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Working document (July 2009)

Working with the school community: a pilot project at the Paper Money Museum
Alice Semedo

Learn to walk before you run

Contexts and goals for a pilot teaching / evaluation project

One of the classes I teach at the postgraduate course in museum studies, at the University of
Porto (Portugal), deals with communication, audiences and museums. The course has always
strived to implement collaborative partnerships with museums and other cultural institutions,
in a more or less conscious attempt to both include practicing professionals in the business of
training newcomers and create opportunities to explore concepts about museums and
museum professionals’ roles. For students this is a unique and valuable experience to work in
the reality zone and look at theory-in-practice, experimenting and sometimes even
participating in the development of different approaches to audiences, collections
management, and preventive conservation and so on.

One of the evaluation assignments proposed for this class has been, for the past few years,
the development of a short evaluation project on needs and expectations of a chosen group
within the neighbourhood of a chosen museum1 and how these can be addressed by the
museum. The assignment includes a discussion on the relevance of programming and
evaluating museum projects’ based on outcomes and indicators and an outline of general
recommendations for the museum2. It necessarily implies a close encounter not only with the
museum but also with the neighbouring community itself, briefly profiling the community
before selecting a group to work more closely with.

As a teaching approach, high priority is given here to connect understanding and theoretical
and critical knowledge with practical skills and the zone reality. Furthermore, this approach
aims at supporting a discussion within the practicing-museum community itself, about how
they think about audiences and programming, on the one hand and, on the other hand, about
roles of museums in contemporary society. Roles and competencies of museum professionals
are clearly part of the expected discussion.

1 Students tend to opt for and be placed in museums they already know: either their working place or where they
have carried out some other academic assignment (i.e. the study of a collection). This certainly makes it much
easier: students are already “part of the team” and clearly bring into play, previous knowledge about the museum
and its collections.
2 Some of these fieldwork projects have, in fact and in some instances, been put into practice by different museums.

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The main goals envisaged for this assignment, and as mentioned earlier, include opportunities
to:

• explore theoretical critical concepts and develop new practices about museum
programmes and audiences;
• explore concepts about museums and museum professional roles;

• develop research skills (skills related to project design; profiling a community, a


group, its needs, expectations, values, assets…)

• record and document the processes involved in the development of networks outside
the museum / with the neighbouring community.

Wider contexts, perceptions and values

The teaching approach and the evaluation assignment proposed have clearly been influenced
by academic and professional contexts al large, for example, those related with evaluation
and programming strategies based on outcomes (see for example ….), an understanding of
museum missions as telos, as well as by concepts such as natural neighbouring ecosystems
and the activist professional. It might be useful to outline, even if briefly, these perceptions
here:

1. The understanding of museum missions as telos is seen as being intimately related with the
social dimension of any given museum and with its role in the public sphere. The
extraordinary importance missions have been taking in contemporary research and discourse
happens within contexts which have also been considered important for this teaching
approach. In the first place, Portuguese society is changing extremely fast, driven by diverse
forces that cannot but affect museums: its position and value is no longer evident and simple.
Some museums attempt to react, contradicting the tendency to position themselves as mere
passive spectators, proposing innovative projects which have revealed themselves as
extremely important for the re-invention of the sector and for its social projection. In spite of
all dissonances, it is in the context of a reflexive society that the museological sector enters
the path of a constant and multifaceted auto-exam which is emerging as a fundamental
characteristic of the contemporary Portuguese professional project. Within this soul-searching
voyage the rhetoric of museum professionals increasingly appears to be concentrated on
questions of ends rather than means. Museums' missions have gained new prominence
steered by the presence of an ultimate aim in the Aristotelian sense – a telos – which
commands recognition as the true cause of human actions and relegates to second place
other possible causes which tend rather to play the role of instrumental causes or conditions

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in relation to it. Here, ends’ questions are understood as being related to the social and
political ideology of the institution. No political agenda is intended by the word political,
though cultural policy in general, and museums in particular, have often been used towards
these ends. Politics is understood as the public affair and museums are seen as meaning-
making key sites of our times. This attitude indicates awareness that the process of de-
differentiation, as defined by Lash (1990), between the aesthetic, cultural, social, economic
and political realms, as a characteristic of modernity, is no longer considered a feasible
option for museums. Such a view is of interest as it was claimed by some influential authors
more then a decade ago, that it is this contested terrain which museums should step on, in
order to have an holistic approach to society and culture and drop a cannibalistic one (Ames,
1992) in favour of a consciousness raising one, a proactive people-centred one to the
detriment of a devoted-to-objects approach. Some authors go so far (Ames, 1992) as to point
out that good museums always direct attention to what is difficult and even painful to
contemplate. That is, if they aim to have a usable future they should form part of the
vanguard for positive change by providing cultural leadership instead of being merely passive.
This awakening of the sleeping beauties to what goes on outside their walls surfaces in much
Portuguese museum discourse.

2. Secondly, reflexivity should also be articulated with internal factors such as the growing
professionalization within the museum sector, the production of a very important body of
museum-related literature and the maturation of a number of programs aiming to raising
standards, have also proved vital to the deepening of this reflection. These programs
developed agreed standards in relation to collections management, scholarship and visitor
care, encouraging museums to adopt these standards, securing funding to that end and
providing expert advice and support. As questions as to their proficiency become no longer so
pressing, museums tend to move on to more philosophical reflections. This may indicate a
coming-of-age of the profession. Having developed enormous competence at collecting and
preserving, towards what ends is that competence to be used? While the specific answer may
differ from museum to museum, the ICOM and the recent Portuguese Museum legislation
suggests that common to all such answers must be a purpose ultimately in the service of the
individual, society and its development. If such a purpose is absent, an institution – whatever
else it may be – can no longer be understood as a museum. Among the key elements needed
to define a profession as a distinct one is the ability to identify some aspect of that work as
being unique. What museums do is what distinguishes them from other cultural institutions
but is not necessarily what is most important about them. As Weil (1990) demonstrated
ironically in the brilliant and already classical example of the National Toothpick Museum the
purely functional approach to a museum is limited and uninteresting. Functions cannot be
considered an end in themselves. Functions and ends are in practice inseparable: functioning
without an end does not make any sense and no end can be fulfilled without the support of
functional activities. But a functional approach transforms functions into mere tasks without

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any sense, carried out by some character in a kafka-like nightmare. It is the presence of a
final cause in the aristotelic sense that gives meaning to what we do, giving only the role of
instrumental causes to functions. It is then of missions we talk about, here.

3. In the third place, recent decades have been strongly marked by a desire to change and
reorganise societal development towards central democratic values: individual liberty and
democratic participation in decision processes related to the construction or production of
social life. Politicians, professional bodies and researchers seem to be keen to redefine the
role of cultural institutions, namely museums, as a medium for the expression of new – or at
least newly discovered – democratic values. In the case of the museum it is claimed that in
part this is a reaction against museums of the past which promoted general acceptance of
“ruling class authority” (Bourdieu, 1984; Bennett, 1995:69). In any case, fundamental to a
democratic society is the normative view that the public will, however that is understood and
constructed, should decisively influence the conditions of cultural programs, their persistence
and their potential for change and thus to construct meaning. The demand from the public to
participate in the construction / production of these meanings, for intellectual access of the
assets held in trust by museums, is intensifying the pressure on museums to look more
carefully at what they are doing, concentrating more on “outcomes” rather than “inputs” or
“outputs” as defined by Weil so long ago (1995). No longer are museums judged so much by
the measurable resources they have available (e.g. collections) but they tend to be judged,
instead, by the programmatic use to which they put those resources. “Outcome Analysis”
goes still a step further examining the impact and uses of those programs rather than simply
their quality. Moreover, the disturbing economic constraints of the last decades have
pressured the entire spectrum of non-profit organisations to become more accountable, not
merely for the resources entrusted to their care but also for the results achieved through
their use of those resources. Activities that were once viewed in complete isolation and were
justified per se have to be understood in terms of the contribution they can make to a
community's broader economic and social objectives3. A brief analysis of any current
bibliographic catalogue on museum studies will also indicate a palpable shift in research
themes focusing away from the more technical aspects of day-to-day museum operations
towards the more fundamental, yet unsettled, questions of what a museum's purpose might
hope to achieve among its visitors and its community. The focus is on the visitor and
programs offered. Even though the care of objects is more then ever a basic concern within
the profession, there is also a discernible greater anxiety to demonstrate their heightened
social awareness and the effectiveness of museum programs, to demonstrate their openness
towards participation from audiences at different levels, namely in the construction and re-
negotiation of the museum field.

3 This new social interest can also be related to a shift in theoretical emphasis in the social sciences
from production to consumption, a shift that might also be argued to mirror shifts in social relations.

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4. The activist professional concept (Judyth Sachs, 2000) may also be understood within this
project of the self and the rethinking of museum roles whereby professionals are no longer
fulfilling curating tasks per se but are commanded by a telos. In a way, the concepts of the
activist professional, recasts the political and professional roles of professionals recognizing
their specific responsibilities but also appealing to wider involvement with community and,
importantly, collective professional responsibilities. Such principles take us all (academic-
professionals and practicing-professionals) beyond narrow self-interest towards the
implementation of appropriate partnerships (within museums and professionals but also with
the communitas), fulfilling the agenda enunciated earlier, guided by introspections and
values such as citizenship and democracy.

5. A further conceptualization that appeared rather interesting and further materialized not only
the principles articulated above but also a clear field of work, was that of the natural
neighbouring ecosystems which could be loosely defined as geographically defined networks
created by the presence of a density of assets in particular neighbourhoods. The literature
usually takes more interest on cultural assets (see for example reports produced about
Philadelphia’s “Natural” Cultural Districts) relating it to the creative class and its impact in
economic terms, but even if this is not the approach taken here, this idea could also be
thought in terms of natural neighbouring ecosystems which seems very appealing and can
equally be usefully used here to enhance the natural network qualities that can be found in
neighbourhoods and how they can produce new assets (cultural, social, educational....) when
strong partnerships arise.

The pilot research project: building education partnerships in the natural ecosystem

The Paper Money Museum is part of the Cupertino Miranda Foundation and is located at
Avenida da Boavista which is - as any Porto tourist guide will tell you - the longest avenue of
Porto, planned in mid nineteenth century to connect the main urban centre to the seafront.
As many other European cities of the time, this wide avenue, became the preferred
residential area of the local bourgeoisie, who built their summer (or even permanent) houses
at each side of it. The twentieth century saw the development of denser populated areas
around the Avenue: service buildings, high-store buildings and social housing projects
occupied spaces of a part of Porto that was essentially rural, until then. During the past few
years, this dissimilar neighbourhood acquired a new centrality, particularly owing to the
development of the main city park (just opposite the Paper Money Museum) which is at
present a central leisure city-spot. It is, then, this heterogeneous space and diverse
community that the museum strives to inhabit.

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The museum has committed itself to the values of education and inclusiveness and has a
strong sense of social purpose. Its mission markets its vision as a resource for social well-
being and the development of a society of knowledge. Policies and activities are structured
mainly around these axes which, naturally, include the values of excellence, long-life
education, partnership, accessibility and sustainability. The museum is admittedly one of the
beacons of best practice for its work on inclusiveness within the Portuguese network of
museums4.

During the past few years students from the postgraduate course in museology (Faculdade de
Letras da Universidade do Porto5) benefited from a partnership established with this museum,
which welcomed different short study projects (i.e. study of collections) and longer working
placements (i.e. education, accessibility issues). One particular case, developed an
Accessibility Programme for the museum and, later, chose the museum as her main case-
study for an M.A. dissertation, once more, on Accessibility6. Both academic projects were
welcomed by the museum, supporting an intense period of internal discussion which led, for
instance, to new training of staff, re-writing of some of the exhibition labels, acquisition of
some adaptable exhibition interpretative devices, etc. This formal student is, at present, part
of the museum staff and one of the persons in charge of education programming and
activities.

During a meeting with the museum staff to plan for the development of new projects for our
postgraduate students7, it was clear that the museum wanted to explore new approaches to
work with visitors, and was open to the possibility of creating spaces for experimentation and
evaluation. Although this is a small museum, it is visited by quite a large number of schools
and offers a diverse array of activities for different age groups. But most part of work with
schools does not go beyond a visit or site activity and feedback, in terms of subsequent
activities, is rather poor:

“ well… the truth is that this is a museum very much visited by secondary schools but it is more for one
visit only, they work the learning contents related with their curriculum… and it finishes there… there
is never much continuity… probably the teacher will come the following year with a different class but
with this first class… there is little collaboration or, at least, after they leave the museum we do not
have much contact with them” (Sónia Santos, Education Officer, Paper Money Museum)

4 Rede Portuguesa de Museus http://www.imc-ip.pt/pt-PT/rpm/ContentDetail.aspx


5 http://sigarra.up.pt/flup/web_page.inicial
6 Sónia Santos has since started her own blog on these very issues
(http://acessibilidadeemmuseus.blogspot.com/)
7 February 2008.

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On the other hand, the museum had never attempted to develop a long-term project with any
local school or even any kind of front-end analysis. As it has later arisen, knowledge about
(and in) the community was superficial and lacked a more thorough and committed effort.
Nevertheless and although the museum was aware of the effort / input required and the little
it would represent in terms of visitor numbers to the museum, it was willing to invest a lot of
its time on a local project. The challenge, hence, was to work with a few local schools on a
long term basis, identifying schools as central nodes of the neighbourhood natural ecosystem
and actively participating in the construction of what the museum came to call the “territory
of a new educational paradigm”8. Moreover, it was clear to the museum that what they could
offer to this community was mainly their experience as a non-formal education setting,
working with collections and, above all, with topics related with financial education. Low-
achieving school indicators and a persistent school absenteeism and dropout, also
characterized sectors of this particular neighbourhood and were unavoidable contexts. After
some discussion and consideration, the main goals of this project, as outlined by the museum,
were as follows:

• to position the museum as a partner for education within the community;

• to be part of the educational project of the local community;

• to develop knowledge about schools in the community (namely about their Activity
Plans);

• to work with local identity (to understand local identity as a resource and celebrate
it, I should add);

• to act as a cultural reference and information resource for local schools;

• to value local schools and enhance their work through the partnership with the
museum;

• to understand needs and expectations of teachers and students in relation to themes


that could be addressed by both the museum and the school, integrating those
subjects in the school’s and museum’s plan of activities;

• to disseminate this museum project as a project for social and educational change.

These goals and the whole project (learning) process materialized some of the Museum
values:

A value of change in our programmes, a value of change in the type of relationship we have with
schools. A value of change in the social area, because the truth is we ended up there… there are values
8 The activities developed by this project are presented in much more detail by the paper presented at
this Conference by the President of Administration Board of the Foundation António Cupertino de
Miranda, Amélia Cupertino de Miranda.

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of change both in the social area and in the educational area. (…) There are two lines of work that
identify the museum and which are in its mission and those are related with social work, the work for
social cohesion and also for education (Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director, Paper Money Museum).

This interest in listening to the community and actively participating in the development of a
common educational agenda is in accord with present expectations in relation to long-life
education and its value for the exercise of citizenship. The National Report about the
Development of Education in Portugal, puts forward a strategic vision for education which
prioritises the training of competent citizens and, therefore, as fundamental, the
implementation of integrated approaches to education that reinforce the goals of learning to
live together, learning to be, learning to do, learning to think, learning to learn (Relatório
Nacional sobre o Desenvolvimento da Educação em Portugal, 2004:5). This is the agenda this
pilot project aims at putting into practice:

I think that educating… we are a non-formal education setting…it is necessary to educate so that people
can acquire knowledge that relate to other previous knowledge, school learning, for instance, so that
people can develop their own ways, make their own choices and construct their own education. (Amélia
Cupertino de Miranda, Director, Paper Money Museum).

In truth, the idea is that education, learning, in the museum can support new meanings of
citizenship – configured, in this case, around local social identities, communities –
constituting itself as an indispensable approach to re-think strategies both of the educational
function of the museum and the meaning of active citizenship. The idea of a creative
involvement whereby the museum is responsible not only for itself but also for the contexts
where it is placed, for the future of its community, of its city, is at the heart of this project.
In this sense, the museum attempts to transform itself into a true dialogic space of civic
participation. Besides - and it should be underlined here - this is, as already said, a
heterogeneous neighbourhood: low-income families live almost side by side with middle-class
and very well-off families with all tensions and misrepresentations it implies. This pilot
project should, then, also be understood within Paper Money Museum strategies’ to look for
relevance outside its walls. The Museum is obviously looking for relevance at the different
levels of public sphere but it is increasingly assuming the micro-public space as of particular
importance, recognizing it as an essential level for the coordination of communication and of
spaces for civic participation. Moreover, it is a clear attempt to demonstrate a commitment
to idealism, depth and interconnectedness as tests of genuineness and quality as discussed by
Janes and Conaty (2005:8-10).

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The network: partners and projects

Museum staff, as well as three of our students, set off by profiling the community, surveying
schools, briefly characterizing them (socio-demographics, curriculum, staff, activities,
resources, buildings, etc.)9 and, during a second stage, visiting schools and introducing the
project to coordinators or others teachers appointed by the school. In some instances, a
powerpoint about the museum was used to initiate a conversation about the project and its
goals. However, loose talk (guided by a previously prepared set of questions related with the
project objectives’) proved much more gratifying and was the perfect context to express
needs, expectations and anxieties by all different schools visited. On the whole, these
meetings - which included a visit to schools premises - were a positive step towards changing
perceptions in relation to the museum itself and teachers involved were strongly impressed
by this initiative. The truth is these schools had never been visited by a museum. Afterwards,
schools were invited to visit and have tea at the museum. The visit also included a
presentation and a brainstorming discussion about the project and a final invitation to join in.
some working areas were defined in cooperation with these partners and a first very flexible
draft of a working plan was produced (July 2008). This approach intended to create closeness.
These were rich-information moments for all involved. This was a new approach both for the
museum and educational partners10. But all was not success and some schools withdraw during
this initial stage or during the first working meetings or already jointly planned activities.
When asked about the way this process had developed, the Director of the museum declared
that

“in some cases - I would say in most part of them – it developed rather well; a third, developed
exceptionally well; and two cases went very badly indeed” (Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director,
Paper Money Museum).

Reasons pointed out for abandonment were, generally, associated with personal contexts and
teachers’ motivation:

“ in one case, the teacher was at a pre-retirement stage and completely unmotivated, bored, unable to
adapt to change… in fact, she retired without more ado and the work she wanted to develop… or… in
truth, the work students wanted to develop, was related to new technologies and it was very confusing
for her. She was unable to develop the project and, after some meetings, after everything was already
organized… unexpectedly… without any warning, she said “I am going to quit”. The second case
happened in a school very close to the museum. The teacher has a very complicated approach… it is a

9 Ana Afonso, Filipa Leite and Marta Gaspar, started March 2008.
10 The paper presented by Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director of the Museum, introduces in much
more detail the different projects and activities developed and how they have related to each other.

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person that thinks that… trainees are a waste of time, questionnaires are a waste of time, the museum
is a waste of time, she is very tired, has much to do and does not have any time to listen…(Amélia
Cupertino de Miranda, Director, Paper Money Museum).

Besides, initial museum perceptions about working with schools disclosed a deep problem
related essentially with trust: establishing meaningful and lasting relationships with schools
and their teachers was seen, somehow, sceptically and as goal extremely difficult to attain.
Perceptions about the teaching profession were associated mainly to a lack of enthusiasm and
dedication (exceptions apart!): teachers were seen as basically uninterested by anything that
demanded personal commitment and extrapolated what they thought as their teaching
functions as related to curriculum:

(…) I was afraid that teachers would not want to get involved so deeply in projects that demanded a
lot of work and time and continuity because… also… they do not have easy lives and normally they are
not very receptive towards this type of projects and, because of that, at the beginning I as a bit
apprehensive whether, in fact, it we would fulfil our goals… goals that could be concrete… well, but in
fact we did. There were quite a few drop-outs but those that went on… really went on and are also
committed to work on this project. But at the beginning I was always distrustful… but always in hope
that it would work… but always in fear that it would end there… with all that desertion… (Sónia
Santos, Education Officer, Paper Money Museum).

“Which ones? Those whom we work with? The idea we have about teachers? Unmotivated, excellent
exceptions… few but excellent exceptions… (Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director, Paper Money
Museum).

Total lack of knowledge of what museums can do. (Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director, Paper
Money Museum)

Each of our students had also dedicated more time to profiling an individual case-study more
intensely as well as did the Museum and these were, indeed, the main actors of the
subsequent pilot project which also included a third school located almost next to the
museum: Clara de Resende, Garcia da Orta and Manoel de Oliveira, with the Paper Money
Museum, became, then, the first nodes of this imagined local educational network
(September 2008)11. At Clara de Resende and Garcia da Orta the work was mainly developed
with two teachers12, while at Manoel de Oliveira, the main advocate was a special and quasi-
11 Although these schools share a close physical space and are state schools (and therefore part the
Ministry of Education), in terms of administration they belong to different Departments. The first of
these schools is just a 15 minute bus ride away while the other two are within walking distance of the
museum (some 10 minutes walking) and together, they reflect, the social background of the
neighbourhood.
12 Site-projects advocates interviewed: Ana Patrício (Clara de Resende), Ana Maria Barros (Garcia da
Orta), Sónia Costa (Acreditar), Dulce Guimarães (Contrato Local de Desenvolvimento Social de Aldoar),

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independent project, developed mostly to support students and their families. This project
named Acreditar (Believing), further introduced the museum to other actors working in the
field, mainly with disadvantaged and low-income families. A pilot social project – the
Contrato Local de Desenvolvimento Social de Aldoar (Local Social Contract for the
Development of Aldoar) – was taking its first steps in the field by then but was already
becoming a reference for the whole community and, hence, central for the construction of
this imagined local educational network. A different school, run by a parents’ association for
children with different handicaps, was also willing to work and share their views with the
Museum (Association Somos Nós / That’s Us13). In terms of work methodology, it involved not
only visiting schools at different times by museum staff but also a number of meetings with
teachers and their students (both at the museum and at schools), with project coordinators to
jointly design and think about individual action projects that seemed to fit the interests and
capabilities of all partners implicated and related, somehow, to each other. It was a
collaborative process, filled with surprises:

With proposals and counter-proposals… we, museum, suggested themes, projects, that teachers later
discussed with students and then, some would come and say “no, we don’t want any of this; we want
to talk about deviant behaviour… bullying…”; others would not: they would say “ok, let’s address
issues related with inflation, markets…”; and there was one other school, Manoel de Oliveira, that
lead us to the Social Development Contract of Aldoar, opening up what was to us a whole world of
unsuspected special needs [within this community]… and really… there is a lot of work to be done…
(…).To develop an individual plan for each partner and for each group was fundamental for this project
(Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director, Paper Money Museum).

Although this is a modest baseline study it seemed interesting to attempt to document these
encounters and the processes involved as well as the underlying assumptions and views
partners have about each other (April 2009). It would also serve to consult with partners in as
much depth as possible to ensure that issues relevant for their use of this Museum services’
would be raised. Hopefully, it would also support Museum’s aspirations for reflexivity. Open-
ended interviews were used to describe the experience and think about what each of the
partners brought to the project in terms of prior interests, agendas, perceptions.
Interviewees were also asked to share thoughts about values and the understanding of
learning both within school and museum contexts’. The nature of expected outcomes was also
taken into consideration during these conversations14. A further stage of this documentation

Filomena Osswald (Somos Nós).


13 Although they have already been interviewed, unfortunately and merely for lack of time, their views
will not be introduced here.
14 Protocol / Context for the interview: presentation

Presentation of interviewee and the school / association: biography


Prior perceptions / experiences of museums in general

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study will also work with end-users, highlighting their own views, experiences and attitudes.
This qualitative recording approach seemed important in order to get an understanding of
how these partners have changed / maintained their views about the museum / the
community and identify what they found particularly valuable about the museum (and also
what did not work for them). Above and beyond, a discussion with museum staff about the
project, its goals and how it affects their practices has been an integral part of this
documentation process that involved all of us.

The Secondary School Partners: Clara de Resende and Garcia da Orta

The advocate at the Secondary School Clara de Resende has been a teacher for almost 40
years and is a History graduate with a masters’ degree in Modern History. She teaches History
and coordinates a newly introduced area in the curriculum aimed at bringing into being
different projects with students. This new area of work builds on principles of
transdisciplinarity and the development of research and teamwork skills as well as other
cognitive and affective competencies. At this school, students are organised in small teams
and encouraged to choose a working theme related to their professional / academic future
interests and it was within this new area that the museum also worked. Initial expectations
were both related to the need to offering outside experiences to students and becoming part
of the surrounding neighbourhood which was, somehow, an intended agenda shared with the
museum:

I expected my project area students to get out of school, get out of the frontiers of school, open up to
something existing outside, a cultural institution, the community, to make contact with the world
which is not only the school world because I was here for that one, right? So, I needed to build bridges
with something outside and I though the Foundation was the right place to do it (Ana Patrício,
Teacher, Escola Secundária Clara de Resende).

Within the community, museums and the Paper Money Museum in this case, was seen as a
proper and safe institution to initiate these 12th grade students and confront them with real-
life-like experiences:

Prior perceptions / experiences with the Paper Money Museum


Defining needs, expectations (initial and present)
Defining outputs and outcomes
Key-words:
Defining values: the school and the museum
Defining learning: the school and the museum
Interviews were carried out at interviewees working places.

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In terms of expectations… (…) it was the right moment for students to make a contact with a credible
institution, more as a representative of that outside real world… I needed them to go outside and that
would be the right place (…). They are 12th grade students and are undergoing their own autonomy
processes and I thought that would be a transition… (Ana Patrício, Teacher, Escola Secundária Clara de
Resende).

The advocate at the Secondary School Garcia da Orta has only a bit more than 20 years of
teaching experience and is a Law graduate who, at this school, teaches subjects related with
Economics and Sociology and, for the first time during her teaching professional experience,
she worked with museums. She was introduced to this museum project by a co-worker but she
did not warm up to the project at once:

[A guided visit] It would mean… talking… showing us what the museum had… Explanatory, also. And
they would talk to us about what they had there… but afterwards my colleague told me “No”, it would
not be like that (...) My colleague, when she introduce me to the project… my first idea was: one more
visit… but afterwards she told me that it would not be like that, that besides that it would be possible
to develop work with and at the museum, they had made available computers for our students to
develop work that could be presented publicly there later on (…). (Ana Barros, Teacher, Escola
Secundária Garcia da Orta).

This teacher started by visiting the museum (a guided visit) with her students who, in her own
words, loved it and felt very much motivated to work with the museum. Questions during and
after visiting the museum were raised, leading to the development of a proposal which
included the organization of different talks, intended to help students exploring these very
questions:

First of all we went to the exhibition and sometime afterwards we went to a conference. And what is
very interesting is that they did not only manifest – and this, in students, is important - not only the
pleasure for having visited the museum but they felt they had learnt new things, they enjoyed it very
much, they felt they had learnt new things and had many questions to ask what is, I think, very
interesting (Ana Barros, Teacher, Escola Secundária Garcia da Orta)

Also, the museum was acknowledged as an important learning setting for students who are
otherwise difficult to motivate and maintain interested on any subject:

In terms of behaviour they are restless, they are students who hardly take an interest in anything,
whom we ask “what do you want to do?”, “I don’t want to do anything…”, “And that is that? You are
not going to do anything?”, “no… no, I don’t want to do anything…” Of course they want to have

Alice Semedo / 13
money, “I want to be rich”. They do not have any perspectives or indeed few perspectives about the
future… of course I am talking in global terms. Evidently there are always students that stand up! I
gave a 20 mark in this second semester [20 out of 20]! There are really students that are very good,
that stand up, that have interests but, in general terms, they are unmotivated students. It is difficult
to find subjects that stir up their attention (Ana Barros, Teacher, Escola Secundária Garcia da Orta)

Partners: Acreditar / Escola Secundária Manoel de Oliveira

Project Acreditar (Believing) uses a systemic framework to work with children, young people,
families, teachers and other school staff, aiming at a greater investment in education and, as
a result, reducing absenteeism and unsuccessful schooling trajectories. They develop direct
and indirect actions in order to involve not only students but also their families and the
educational community at large, sharing responsibility for the social and personal
development of children and youngsters. These actions tend to favour non-formal educational
experiences that enhance the acquisition of personal and social skills that will hopefully
support educational success and a more participative citizenship. Edutainment, new
technologies and communication activities, as well as programmes related to the
development of studying skills, are an integral part of the Project’s action plan. More
transversal activities, include psychosocial support to students and their families, mediation
of conflicts, a theatre group involving all, open schooling and discussion group for parents,
etc. The psychologist, who coordinates and has developed this project is specialized on
deviant behaviour and began working (still as a trainee) in this very neighbourhood some eight
years ago. Although she is the youngest mediator in the field she has a thorough knowledge of
the community and an impressive assurance of what she is trying to accomplish. After her
traineeship she started developing a first project, working mainly with people already
“outside” school; this educational project was later to be included within local administration
settings and, therefore, seen as truly belonging to this community:

From 2002-04, the programme Escolhas / Choices knew a restructuration and from then on local
institutions took on responsibility for applying for grants to finance the programme and create projects
for the community. When that happened, I thought that could be very interesting, because I was
feeling I was [during the first generation project] an external entity to the community… placing
technicians here; it looked off course, it looked as though there was no inclusion, people [in the
community] did not, in effect, take charge of the project. With the new reorganization, institutions
came to take control of the project and, therefore, it became really part of the Freguesia; they
created it, we all did; we all created the project (Sónia Costa, Projecto Acreditar, Manoel de Oliveira).

Alice Semedo / 14
A further development, led the project to a partnership with the neighbourhood secondary
school in order to work more closely with people still attending school. What started as a
small local educational project would, during 2006, come to work with other partners and
create the educational consortium Acreditar which acted already as a basic local social
educational network:

(…) We are a project but it is a project placed at different institutions, it is not isolated, I am not here
alone, I work directly with the social worker at the local administrative office (Junta de Freguesia),
directly with the social educator from the Ludotecas association and, also directly, with the school’s
psychologist, and I work with this network, this mini-network that has started to open-up. From 2006
on and within this new framework, we were given more freedom and we were able to broaden our
field for intervention and, therefore, started to work with students of different grades, up to the 3rd
cycle (…). (…) We develop a very articulated work between all institutions. And not only among us…
that is at the micro-level… in truth this mini-network has broaden to include the Social Development
Contract of Aldoar, Health Centres, Commissions for the Protection of Children and Young People,
Justice Courtrooms and so on; therefore, we have created a more or less consistent network. The
Museum has now been included, somehow, in this network (Sónia Costa, Projecto Acreditar, Manoel de
Oliveira).

The Paper Money Museum benefited from this networked experience of the community and
was introduced to other key-actors of the community; namely the Contrato Social de
Desenvolvimento de Aldoar.

Partners: Contrato Social de Desenvolvimento de Aldoar

The coordinator of the Social Development Contract of Aldoar, a social worker with more
than thirty years of experience, was a key- sponsor and advocate of the museum in the
community. She has also coordinating and executive positions both at the Association of
Ludotecas and the Commission for the Protection of Young People at Risk as well as at the
local administrative office (Junta de Freguesia de Lordelo de Ouro), revealing a profound
knowledge of Porto and particularly of this neighbourhood contexts. The Contrato - created
by the Local Municipality and the Institute of Social Security during 2007 - is still a young
project but very much interweaved with community advocates such as parish services, schools
and local associations. The team which includes another social worker, a psychologist, a
manager, an administrative officer, a social mediator and a teacher, only came to be
constituted the following year. It aims at developing an intercession work in the
neighbourhood of Aldoar, creating partnerships and synergies within this community. As
already said and as previous diagnosing studies demonstrated, an important sector of this
diversified neighbourhood shows low-achieving school indicators and high rates of school

Alice Semedo / 15
dropout, amongst the younger generations. And although the Contrato strives not to duplicate
or even interfere with work being done by other projects and institutions (such as different
projects at schools) this is a context they cannot at all avoid addressing. They are obvious
partners for a local educational network.

[Previous] Perceptions and practices: museums and the Paper Money Museum

It is interesting to note that all mediators interviewed duly recognised themselves as regular
museum visitors and in some cases worked regularly - within their professional activities -
with museums but just one partner had developed a long term working project with any of
them15. For the most part, and as prior perceptions, they recognized museums as fertile
grounds for acquiring knowledge and understanding mainly about historical or art related
issues. The availability of children and family related activities or the regular group guided
visit or workshop / atelier was also common knowledge:

Well… I know there are museums that offer activities for schools, families; that develop projects with
families, with schools but, well, I don’t know whether they work with a, b or c… well… that I don’t
know… (Sónia Costa, Coordinator Projecto Acreditar, Manoel de Oliveira).

They often referred that successful museum visits depended a lot on the quality of the
relationship established with whoever guided the visit; and, usually, that depended a lot
either on some previous acquaintance they had at the museum (who ended up acting as a
facilitator) or on a very motivated teacher who took a special interest on museums and who
invested a lot of personal effort. For example:

(…) and at the time I had an infant teacher who spent much effort on that and also with the kids. I
remember once they went to an exhibition at the Almeida Garrett Library and I also went with them
just to join them for a little while… and I thought it was interesting… the kids in front of the paintings
started to understand what that was and afterwards they did some drawings and, well, that was
explained in a very entertaining way… (…). (…) I also remember an exhibition at the time by Miró
which was on show at the Serralves Foundation… and also had an infant teacher who worked on the
exhibition theme most wonderfully with the children… (…) [In a different museum] I personally knew
someone who was there at the time, she had been a school mate (…)(Dulce Guimarães Coordinator,
Contrato Local e de Desenvolvimento Social de Aldoar).

15 Indeed, the Project Somos Nós / It is Us has been working with the Contemporary Art Museum of
Serralves for quite some time, developing long-term projects namely those related with the keeping of a
vegetable garden.

Alice Semedo / 16
Even intermediated and somehow organized with a knowledgeable-insider-mediator some
experiences were more or less traumatic and signalized museums as places to avoid visiting
with certain groups:

I had a colleague that worked with me… he guided the visit because he was very much involved in that
question of culture… he understood a great deal about these things… and then he thought… he more or
less created a trail… and we took the kids; they were the youngest ones… and then, it was very sweet
because, in fact, what did we feel? We felt that kids arrived there… he attempted to explain what was
going on, right? What that was… but for them… kids on their own ways interpreted that, right? They
thought the game sector was awesome. When… in the interactive game sector they were very well…
when suddenly we went into the museum itself… that was a completely new thing and even if we had
prepared them well in advance, it is not… they…. I don’t think… I don’t think they understood very
well what that was, that painting… what that meant… in effect there was a… this was one of the
funniest scenes… I have here a little gipsy, very short, very… well… she was always very dirty… (…) at
the time she was about six years old… very dirty and she always looked very badly cared for, right? But
she came with us and suddenly there was this painting, that huge painting by Andy Warhol… and there
was a small thing on the floor to delimitate the space… and suddenly I turned, I don’t really know why,
and the kid… when I looked… she had the hands like this… on the painting… and I… my god! I panicked!
There was a lady watching us…well… suddenly… she comes to me and says “are you the person in
charge?” and I “Yes, I am…”, and she said “do you realise how much that painting is worth?” and I
“aaa… yes… I think I have a notion of how much that costs…” (…). When the lady asked me that and
told me “Look, clearly, I advice you to leave the museum with the kids and go to museum park because
they are not understanding what this is and it is pot relevant to them at all…therefore, why not visit
the park?”. And I…”OK!” I took the kids with me and we all went to the park. That experience… at the
time… maybe… afterwards…I never thought about taking the kids to an exhibition, to the museum… I
know activities are different… but it never came about… (Sónia Costa, Coordinator Projecto Acreditar,
Manoel de Oliveira).

In any case, only one of the secondary schools displayed a consistent and wide use of that
sort of resources, including recurrently a wide range of museum visits within its educational
programmes (Clara de Resende).

Most had not even visited the Paper Money Museum before or, which is more preoccupying
since we are talking about neighbouring institutions, did not previously acknowledge it as a
potential educational partner. More to the point, museum collections and perceptions about
the museum were not the most engaging ones:

Well…I had an idea… well a bit more… well…not mouldy…but was a bit… it was the paper, the money…
you see… (Dulce Guimarães Coordinator, Contrato Local e de Desenvolvimento Social de Aldoar).

I imagined a museum where there was paper and money… obviously an exhibition about the different
times, evolution… (Sónia Costa, Coordinator Projecto Acreditar, Manoel de Oliveira).

Alice Semedo / 17
I thought they would have a coin and paper money exhibition. It revealed itself very different. Sónia
did a very interesting presentation afterwards, in fact they (students) loved the story about Alves dos
Reis, they (Museum) have the story documented, they have his forgeries there… they loved it… it was
very, very interesting! (Ana Barros, Teacher, Escola Secundária Garcia da Orta).

I knew the museum already, I had already gone there, I knew the museum, I had visited exhibitions,
gone to conferences… besides a couple of years ago the school has even organised a seminar on
education at Cupertino de Miranda (…). So I knew it already… I knew they had educational programmes
but I related those programmes with children… I don’t know… 5th, 6th grade… I never though of taking
my students there, for example… once… because they also study economics and history… had taken
them to our neighbour here, this Foundation that has a numismatics room…. But to Cupertino I had
never thought of going to see the paper money… and it was obvious, wasn’t it? But I don’t know… one
goes here and there… well in fact it was the museum that approached us. (Ana Patrício, Teacher,
Escola Secundária Clara de Resende).

Creating relevance/ Meeting needs / Introducing proposals

A clear prior agenda of the museum was the quest for sustainability and relevance within the
local community. But how relevant did partners find themes worked at the museum and this
particular project?

Secondary school participants found themes put forward by the guided visit relevant as they
related to their day-to-day experiences, stirring up their attention, taking their interest and
relating knowledge to real-life experiences; bringing school taught lessons alive:

It was very much relevant. Because, if on the one hand, it was already part of the curriculum, on the
other hand, it is something they… and they also referred that… something they feel they are in contact
on a day-to-day basis; these are themes that they… that not only pertain to the theoretical domain…
and for students that is important, feeling they have contact, they have day-to-day experiences, things
they hear about; besides, afterwards they said they could understand news [newspapers, TV] more
easily because they could understand vocabulary used much better (Ana Barros, Teacher, Escola
Secundária Garcia da Orta).

Diverse questions... things they heard [at the museum and “outside” on the news], words... questions
they heard... that could not understand... they asked for further explanation and felt pleased, they
were very pleased because they were able to understand things which were otherwise non-
understandable and they came to understand them and be able to contextualize them and felt good
about it; they thought “how interesting!” (Ana Barros, Teacher, Escola Secundária Garcia da Orta).

(…) Well in fact it was the museum that approached us. Therefore I went there during summer… I know
there was a first contact sometime in March but only for coordinators and I am not a coordinator so I

Alice Semedo / 18
wasn’t at that meeting… and than there was an open meeting for all teachers and at that time I went
there and I was immediately enthusiastic when I heard the Director of the museum and listen to her
talking about the museums’ objectives… this idea of a territory… I immediately thought that was one
idea that was in accord to what I needed. Not only for the project area but also to a different are on
which I am very keen on here at school hopefully to be developed in the future (…)(Ana Patrício,
Teacher, Escola Secundária Clara de Resende).

Indeed, this relation between themes put forward by the museum and personal relevance can
well be illustrated by the enthusiasm of how other partners welcomed museum proposals and
thought about further active educational roles the museum could easily take on:

And it came about, they talked about that question at the time… because I said that… we started to
talk about the parents and ways through which the paper money museum could work with these
parents… they talked about a training programme they had on offer which was “The Financial Diet”
and I thought that make all sense, because we work with a population that is basically beneficiary of
the Rendimento Social de Inserção /Social Inclusion Income, right? Whereby economic management is…
completely… badly managed, right? They do not know what to do… for us it is already difficult with
what we earn… with out they get…they are unable to manage this short income… if we could have a
partnership with the Paper Money Museum, therefore… money… money-museum… to explain these
questions and then the museum could do some work with parents related to giving added value to
money. I think that could be an important help to us, right? Well and that was how all this came about.
Meanwhile I invited… they wanted… I told them that perhaps this did not had to end here… that there
were more institutions that could be interested, I told them about the Contrato, I told them about the
Ludotecas’ Association and invited them [Museum] to come to one of our meetings… that we had
meetings for the community and they came to one of those meetings, presented their work and from
then on they developed other partnerships… (Sónia Costa, Coordinator Projecto Acreditar, Manoel de
Oliveira).

There was a meeting with some people from the museum to talk about possibilities for working
together and establish partnerships with other institutions in the community. I went to that meeting
and one of the things that enticed me at once ( besides other possibilities we realised could eventually
happen…) was the project called Financial Diet because we are supporting families with severe money
management problems and I immediately opened my ears to that proposal and I thought “that could be
very interesting!” because (…) I saw there a possibility of working something out that was part of our
intended support strategies for these families: the question of management, financial diet, people
understanding that there are priorities - although here I can hardly talk about management…(…) but at
least I could talk about some concepts, legal priorities and even savings… which is necessary to
introduce; this enticed me… as well as I think it is also enticing the fact the museum can (and it is well
within its objectives!), for instance today, when we start to think about what this is, what this brutal
crisis we experience means…, it is not just at the world level, what fails and what failed, right? And
there are things that … also each of us, individually, have failed. Really… even our own management…
there is no doubt we live within a consumer society, of great spending… not of saving and as such I

Alice Semedo / 19
think that introducing all these concepts that perhaps were real for my generation but for this
generation… things have not been like this, right? (…) It is possible to start working on these questions
and even about entrepreneurship right? (…) There is no doubt that people have to start thinking and be
creative enough and have that sense of entrepreneurship to start creating both their business and their
own job and I think that starting very early is even desirable (…) therefore I think that the Paper
Money Museum can create this dynamic with the younger ones (Dulce Guimarães Coordinator, Contrato
Local e de Desenvolvimento Social de Aldoar).

The Financial Diet project would indeed be customized to fit these families’ needs and profile
and is well underway. The principles of entrepreneurship and creativity also seem to be an
integral part of this particular approach.

[Changing] Perceptions and practices: the Paper Money Museum

It is still early days, but one year after the project has started and some activities have
already taken place, the museums has changed their own perceptions about not only the
community but also about their own working processes.

The museum went to the field certain that it would be easy to motivate schools and bring
people to the museum soon to discover that it was not only a question of attracting people
but also to work with them, within their own contexts and that perhaps it was even the
museum onus to lay out the first foundations for the meaningful relationship they were
looking for:

Sometimes it is necessary to give the first step for them to feel welcome. In the beginning it takes more
then going only half way… we have to go all the way… (Sónia Santos, Education Officer, Paper Money
Museum)

Surprise at the connexions participants could eventually find between their interests and
Museum collections made work, at first, difficult: it was an altogether different knowledge
and work practice / ethics framework they were asked to address:

And which was difficult! Because our proposal to them was to work themes related with money and
their counterproposal was working about criminality, bullying and volunteer work! At first sight… it is
not… well… it is difficult to establish a connexion! But it is there, they found it… and the will to go to
them, the will to include them, the will to fulfil the values in our mission, made us re-think everything
and even re-think our relation to our collections. (Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director, Paper Money
Museum).

Alice Semedo / 20
Theses changes are also related to the importance of programming through prior design,
based on evaluation, outcomes and indicators negotiated with partners within this
educational network. Geographical proximity has also been recognised by the museum as an
important factor for audience and programme sustainability. A more insightful discussion has
also occupied staff meetings during the last few months about museum roles and collections:
to which extent can the museum take on board (looking for relevance?) themes that are
apparently totally outside their collections’ scope? How can they look for a balance between
collections’ scope and community demands?

Yes… it changed my views… I noticed that there were a lot of people interested, it was funny,
frightening at the beginning to see that some of them had objectives that were a bit outside our
expectations and… that frightened us a little… working without a net, as we say… but is very exciting…
but on the other hand it left us a bit apprehensive… we did new things, different things and came to
the conclusion that it is really important and that perhaps it is better… to invest a lot of energy on a
project like this, that truly bears fruits and fruits that you can see… it is not that (a regular) visit does
not give you that… but it is different… they are different things… to have a project in continuity or
have a casual, sporadic visit, of a school-class, that comes here… that is why this project is being so
much more interesting, opening our eyes… as, for instance, sometimes we think we are doing
something they want just to come to the conclusion that is not true, that it is not what they really
want and, somehow, they are also afraid or think we are not interested in listening to them” (Sónia
Santos, Education Officer, Paper Money Museum)

It changed, it changed our practices in the field because this project made us, first, to understand
something which was fundamental and that lead us to changing practices. The first thing that lead us
to understand was that and although we think our starting point is our collections, this project lead us
beyond our collections, that is, the proposals put forward by students to explore our collections, didn’t
mean anything to us at first, namely the themes of bullying, criminality, volunteer work… and in this
first impact (when we listened to their proposals) we were stunned because, at first sight, we had
never worked these themes or even saw a relation with our collections. But the fact is that they
worked on their proposals after visiting the museum and after studying a part of paper money
collection (which was part of the collection Alves dos Reis, a famous Portuguese money forger).

(…) We decided to accept the challenge: bullying could be understood within communication
approaches and museums are everything to do with communication… And the volunteer work came
about because we have a volunteer working at the museum and that motivated the students. This is so
much important and at first sight it can seem awkward… but the truth is that both the school and the
students that advanced these proposals worked so much on the project, they committed themselves so
much, they came here… asked for special conferences… and you know what happened? Part of them
offered themselves to do volunteer work at the museum… (Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director,
Paper Money Museum).

Alice Semedo / 21
Importantly, the museum starts to be seen a true partner within the community, with much
potential and unique knowledge (collections and accessibility practices / tangible and
intangible) and symbolic resources to offer. For certain sectors of the community it is an ally
to reinforce skills and relevant learning for day-to-day living and self-worth; a rich resource
for information, knowledge and research; a learning setting that through play and wonder is
able to create new positive social interactions; a space for collaborative learning and respect:

(…) but now with this project… (…) Because I had not had this sort of contact, this opportunity and
this happiness with the museum! This is really a door that was open to us in a very interesting
perspective… (Dulce Guimarães Coordinator, Contrato Local e de Desenvolvimento Social de Aldoar).

(…) I think there was an immense openness of the museum to us, right? That I never thought possible!
An enormous availability (…) a specific and particularized care to each theme and they also at to
meet… because students had chosen themes… and they had to think about how they could tackle these
themes… that’s why I say… the museum was so much available… much openness and the resources…
they have resources that we do not have and that they made available to us also and that have already
been used (…) they were immensely generous. I was very grateful to them and students loved it
students felt important, protagonists and that is great to them. Understanding that they can do things
that other admire, value and namely things already with a certain public dimension to potentiate the
need they have to discuss “I did well; I didn’t do so well, why not… I can do better…”; all that
experience, the lived experience and at the same time the exteriorization and discussion within the
team with my feedback… I think that was an experience offered by the museum extremely valued and
that the school would never would have… (…) (Ana Patrício, Teacher, Escola Secundária Clara de
Resende).

It is fundamental! First of all because people… it is almost just crossing the avenue… the very local
institutions… one cannot understand why… one of the things because… (…). It is enormously easy in
terms of proximity and thus that is a very important factor on its own and not only! As people
understand that there are institutions in relation to which people do not have – or if they have it is in
a negative sense – a sense of appropriation of the institution in relation to the community, it is not… or
otherwise… it is as an outsider… I think that in reality few people, few or only some people in this
community had realised that the Cupertino Miranda Foundation is part of Aldoar, is part of Aldoar as is
the Parish Centre, the school, the church, the health centre, it is a local institution… (…) It is a
neighbour… obviously it not relevant only for Aldoar but it is a resource that this community has at
hand, to take advantage of… (Dulce Guimarães Coordinator, Contrato Local e de Desenvolvimento
Social de Aldoar).

On the other hand, and, in a way, by experimenting with this new approach, the museum
changed sides: for the first time they felt they were seen with some strangeness and caution:

No… they think our attitude is strange… even the coordinators think our attitude is very strange! They
are not used to it…. They think it very odd what we are trying to do! It came as a total surprise to us!

Alice Semedo / 22
It had never happened to us… looking at us… like… are they really doing this? It is not usual… There is a
real surprise among people responsible for different projects (Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director,
Paper Money Museum).

This uneasiness can also be felt when different partners constantly stress that although these
partnerships produce very positive synergies it is essential one knows one’s place within the
network. Each one must have a defined role and place what could also be interpreted as a
strategic constraint:

Any of us has to know its role in the community and that is fundamental; it is the basis for any work
well done, right? My role is… I have to be aware of what my role here, in the community, is; the role
of the Contrato is different, the project of whoever is that and all these different roles have to
complement each other to produce in fact a consistent result and problems happen when we do not
know very well what we are trying to accomplish here and start to be in the way and try to do things
beyond our own competencies…. The risk to do badly or do undo what is being done or to cause
resentment within the community… it is therefore very important to articulate work. I think that what
I have learnt during these past few years doing social work is that without articulation there is no well
done work therefore it is important to have communication between people, it is important to know
what each one is doing, it is important… we can all work with the same population… of course we can…
in different ways, right? I contribute with this and the other contributes with that and if all of us
contribute with something I am sure that intervention will certainly be richer and thus if an
articulation exists, if there is good communication, work will certainly be much better (Sónia Costa,
Coordinator Projecto Acreditar, Manoel de Oliveira).

[Great] Expectations and perceptions of indicators

There is no doubt that, for the Paper Money Museum, being recognized as a relevant partner
within the local community and namely within a local educational project was probably one
of the most important outcomes envisaged. This recognition involves not only changing
perceptions about the museum in the community but also recognizing that barriers still
existed within. The Museum expressed great expectations for this project and some indicators
were even pointed out:

We wanted to value schools that worked with us (…) giving them visibility, calling them to the
museum, to present their projects in the museum, to communicate all this to the outside community,
to spread the news, using our blog and the media (…). And of course it is always an objective… whoever
participated in the project, students or other people… developed social and cognitive competencies (…)
and therefore whoever participated had to acquire during this process new social and cognitive skills
both in what they learned and the way they related to other people, there! We needed to have
something in mind: the motivation of teachers was essential, without them we could not get to
students and that is why a major part of our work was related to motivating teachers. Through them

Alice Semedo / 23
we could participate in the educational project of the school and if we could participate in the
educational project of the school and get them teachers and students motivated we would certainly be
working with them to combat absenteeism and school abandonment, don’t you think? And at the same
time schools would look at us as a knowledge resource… I do not know if this is normal but that was
what we wanted; we wanted schools to use us: “tell us this”, “work with us here”… we wanted to
position the museum as a knowledge resource. That was one of our starting up objectives (Amélia
Cupertino de Miranda, Director, Paper Money Museum).

I think we intend to do something through educational and cultural projects to transmit knowledge to
people that can enable them to acquire certain skills that help them to get a better job or to have
better skills to have a better job (…) (Amélia Cupertino de Miranda, Director, Paper Money Museum).

The Financial Diet Programme aimed openly at equipping participants with practical skills
that could be crucial to changes within families. One of the “tailored” Financial Diet
programmes, for instance, worked with gipsy families and also intended to lead family
members to recognise and enhance the important management roles taken upon by feminine
family members. This is definitely a new, challenging and difficult territory for the museum.

For partners such as Acreditar and Contrato Social para o Desenvolvimento de Aldoar
expectations are obviously more related with opportunities to working with local low income
families. Very different learning skills are at stake here are: understanding of the value of
money, understanding of the functioning of the very financial institutions (banks, etc.) and,
of course, practical skills related with the management of domestic economics could act as
learning indicators:

(…) we have already started [with Sónia] an individualized work with families. She has already visited
us… And we are talking about people with a poor educational background and thus we have to adapt,
we have “to tailor the suit” to these populations’ needs and that seems to me very important. And
there is something that we have already observed: there are still people that do not deal well with
euros, they don’t. I think we will have also training on that area even in terms of practical usage of
money, so it fits there… we already realised that because we are already doing some training courses
along the same lines within RSI programmes and the questions that arise… you can realise that… when
you get to know these families better there is no doubt that we realise there is a need… A different
thing that came up the other day during a conversation with Sofia (who is the person in charge for
these families within RSI), was it also seems that the museum could be an additional surplus in terms
of self-worth (Dulce Guimarães Coordinator, Contrato Local e de Desenvolvimento Social de Aldoar).

Self-worth, autonomy, maturity, respect and equity are common key-words expressed by all
partners as a result of working with the Paper Money Museum. Whether it referred to the use
of the amphitheatre to make formal presentations by school students or to be welcomed by

Alice Semedo / 24
the Director at the front door of the museum, the use and appropriation of space, the quality
of social interaction looks as if it was a most exciting and important moment for changing, for
instance, participants’ perceptions about the museum and themselves:

Well… then… take them there for a visit… the fact they can eventually enjoy that space in a way… in a
way… how can I put it? Well… people are not used to… that is for rich people… it is for knowledgeable
people… that have degrees, for graduates… it is not for people that sometimes does not know how to
present themselves, that cannot speak properly, that speak a bit at full volume… therefore… all that…
I think that all that can also be a learning situation in terms of knowing to be because it seems to me
fundamental when we speak about encouraging this people, namely some of them of very young age,
to develop skills even in terms of employment potential, there is no doubt that today it is essential to
know how to be… to know that if you go to the beach you dress in a certain way but if you go to work
you dress differently… therefore… even going to a house that is a well kept house, a house which
looks… well… I am not saying luxurious… it is not that… but it is something that has a certain…
grandeur, in the sense that is a well kept building, well kept… it even has a restaurant that receives
people of a certain social status… I think that having a group of people who are not used to this sort of
interaction… (…) it is people understanding, namely who welcomes them… the way they also welcome
them and the respect that I think is fundamental in this community… and interaction work… people
feel there are people that respect them and I think that the museum, when they welcome these
visitors in an educated manner, in a capable manner, I think they help them to understand they are
people and have the same rights than others (…) (Dulce Guimarães Coordinator, Contrato Local e de
Desenvolvimento Social de Aldoar).

To supplement teaching, to provide something different or something extra, to provide


curriculum related support, to motivate, to offer more than simple displays of objects;
importantly, to change visions and perceptions about museums. These are key expectations
often pointed out by school partners.

I think that essentially it is to change visions that one [teachers and others] has about using the…
possibilities that are there to explore. At the end of the day, museums can do something much more
interesting than simple exhibitions where people go by and look at the showcases, right? They can do
much more interesting staff with young people and motivate them and I think that would be a very
important thing for museums to develop which is something I was unaware of. I don’t know if other
museums do it but I think it is really something which is very important… it is something which is no
more static to become dynamic (Ana Barros, Teacher, Escola Secundária Garcia da Orta).

But if learning is referred to, again and again, as a natural Museum territory, collections, its
tangibility and multiple possibilities to stimulate curiosity and wonder; to open up different
ways to learning, are understood as an essential and differentiated feature that can enhance
the unique contribution of the Museum to this imagined educational network:

Alice Semedo / 25
(… ) I am not very much related to museums, right? I go there with my students but - and in my own
experience - I think that at the museum students are much more… it is more questioning, curiosity…
they are… I have the impression that the museum is more a resource of stimulus… I don’t know… for
what I know of students and I take students to museums every year… they go to Soares dos Reis, they
go to Serralves every year, the Cupertino Miranda is a new… it was like that… it is a new neighbour,
right? Thus we had never… this is the first year I took them there (…). (Ana Patrício, Teacher, Escola
Secundária Clara de Resende).

Museums have a great surplus: you have a collection, you have the whole history there; here [at
school] we talk more about the material, you have the material! And with the material you can do
much more, right? Therefore, you can take advantage of these resources and adapt them to different
needs, right? While, here, we work more, perhaps… with abstract ideas, while you have the material,
tangible and can have a much more practical approach, much closer to people (Sónia Costa, Projecto
Acreditar, Manoel de Oliveira).

From my point of view, this is very interesting, not only in terms of personal enrichment, not only
that… in cultural terms... but it is also related to learning… something tangible (…) (Ana Barros,
Teacher, Escola Secundária Garcia da Orta)

These should, nevertheless be not understood as pure structural constraints. This process has
demonstrated that given enough space, participants can construct their own ways within
museum spaces. In any case, it is the informal, active, collaborative and relevant to day-to
day situations approach; the personal quality of interaction that is voiced as a fundamental
characteristic for museum learning and for this particular project. In some situations,
museum contexts can even offer alternative symbolic spaces for learning:

Look, I am going to give you an example. We have here this alphabetization course (…). Well the course
takes place, here [at the Parish building], in the mornings but we have organized a different course, on
a different day, and they have to go to the local secondary school to have a “New technologies” class.
We already had people here that reacted, saying they didn’t want to go… because the image and their
experience at that school were so negative… it deeply marked them. (…) I think that schools are not
the best learning contexts for them, I think that all those… the city park, the Paper Money Museum
even the House of the Music are non-formal learning spaces but where you can somehow formalize
some contents in more attractive ways and more… at least people are not blocked to learning from the
start, to a mandatory learning situation… but that… for them learning is associated with schools and as
lot of them had experiences of learning… they think they cannot learn… going to school already means
they are not going to learn anything there… they are not able to learn… and thus in other spaces and in
these sort of non-formal education… I think that is… I mean for all… even for those that are successful
at school, non-formal learning is very important (Dulce Guimarães Coordinator, Contrato Local e de
Desenvolvimento Social de Aldoar).

Or,

Alice Semedo / 26
(…) Within the Law class, we take students to Justice courtrooms, but most part of times it’s not
possible to have a conversation with anyone, there is no interaction… we arrive there, look at the
courtroom as a spectator… and that is that. Therefore, this possibility [to work actively,
collaboratively…] is really very interesting for schools, I think it is very, very positive for learning
approaches, it enhances learning, later, in the classroom, it was much easier to talk about contents we
talked about at the museum… they remembered what they heard, thus they interiorized it, that is,
they enjoyed the way these contents were presented and interiorized them; in effect, they learned
(Ana Barros, Teacher, Escola Secundária Garcia da Orta).

At this stage of the project, partnerships with schools should nevertheless be recognized as
fragile as they seem to rest more on personal teachers’ motivations and personal teaching
approaches than having, in reality, integrated any school’s educational project as the Museum
expected to.

Some [last] thoughts

It is still early days and the documentation of this project has still to go on and has specially
to take into account “end-users” perceptions and uses of experiences offered / constructed.
However and overall, the Museum forged strong links with all partners involved and
attempted to open up new communication channels, ensuring quality of contact and a deep
and enduring commitment to the maintenance of institutional-personal relationships. This
process led the Museum to re-thinking programmes offered in a more flexible way, answering
the needs of its community, developing new ones, taking an active responsibility in
community.

Relevancy and learning were two of the concepts that mostly informed partners’ views. It is
obvious that relevancy of learning experiences was also associated with building knowledge
from previous experiences, allowing for new meanings and connexions. The Museum - and its
mediators - was also perceived as a pleasurable, non-threatening place for learning.
Undoubtedly, relevant learning experiences relate to one’s identity and personal contexts
and it is mainly about changing. Changing not only in terms of acquiring new skills or more
information, more knowledge about something; changing can be deeper than that and may
also be about changing as a person.

Partners referred often learning outcomes such as skills related to knowledge and
comprehension such as learning more about something; opportunity to further explore a topic
or to use previous acquired knowledge; to information management and individual research;
to the evaluation of problems; to communication skills: speaking for public audiences,

Alice Semedo / 27
explaining concepts; to social skills related with knowing people, sharing and discussing ideas,
teamwork, sharing skills16; to affective skills associated with self-worth and respect for
others; to motivation, enjoyment, wonder, creativity, new connexions for the Museum’s
collections; to doing, organizing and producing things within small teams or involving larger
groups (i.e. short conferences / Museums’ Day show); or even to different comprehensions
about what a museum is all about. They also demonstrated awareness of the Museum as a
place for research and scholarship that can provide visual and hands on experience to support
topic / curriculum related learning and to bring the subject alive, providing something
different or something extra. The Museum is also acknowledged as a place capable of
presenting different perspectives and capture participants’ interest in a much broader way;
as a place that offers opportunities for learning through action, direct and real-life
experience. Collections and its tangibility – but also interpretation and personal mediation /
ways of doing – are essential characteristics for the construction of meaning as put forward by
all partners. The Museum should, therefore, should not loose sight that although it assumed it
is a mission driven museum a mission is only significant if supported by their very nature. As
often pointed out by partners, all have a different role to play in the community and that
should not be seen as a constraint but as an asset. Collections have an important role to play
here.

This approach seems to me to have become increasingly important when museums aim at
strengthening their partnerships with schools and the community by providing learning
experiences, materials, activities that can be used in the classroom or in any other learning
set. Such projects should, nevertheless, be informed by all partners (namely teachers and
students) understandings, needs, expectations, and assets in order to provide successful
learning opportunities for all participants. During next year, partners will have to discuss
more thoroughly what the intended outcomes are, developing feasible indicators. These
impact categories make it possible to communicate a range of project impacts to all involved.
They enable the program to disaggregate, sort, and analyze the wealth of data collected from
individual projects in its portfolio with an emphasis on outcomes, rather than descriptive
categories (such as project type or target audience).

Recurring again to the terms used by Janes and Conaty (2005:8-10) - idealism, intimacy,
deepness and interconnectedness – it seems to me that this Museum has attempted to provide
different communication channels, enhancing quality of contact and ensuring deep and
enduring commitments to the maintenance of relationships with the community and specially
within this educational network. Besides, this network involved different types of
institutional settings and connections arisen almost naturally within the neighbourhood. More
opportunities to network meetings should, nevertheless, be offered. The Museum is also

16For example, one group of youngsters from Acreditar took over a teaching role, introducing children
from Somos Nós to the secrets of hip-hop.

Alice Semedo / 28
willing to be used not only as a meeting ground for these different partners17 but also as a
staging ground for visibility of actions and assets to “outsiders”. One of the problems with
this educational network is that it still does not reflect the rich diversity of this particular
neighbourhood. A development of this project should involve other actors in the community,
revealing and focusing on the diversity of assets existent within. The Museum could act as a
central nodal support point for meaning-making practices to construct both a collective and
personal identity. This means engaging with the community in their own contexts and
allowing them a voice and some ownership of Museum’s services. This approach involves not
only a redefinition of what the educational natural ecosystem is but also a redefinition of a
symbolic territory.

Many thanks are due to students involved in this project and all partners!

JANES, Robert R. and CONATY, Gerald, T. - Looking reality in the eye: museums and social responsibility, Museums
Association of Saskatchewan. 2005.
HOOPER-GREENHILL, E. - Museums and Education. Purpose, Pedagogy, Performance, Routledge, 2007.
SACHS, J. - The activist professional. Journal of Educational Change. 1:1, 2000.
STERN, Mark J. and SEIFERT, Susan C. - Cultivating “Natural” Cultural Districts, University of Pennsylvania School of
Social Policy and Practice, Oct 1, 2007
http://www.trfund.com/resource/downloads/creativity/NaturalCulturalDistricts.pdf accessed 15.07.09.

17 The organization of the show jointly put together and presented by different partners on the 18th May
was in itself a valuable learning experience for all involved.

Alice Semedo / 29