Thursday, 30 November 2017

Operatic struggles

Walking around in Vienna, three or four years ago, I came across the poster of Oper Frankfurt’s “Hansel and Gretel”. Much time has passed, but I can still recall the smile and the warm feeling this poster provoked. Simple, direct, funny, informative. It was that one moment and it was about opera.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

I am a native foreigner

This was my speech yesterday at the ICOM Europe Annual Conference, which took place in Bologna, Italy. The theme was "The role of local and regional museums in the building of a people's Europe". Read more

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The person we need to listen to

Grada Kilomba, The Kosmos 2 (Detail) © Esra Rotthoff, courtesy of Maxim Gorki Theatre. (image taken from the website Contemporary And)

A few weeks ago, there was an artice in the newspaper Público entitled Grada Kilomba is the artist Portugal needs to listen to.
 Until then, I had never heard of Grada Kilomba. Last week we had the opening of two exhibitions, apparently the first two in her homeland, although Grada Kilomba has already got an intense career abroad. A fact which is "perversely coherent", according to the Público, "as getting into the work of Grada Kilomba - in her video and sound installations, in her performances, in her rehearsed readings, in her texts - is having to deal with the violent history of colonialism and post-colonialism, a history in which Portugal is deeply ingrained, but is stubbornly pretending that it has nothing to do with it."

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

That's mine too!

Eden Condoms, Esther Pi & Timo Waag, Spain. Shortlisted for the 2017 Rijksstudio Awards (source: Rijksmuseum website)

Should people be allowed to use images from museum collections on birthday cakes, sneakers, condoms or toilet paper? Who will protect the dignity of the objects from this 'assault'? And how about the income museums are losing by not charging for the images?

My post on the CIDOC - International Committee for Documentation blog on open access. Read here

Monday, 11 September 2017

A question of relevance

The cover of Story, August 2017.

My article "A question of relevance" was published in August 2017 in Story, the Queensland Performing Arts Center magazine, part of its learn strategy and edited by Rebecca Lamoin. In this edition, QPAC seeks to look at the concept of resistance in the cultural sector from multiple points of view and is inspired by QPAC's July - December programme. Read here

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A national tragedy: what does "Culture" have to do with it?

On Sunday morning, the news surpassed our worst nightmare. The great fire in the area of ​​Pedrógão Grande (central Portugal) had taken the lives of 19 people. Throughout the day, this number kept rising. The country was in shock.

The Maria Matos Municipal Theater in Lisbon was the first to react. Not only did it announce the cancellation of that day’s performance, as a result of the declaration of national mourning, but it also informed its followers on Facebook about possible ways to help and kept updating this information. It remained solidarious and involved.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

What is happening to the Transport and Communications Museum in Porto?

Transport and Communications Museum, "The automobile in Space and Time" exhibition, 2015 (Photo: Maria Vlachou)

This week, I was at the Transport and Communications Museum in Porto for a pre-conference workshop of ECSITE (the European Network of Science Centres and Museums). I like to go back to the Alfândega (customs building), I carry good memories, both as a visitor and as a professional. Two years ago, I had been there for a very interesting conference of the International Association of Museums of Transport and Communications, which really marked me, and I took the opportunity to revisit the exhibition of the automobile ("The Automobile in Space and Time") and to get to know the exhibition "Communicate".

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Why us?! Then who?

My presentation yesterday at the ECSITE pre-conference workshop "Social inclusion and diversity – from goodwill to institutional change". Here

Sunday, 4 June 2017


It’s always a pleasure and an inspiration reading Nina Simon’s posts. But the ones I’ve always liked the most were those where she shares her learnings from being in a position of responsibility, such as Year One as a Museum Director… Survived! or her latest Why We Moved the Abbott Square Opening -  A Mistake, a Tough Call and a Pivot.

We’re all too used to museum directors – or other people with a responsibility to lead in our field – available to discuss happy endings. Rarely the process, never the failures. Even when they feel compelled to comment on actions and situations that receive negative criticism, there always seems to be a way of getting around the whole thing, finding justifications, concentrating on irrelevant details, offering alternative truths. Anything that can take our attention away from what should essentially be discussed. Anything but a clear “It’s true, we were wrong about this, we’re here to discuss it.”

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

To charge or not to charge: the data

As far as I am aware of, decisions to charge or not to charge and how in Portuguese national museums are never based on research. Those who scrap admission fees do it in the name of “democratisation” and “accessibility” and state that the loss of income is not significant (never mentioning how much it is, though). Those who reinstate them usually speak of the need to generate some income.

Although previous research and summative evaluation is not part of our practice in Portugal, this is not the case in other countries. And even though we seem to lack our own specific data, we can always learn from the experience and shared knowledge of others.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Friday, 10 February 2017

What if it was here?

Harvard Books created a special section on its shelves in response to a Trump spokeswoman's reference to a massacre that never happened (image taken from the Harvard Books Instagram account)

I must admit that it is with great emotion and admiration that I see American cultural organisations taking a (political) stand and criticising their President’s policies. Some rather mild in their reactions, others quite affirmative and outspoken (see here), it is nevertheless a great lesson for us all and very probably the proof that cultural organisations are anything but neutral, they are actually inevitably political.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Looking for sandy ground

"Free access to museums for under 30s", one reads in portuguese newspapers. The measure was approved in parliament yesterday. 

"Can anyone explain to me the logic of under 30s?", asks a Brazilian colleague.

"Is it to stimulate young families, like couples with small children?", replies another colleague. "Is it because it was found that unemployment is higher among the under 30s?"

Is it worth looking for the logic? Was there a logic? Was the measure based on any management report? Was it based on some audience survey? Were the professionals of the sector consulted? Are there concrete objectives that can be evaluated in one or two years’ time?