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IMD Think Piece by Dr Sophia, Handaka CoMuseum Conference Co-Founder and Curator of World Cultures, Benaki Museum, Athens

Time and space feel different these days.  We spend such long hours in digital space that the alternation to analogue almost goes unnoticed.  Many will argue that this bidirectional movement was only accelerated during lockdown (I know for sure that Jeffrey Schnapp would); that the digital dimension is indispensable and complementary to the physical.  I would agree, only to question the degree of diversity, (equity, accessibility) and inclusion that it ensures.  And I don’t have an answer.  We live in a gigantic “what if” situation of resilient normality.

Take the #MuseumFromHome movement.  In order to engage with audiences out there, museums are inadvertently experimenting on the experimental.  There is an opportunity here for change, and the transformation is ethical.  We need to shift from hardware to software thinking, as Charles Landry puts it, and see digital engagement as a process, not a project.  Using digital means to think, design, plan and be creative with culture at the centre does not mean physical environments become less relevant. 

In order to build back better, we should put heads together to find new ways of cultural production that emerge from unexplored synergies: transversal – especially involving the CCIs and tech-savvies; community-based, to include and meaningfully engage more diverse audiences and touch more difficult matters, like equity, climate change and the role of culture.  By opening up the cultural ecosystem, to an extent merging with the digital ecosystem, we become stronger advocates to what has proved a reality during COVID times: Culture is not just leisure but a vital source of human development. 

Benaki Museum, Athens

ICOM UK