This paper looks at the role of cultural institutions in civil society from the broad perspective of cultural diversity values and human rights. Perhaps even more than the previous century, the 21st century will be an era of rapid transformation: transformation in the physical environment, in technology, in human ecology. In a globalised world, not only will ever-more humans come into increasing contact with each other, but ever-more human creativity will produce further cultural content, at the same time there will be increasing drains on natural resources, cultural homogenisation and commodification. In these circumstances much cultural heritage, particularly intangible heritage, is at risk of disappearing. How human societies negotiate this environment - both globally and locally - will be critical challenges: challenges in social relations, legislation, public policy and security. In this increasingly chaotic and transformative world where ideas, events and systems are constantly re-forming, re-intersecting and re-creating, it is often easy to forget the role that culture, the arts and heritage institutions can play in mediating relations, negotiating community tensions, building sustainable futures, and standing as testimony to the human experience. Cultural institutions, such as museums, can respond to this situation in many ways. Will the ways of the past succeed, where human experience was treated as something to collect, catalogue, exhibit, archive? Or, will this taxonomic approach be replaced by one where cultural institutions are civic spaces that hold up a mirror to society, serve the diversity of the community that funds them, and even can be alive places that preserve living heritage? Cultural institutions can, in this sense, be like canaries in a mine: if they are highly sensitive to their environment (the wider social, political and cultural context in which they function) they may survive. Indeed, they may flourish if they are able to adapt to the needs of their communities in a dynamic, plural and increasingly integrated world.
|Keywords:||Cultural Diversity, Cultural Institutions, Human Rights|
Director, Education & Partnerships, Race Discrimination Unit
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