Studio notes – Worts on heritage and museums

Worts on Heritage and Museums

Douglas Worts

I live in Toronto with my wife Catharine.  My three children are pretty much all grown up and leading independent and exciting lives.

 

In 2007, I left my position at an ‘interpretive planner’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario – which ended a 25 year employment.  There were many amazing times at the AGO – full of interesting research, discovery and experimentation with museum practices. Adventures in audience research, exhibit development, teaching, technology-based communication strategies (both stand-alone and online), video production and more kept me very engaged at the Gallery.  I also have enjoyed a long and ongoing association with the University of Toronto ‘Master of Museum Studies Program’, from which I graduated in 1982, and then have taught many classes and courses during the intervening years.

 

One of the most significant experiences I have had, both professionally and personally, was becoming involved with the complex domain of global/local sustainability.  In 1997 I was invited to join Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD Canada).  This cross-disciplinary, global network of professionals was initiated in the early 1990s, in response to “Our Common Future: the Report of the World Commission on the Environment and Development” and to the 1992 “Earth Summit”.  The Rockefeller Foundation wanted to fund an initiative that would make a significant contribution to global sustainability.  LEAD became that initiative.  Currently, the global LEAD network has over 2100 Fellows, from a broad array of professions, representing 90 countries.  All Fellows have completed a leadership training program designed to build both national/regional cohesion, as well as a global contacts that are available for any number of sustainability initiatives.

 

My personal focus within LEAD has been the link between culture and sustainability (or more accurately, our global and local UNsustainability).  Through my research, public speaking and publishing initiatives, I have come to see culture, at least in part, as the values-based foundation of our unsustainable human communities and lifestyles – especially in the West, but that is changing.  I saw that the system of cultural organizations, (including museums, galleries, science centres, arts funding and so on) provided a significant infrastructure that could become directed towards the cultural dimensions of sustainability.  This would necessitate a review of the current orientation of cultural organizations as instruments of the leisure-time economy, the tourism economy, informal education and entertainment.  A recognition that culture is how we live our lives, and not simply what we do in our leisure time, offers a huge array of opportunities for working with business, government, NGOs and more.  With a renewed mandate, cultural organizations could help to develop greater public consciousness of the nature of our unsustainable lifestyles, while developing personal and public strategies that could shift our communities towards a more sustainable future. But all of this would require these organizations to revise the basis of expertise, decision-making and the measurement of success that currently controls these organizations.  ‘Change’ is not an easy process for anyone or any organization to initiate – in fact, it often requires a crisis to produce the motivation to start such a transformation.  But this is going to be required of all sectors of society.

 

Today’s world is characterized by many globalizing forces – in economics, communication, transportation, manufacturing, urbanization and more. There is an important question to be addressed – what is culture in a world being reshaped by transformational forces?  What is the ‘culture of pluralism’ that is becoming the norm in our cities around the world?  How can societies create effective instruments of reflection and action that can mobilize people within and across traditional ethno-cultural boundaries?  Since humanity has never before met or exceeded the limitations of the Earths biological capacity to renew itself, how can this significant societal constraint become fully woven into all human activity?  The changes that are required are unlike any that humanity has faced before, and will require major shifts in our energy systems, economy, and systems of civil society.  All the while, the cultural identities that have defined groups for centuries must be acknowledged, engaged and integrated into our evolving globalized culture.

 

Big challenges… there is no question.  But I do feel that now is the time to re-assess how ‘culture’ fits into the societal sea-change that is waiting down the path. By proactively thinking about the cultural sector’s assets, skill-sets and capacities it is possible to create valuable instruments of fostering public consciousness about our globalized world and to develop strategies for navigating these tricky waters. Along the way, it is necessary to examine how culture has become marginalized into either niche markets in the leisure-time economy, or narrowly aligned with romanticized notions of the past.

 

A Culture of Sustainability – a culture which contributes to sustainable enterprise, – the culture of sustainable communities

 

How can humanity create a ‘culture of sustainability’ within our increasingly pluralist, urban communities?  Psychologist Edgar Shein defines culture as the mechanisms by which individuals and collectives adapt to a changing external environment, and integrate those adaptations internally. Humanity is not doing so well at coping with changes to its external environment – hence, we struggle with such phenomena as climate change, pollution and systemic inequity within our pluralist societies.

 

Currently, cultural organizations, like museums and art galleries, do little to reflect or engage the living cultures of our societies and the environments they inhabit. They have the ability to do so – although it will require a complete reassessment of what these organizations assume are the cultural needs of our communities.  New insights into how best to address these needs will also be required – leaving behind the presumption that culture is essentially a specialized commodity for the leisure-time market.  New professional competencies and novel approaches to public engagement strategies will have to replace old institutionalized structures and traditional programs if these organizations hope to engage the cultural pulse of our cities.

 

Lead Canada

http://www.leadcanada.net/index.html

LEAD

http://www.lead.org/about/our-mission

 

 

Museums are the custodians of our heritage resources, – our heritage experiences, our evolution from our heritage cultures, and our creative contributions to our creative and cultural evolution and our ideas and possibilities for our future.

 

It is in our common interest to protect, preserve, and increase the contribution our heritage resources and our connections with our heritage to improve our ability to create connections and more successfully create possibilities for our future.

 

What we could do is increase our understanding and appreciation of our opportunity to learn from our past to find our way in the future by exciting interest in exploring, learning from, and discovering connections with  our past that contributing to our ability to create connections and relationships which contribute to our ability to create connections for our future

 

Heritage Experiences – exploring our heritage, our stories of where we cane from, and how we got here, and the ideas, insights, and creative contributions that contributed to our evolution and to where we are now – our stories, our connections, our contributions, our experiences, – our cultural heritage, our cultural contributions, and our cultural evolution, and increase our appreciation of the value of our cultural and creative contributions and our heritage resources that keep us connected to our roots and our stories and contribute to our understanding of future generations and our future for humanity and our evolution as humanity.

 

Learning from our past to find our way in the future

Native Roots

Cree Cultural Centre

Creating connections between cultures, ideas, and creative contributions, – our expression so we come to know who we are and our contirbution

 

I worked as an interpretive planner in museum practices, – in audience research, in exhibit presentation, in communication, in video production, and in creating learning experiences working with the Art Gallery of Ontario and the University of Toronto Master of Museum Studies Program, – for more than twenty five years

 

Since 1997 when I became a member of Lead, the Leadership for Environment and Development, a cross-disciplinary, global network of professionals created in response to the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, I have been involved professionally and personally with the complex world of local and global sustainability

 

LEAD was created with funding initially by the Rockefeller Foundation to make a significant contribution to global sustainability. The global network of more than 2100 Fellows includes an array of professions representing 90 countries.

 

http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm

 

My personal focus has been exploring the link between culture and sustainability and through my research, my writing, and my speaking, I came to see culture as a foundation in our ability to create sustainable human communities and lifestyles – particularly in the developed world.

 

We have a significant resource in our museums, galleries, science centres, and other cultural institutions and in the systems we have in place to finance and operate their contribution

 

Our cultural organizations provided a significant infrastructure that could be directed to contribute to the cultural dimensions of sustainability.

 

Our cultural organizations are currently seen largely as contributors to our leisure-time economy, the tourism economy, and informal education and entertainment.

 

Explore our heritage experiences for understanding and appreciation of our different cultures, and our cultural and creative evolution, and for information, knowledge, and ideas which could contribute to our personal evolution and enterprise and abilities to create possibilities for ourselves as individuals, as cultures created by common interests, and as a community of common interest and common ideas about who we are and what we could do

 

 

Culture is not what we do in our leisure time. Culture is how we live our lives

 

Create an array of opportunities for business, government, community enterprises and communities of interest

 

Exploring opportunities for our cultural and creative enterprises and contributors to work as a community to increase our consciousness of our nature and our unsustainable lifestyles and contribute to shifting our interests, our ideas, and our enterprise to exciting interest and creative contribution in our communities to creating more sustainable behaviour, more sustainable enterprise, more sustainable systems and ways of doing things, and more sustainable communities to create a more sustainable future.

 

This simply requires changing how we imagine the role, contributions, and interests of our cultural and creative resources ideas,

How we measure our contribution to our progress, – our cultural and creative evolution, and our ability to create community around our common human interest, – and how we create and pursue opportrunitires for us to make a greater contribution.

 

Creating new ways of seeing and doing things is not an easy process and we often require a significant change in our circumstances to excite our motivation. Today’s world is characterized by many globalizing forces – in economics, communication, transportation, manufacturing, urbanization, and our dependence on one another. We are all in this together, – all of our communities of place, communities of culture, communities of practice, and communities of purpose, – the communities of common interest which contribute to or militate against our common human interests and our cultural evolution.

 

There is an important question to be asked. What is culture of the world being reshaped by these transformational forces? And the more important questions. What is the culture of the world we would like to contribute to creating and how do we pursue our interests and our possibilities?

 

We are creating a culture of pluralism in our cities and in our communities around the world?

 

How can we create more effective ways of observing, exploring, creating, and considering opportunities, ideas and choices across our different communities of interest and different cultures and different languages and interests, and ideas and improve our ability to excite interest and creative contribution to our possibilities and our ability as individuals and communities to create a better quality of life for everyone and restore and increase the contribution of our natural and common resources.

 

Since humanity has never before met or exceeded the limitations of the Earths biological capacity to renew itself, how can this significant societal constraint become fully woven into all human activity?

 

We require new systems, new ways of seeing and doing things, and new creative energy focused on opportunities and possibilities to create a sustainable society. These are creative challenges humanity has never faced before.

 

integrated the contribution cultural identities that have defined groups for centuries must in our creative enterprise and our creative and common journey in our evolving global culture and community.

 

 

But I do feel that now is the time to re-assess how ‘culture’ fits into the societal sea-change that is waiting down the path.

 

By proactively thinking about the cultural sector’s assets, skill-sets and capacities it is possible to create valuable instruments of fostering public consciousness about our globalized world and to develop strategies for navigating these tricky waters.

 

Along the way, we can explore how culture has found a place and created relationships and contributed to our leisure-time economy and our growing interest in travel

 

We are struggling with climate change, pollution of our common resources, depletion of natural resources, and increasing inequities in our individual resources and abilities.

 

Our culture evolves from our ways of seeing and doing things as we adapt to our experience and our environment and our circumstances

 

How can we create a culture that pursues and hold one another accountable for our contribution to our common interest in creating a sustainable future

 

 

 

Our, cultural organizations, like museums and art galleries, have the ability to excite our interest and engage us in exploring our living cultures of our societies and the environments they inhabit and learn from and increase their contribution.

 

We could – by positioning how these institutions contribute and could contribute more significantly and successfully to the cultural needs of our communities.

 

New insights into how we could do this as we explore behind our perception that culture is a commodity for the leisure-time market.

 

We are limiting our thinking about public engagement strategies, old institutionalized structures, and traditional programs of cultural organizations.

 

If we want to excite the cultural pulse of our cities we need to create new ideas, new competencies, and more creative approaches to creating connections with our community around our creative resources

 

 

I live in Toronto with my wife Catharine.  My three children are pretty much all grown up and leading independent and exciting lives.

 

Lead Canada

http://www.leadcanada.net/index.html

LEAD

http://www.lead.org/about/our-mission

Worts New

 

Opportunity

 

Creating a future for our heritage resources

 

Observations

 

Museums are custodians of our heritage resources and our opportunities to experience our cultural heritage, to learn from the creative contributions of different cultures to our evolution, and to explore connections, ideas, and possibilities for creating our culture in the future.

 

Protecting, preserving, and increasing the contribution our heritage resources to our understanding and appreciation of our creative and cultural evolution, to creating connections with our heritage and to who we are, and to our ability to create connections and possibilities for our future is in our common human interests.

 

Idea

 

Increase our understanding and appreciation of the contribution of our heritage and of the opportunities we have to improve our ability to learn from the creative contributions of our different cultures in responding to our experience of the world, to how we see and do things, and to improve our ability to create connections, relationships, ideas, and enterprise which contribute to creating possibilities for our future.

 

What we could do – Imagining the Possibilities

 

Excite interest in opportunities to explore and learn from our past and from the creative contributions of our different cultures

 

Talk about our museums and art galleries and other places for creative exploration as cultural centres

 

Organize our opportunities for creative exploration in communities for communities defined by common cultural, creative, and human interests

 

Connect the idea of our culture, – how we see and think about things, what we say and do and how we say and do things, and how and what we contribute – with our behaviour and our cultural evolution, – and our creative evolution, – and our individual self-interests, – human interests we have in common.

 

Program opportunities to experience with our community and creative resources, – our cultural centres and our heritage, cultural, and creative resources

 

 

Possibilities – What we could pursue

 

What we could do to increase our understanding and appreciation of the contribution and value of our heritage resources and of our opportunities and ability to learn from our past to find our way in the future is to excite interest in exploring, discovering, and learning from creative contributions from our past to improve our ability to create connections, relationships, ideas, and enterprise which contribute to create possibilities for our future

 

Move from the idea of cultural and creative enterprises as contributors to our leisure time entertainment, to attracting tourists, and to informal learning to a recognition of how our culture is how we live our lives

 

Increase our consciousness of our unsustainable lifestyles and introducing new ideas that work in our individual and common interests to create a more sustainable and more creative culture for our future.

 

Redefine our understanding and appreciation of the idea of culture. Our culture is how we live our lives. We know our culture by what we say and do and how we say and do things. We know one another’s culture by what we say and do and how we say and do things, – our understanding, our experience, our point of view, our imagination of who we are and how we view one another.

 

Enterprise – What we can do

 

Connect our heritage communities

Create connections and opportunities to explore museums and our heritage online

Create new kinds of museums and new museum experiences

Create new heritage experiences

Connect corporate contributors and resources

Connect community contributors and resources

Create connections between our communities of common interest

Create community around our common interests

Create connections with enterprises contributing to our creative and cultural evolution

Create connections with enterprises contributing to creating possibilities for our future

 

Contributions

 

Communities of interest

 

Creative contributors

 

Opportunities to explore

 

Questions for creative exploration

 

 

Opportunities for creative community enterprise

 

Canadian Heritage Community

Canadian Heritage Experiences

Canadian Heritage Centre

Exploring Our Heritage

Exploring Our Culture

Creating Our Culture

Canadian Culture Centre

 

What can our cultural centres contribute to our understanding and appreciation of Canadian culture and our ability to create with our culture, – and create our culture, – and excite creative community enterprise around our creative and cultural evolution?

 

What is culture? What is our culture?

 

What is culture in a world where our communication systems, our transportation systems, our production systems, our energy systems, and our economic systems are global?

How do we create community across our cultural boundaries?

How can we excite interest in creating a culture and a way of doing things that makes it possible to live?

How do we get the cultural identities we have evolved to that define our different ways of seeing and doing things involved in contributing to creating a global culture that contributes creatively to change the interests, ideas, and ways of doing things to create new systems, – a culture of sustainable communities?

How do we create community and pursue our common interests?

How do we foster consciousness of our globalized world?

How do we develop ways of seeing and doing things that contribute to our common human interests?

How do we create our culture?

 

Ideas

Culture is the ideas and interests and behaviours that communities adopt and pursue to respond to and create with the experience, environment, and circumstances we encounter.

 

Observations

 

We have accelerating changes in our environment.

Our cultures and our culture is not doing well at coping with the rapidly changing environment and circumstances we are encountering.

Our cultures are institutionalized in the way we have created and defined our different types of enterprise, – and the cultures we have created about what we do and how we do things and what is acceptable and what interests and ideas we have, – who we are

 

Our cultural enterprises are our resources, – and resources that contribute to our understanding and appreciation of who we are and how we got here, and to our ideas and imagination about who we could become and what we could do, – as individuals in our personal interests and enterprise, – and as communities and cultures.

 

Change the basis of the expertise, decision-making, and measurements of success to measurements of contribution to exciting creative enterprise

 

How could we increase the contribution of our heritage cultures and our creative resources, – our community resources, – for imagining and creating our global culture and our possibilities for a better future?

 

How do we excite our cultural contributors, our museums and art galleries and cultural centres, – to become engaged in exploring the world as we are now experiencing it and the culture and cultures of our times and in creating connections with and engage the living cultures of our societies?

 

How do we explore ways to increase the contribution of our cultural institutions to our contemporary interests and our need to explore new ways of seeing and doing things and evolving creatively and culturally, – new approaches, new skills, new ideas, and new ways of doing things will be required, – a new culture, – a new way of seeing and doing things. Are our cultural institutions capable of demonstrating how we can create a culture to take us more successfully into creating possibilities for our future?

 

How can we excite our arts of creative expression to creating consciousness, connectedness, and excitement in creative enterprise and creative contribution?

 

Observations

We have accelerating changes in our environment, our circumstances, and our risks.

We are hidebound by our systems.

Who could be more able to contribute creative ideas on how we could change the way we see and do things.

Who could be more able to demonstrate creative leadership in creating new ways of doing things and new systems to improve our ability to create possibilities

 

Heritage Experiences

Exploring our heritage, our stories of where we came from, and how we got here, and the ideas, insights, and creative contributions that contributed to our evolution and to where we are now – our stories, our connections, our contributions, our experiences, – our cultural heritage, our cultural contributions, and our cultural evolution, and increase our appreciation of the value of our cultural and creative contributions and our heritage resources that keep us connected to our roots and our stories and contribute to our understanding of future generations and our future for humanity and our evolution as humanity.

 

Learning from our past to find our way in the future

Creating connections between cultures, ideas, and creative contributions, – our expression so we come to know who we are and our contribution

 

Douglas Worts

 

I have worked as a contributor in museum practices, community research, exhibit presentation, communication, film production, and in creating learning experiences with the Art Gallery of Ontario and as a contributor to the University of Toronto Master of Museum Studies Program for more than twenty five years

 

In 1997 I became a member of the LEAD, a global network of scientists, medical doctors, environmentalists, engineers, lawyers, economists, journalists, business and cultural leaders created in response to the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. LEAD, with more than 2100 fellows representing 90 countries, was created by the Rockefeller Foundation to explore how we could deal with the complex world of creating local and global sustainability.

 

http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm

 

My personal enterprise has been exploring connections between culture and sustainability. Through my research, my writing, and my speaking, I came to see culture as a foundation in our ability to create sustainable human communities and lifestyles, particularly in the developed world.

 

Culture is not what we do in our leisure time. Culture is how we live our lives

 

Explore our heritage experiences for understanding and appreciation of our different cultures, and our cultural and creative evolution, and for information, knowledge, and ideas which could contribute to our personal evolution and enterprise and abilities to create possibilities for ourselves as individuals, as cultures created by common interests, and as a community of common interest and common ideas about who we are and what we could do

 

We have a significant resource in our museums, galleries, science centres, and other cultural institutions and in the systems we have in place to finance and operate their contribution

 

Our cultural organizations provided a significant infrastructure that could be directed to contribute to the cultural dimensions of sustainability.

 

Our cultural organizations are currently seen largely as contributors to our leisure-time economy, the tourism economy, and informal education and entertainment.

 

Create an array of opportunities for business, government, community enterprises and communities of interest

 

Exploring opportunities for our cultural and creative enterprises and contributors to work as a community to increase our consciousness of our nature and our unsustainable lifestyles and contribute to shifting our interests, our ideas, and our enterprise to exciting interest and creative contribution in our communities to creating more sustainable behaviour, more sustainable enterprise, more sustainable systems and ways of doing things, and more sustainable communities to create a more sustainable future.

 

This simply requires changing how we imagine the role, contributions, and interests of our cultural and creative resources, to our ideas, to our cultural and creative evolution, to our ability to create community around our common human interests, to how we create and pursue opportunities to make a greater contribution, and to how we measure our contribution to our progress.

 

Creating new ways of seeing and doing things is not an easy process. We often require a significant change in our circumstances to excite our motivation. Today’s world is characterized by many globalizing forces – in economics, communication, transportation, manufacturing, urbanization, and our dependence on one another. We are all in this world together, – all of our communities of place, communities of culture, communities of practice, and communities of purpose, – the communities of common interest which contribute to or militate against our common human interests and our cultural evolution and our possibilities for creating a new world.

 

There is an important question to be asked. What is culture of the world being reshaped by these globalizing forces? We are creating our world. We are creating our culture. The more important questions are, – what is the culture of the world we would like to contribute to creating? What is the world we would like to create? And how do we pursue our interests and our possibilities?

 

We are creating a culture of pluralism in our cities and in our communities around the world?

 

How can we create more effective ways of observing, exploring, creating, and considering opportunities, ideas and choices across our different communities of interest and different cultures and different languages and interests, and ideas and improve our ability to excite interest and creative contribution to our possibilities and our ability as individuals and communities to create a better quality of life for everyone and restore and increase the contribution of our natural and common resources.

 

Since humanity has never before met or exceeded the limitations of the Earths biological capacity to renew itself, how can this significant societal constraint become fully woven into all human activity?

 

We require new systems, new ways of seeing and doing things, and new creative energy focused on opportunities and possibilities to create a sustainable society. These are creative challenges humanity has never faced before.

 

How do we improve our ability to learn from and integrate the contribution of our many cultural differences in our creative enterprise and our creative and common journey in our evolving global culture and community?

 

 

Our cultures evolve from our ways of seeing and doing things as we adapt to our experience and our environment and our circumstances. It is time to explore how our culture and our cultural differences fit into our possibilities for our cultural and creative evolution.

 

By proactively thinking about the cultural sector’s assets, skill-sets and capacities it is possible to create valuable instruments of fostering public consciousness about our globalized world and to develop strategies for navigating these tricky waters.

 

How do we use our museums and art galleries to contribute to our understanding of the living cultures of our societies and the environments and circumstances they are experiencing?

 

Along the way, we can explore how culture has found a place and created relationships and contributed to our leisure-time economy and our growing interest in travel

 

We are struggling with climate change, pollution of our common resources, depletion of natural resources, and increasing inequities in our individual resources and abilities.

 

How can we create a culture that pursues and hold one another accountable for our contribution to our common interest in creating a sustainable future

 

Our, cultural organizations, like museums and art galleries, have the ability to excite our interest and engage us in exploring our living cultures of our societies and the environments they inhabit and learn from and increase their contribution.

 

We could – by positioning how these institutions contribute and could contribute more significantly and successfully to the cultural needs of our communities.

 

New insights into how we could do this as we explore behind our perception that culture is a commodity for the leisure-time market.

 

We are limiting our thinking about public engagement strategies, old institutionalized structures, and traditional programs of cultural organizations.

 

If we want to excite the cultural pulse of our cities we need to create new ideas, new competencies, and more creative approaches to creating connections with our community around our creative resources

 

 

 

Douglas Worts

Culture and Sustainability Specialist

WorldViews Consulting

Dcworts@douglasworts.com

Douglasworts.org

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