Written by Dimitra Christidou
Culture enriches and changes the lives of communities. Arts and culture enrich our education and lifelong learning, contribute to our well-being and health, empower regional and national creative industries, facilitate understanding between people from different communities, nations and backgrounds through intercultural dialogue, and contribute to the systematic attempts aiming at tackling some of the principal challenges that nations and communities are currently facing across the world. Culture enriches and changes the lives of individuals. Arts and culture enrich and inspire our lives by firing our imaginations, challenge our understandings and presumptions, and open us to reflection, debate, and critical thinking. Working with culture also enriches and changes lives, both of those invited to participate in projects and activities and of those responsible for designing and implementing these initiatives. Indeed, culture changes lives, and it has specifically changed mine.
Museums have always been my little wonderlands. Like Alice in Wonderland, I find myself often getting lost in museums, ‘unlocking’ little doors of wonder. To me, museums are places where I can, most of the time, feel at home and discover more about myself and those with whom I visit the museum. These are places where I feel moved, inspired, and often challenged. My interest in museums and other cultural institutions developed as part of my education as a historian for which I wondered around the city, visiting cultural institutions and monuments, in an attempt to understand the use of culture as a resource for nurturing national identities. During one of my visits, I met my first ‘museologist’ – a word that I had never heard before in my life. Two years after, while I was having my Masters, I was offered a PhD in science education which I rejected for I had decided to sit the national exams for a scholarship in Museum Studies. I was awarded the scholarship and, within 4 years, I was awarded a PhD in Museum Studies. Now that I look back, I think that this exact meeting with my first museologist was the reason why I actually started working for the cultural sector.
Since then, I worked as a museum educator both in Greece and the UK, and in September 2014, I landed in Sweden. Here, I work as a project manager and researcher at the Nordic Centre of Heritage Learning and Creativity (NCK), a Nordic Baltic centre located in Östersund, Sweden, which leads regional, national and international projects exploring learning through heritage. This was the exact reason why culture has changed my life; it challenged my assumptions about informal learning and allowed me to better grasp and unlock the potential of using culture as a resource for developing and honing competences and skills throughout the course of a person’s life.
The most beautiful aspect of my work lies in its interdisciplinary dimensions of the everyday work. NCK is owned by museums and archives from the Nordic and Baltic countries, with its office being situated next to Jamtli, the regional Open Air museum, and located at the building of the Regional State Archives (Riksarkivet i Östersund). This exact location allows us to bridge theory with practice and bring into discussion two different settings of informal and lifelong learning: the museum and the archives, transforming NCK into a platform for dialogue, debate and collaborations between these two settings. Both institutions are involved in the preservation of cultural heritage, which they use as a resource through which people can learn more about their history and themselves while meeting new people. An important part of our work is to help more people, and a wider range of people, to actively participate in cultural activities, and make the publics aware of the power of culture to inspire, enrich and empower.
Working with culture allowed me to grasp a better understanding of the use of culture as a resource for causing change. I aspire to promote the use of culture for lifelong learning, inclusive societies, health and well-being. Working with culture can change lives. At least, it keeps changing mine.
About the Author - Dimitra Christidou