Research Highlight

Annual MACCH Conference 2017: Participatory Practices in Arts and Heritage

On 17 and 18 March 2017, the Maastricht Centre for Arts and Culture, Conservation and Heritage (MACCH) held its annual conference. The theme of the conference was ‘Participatory Practices in Arts and Heritage’. The event was organised in collaboration with the research centre Autonomy and the Public Sphere in the Arts, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, and the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht.

The conference aimed to offer a critical space to scrutinize participatory practices in arts and heritage and their economic and legal frameworks. Questions addressed included: How can art and heritage worlds learn from participatory practices and reflection in other domains? What are good practices for public participation? What are the pitfalls and limitations of participatory development? How can we understand and respond to policy driven claims of participation as an instrument for social innovation and related assumptions of shifts in power relations? By way of an introduction to the general conference topic, the first keynote lecture ‘Who decides who participates? Rethinking the epistemology of participation’ by Professor Gabriella Giannachi (University of Exeter) provided a survey of the rise of the phenomenon of participation in a range of fields and disciplines, including the arts, sciences, politics and economics. Concrete examples from museums such as Tate, London and the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht were then discussed in several panel sessions. On the second day, Dr. Jeroen Boomgaard (University of Amsterdam), in his keynote lecture ‘Participating Places: Towards a Theory of Misunderstanding’ provided a critical account of participatory and community art practices in public spaces. His paper was followed by two roundtable sessions, one on Community Art Practices and the other on Local Heritage: Policy, Projects and Participation. The focus on local heritage in particularly provided a lively debate on participation and inclusion (or lack thereof) in the city of Maastricht and the surrounding environment. Policymakers from the region were called to join the debate and Maastricht inhabitants, both young and old, temporary or otherwise, became involved in the discussion.

The sold-out conference was attended by an international group of researchers and practitioners from a diverse set of backgrounds, including academics, policy makers, legal and museum professionals, and students. The event was supported by the Limburg University Fund/SWOL.