO is used to indicate a type of museum that focuses on the environment in its different components – natural, social and cultural. This includes the relationship between human beings and the natural environment. It also has to do with all the help that mankind has been given by Nature to enable us all to survive. The prefix ECO stresses therefore the intimate link that connects each ecomuseum to the natural, cultural and historical environment in which is established and implemented. This fact means that each ecomuseum is unique. Each ecomuseum is the mirror of a specific “living place” and of its people.

Why “Museum”?
For what concerns the word museum, as you know, a museum is a building that contains all sorts of historical and fascinating objects and exhibits. It is also a good place for finding out about things such as art, science, history....
In the building hosting a museum experts of different fields (archaeology, biology, art, history etc.) select objects and information  and after that set up a display for the visitors to come. 

Also ecomuseums are a good place to discover and explore things, but in a different way in respect of a museum. An ecomsueum  in fact doesn’t have a roof—just the sky above it.
An ecomsuem is not a building, but an open-air museum where the local culture and heritage are not concentred in a place and simply displayed, but are lived and experienced in first place by the inhabitants of the place where an ecomsueum exists. The ecomuseum in fact a way of making the local community more aware of its history and of its future
Therefore, an ecomseum IS NOT simply A MUSEUM, because: it is not limited to a building; it is not a display; it is not a collection of objects; it is not defined and decided by experts alone; it is not imposed and controlled by external decision makers; it is not a model to replicate; it is not a static institution.
So, if an ecomsuem is not a museum , what is it?
An ecomuseum is a dynamic way in which a community preserves, interprets, and manages its heritage for a sustainable local development. An ecomuseum is based on a community agreement. An ecomuseum grows from below, rather than being imposed from above: it begins with people, not with objects. It arises in response to the needs and wishes of people living and working in the area and it directly involves them at every stage. Its philosophy and practice are based on the intimate relationship between local people and their heritage.

The main objective of an ecomuseum is not simply to put up a display addressed to passive visitors, but to involve actively the local public in a collective project of valorisation of the local heritage, intended as a diffused shared resource for the production of social capital and an engine for local sustainable development.

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