Cultural heritage commons

I try to be generous with my possessions and time, although a few things make it difficult to do otherwise than working for money and to buy things for our own house. There are three ways I give out, and could potentially do it more than I do. One is in being a home educator it’s important to do this in a network and to offer activities and knowledge for the group. Two is as a writer of a blog and articles, sharing my ideas. Three is to give time to organise events and projects to help my local community be sustainable, creative and happy.

What makes it difficult, or what I need more of, is time! I’ve intended to make use of systems like time banks and a Local Exchange and Trading System, but they aren’t very prevalent or widely used so it just isn’t top of mind.

I am interested very broadly in this topic of caring for the commons. I’m interested in the work of Michel Bauwens in his Peer to Peer foundation and also the thinking of Polly Higgins in embracing other species into the idea of the commons. The main reason why the Commons interests me is my background and profession in working with museums, heritage and national libraries.

For me the Commons isn’t just an ancient notion but a current and highly relevant notion. Fundamentally, the commons are goods that are all shared (universally) and are all gifts (so, impossible to measure economically, or commodified, but important to value).  The idea of the commons sits well with taking a long view: they exist to be preserved and passed down the generations. Just right for the museum sector. The beneficiaries or owners of the commons are not just humans but all species. The commons is a principle that should be applied to both our biosphere and our digitally-powered knowledge sphere, and both need preserving as heritage and nurturing as new growth. Our knowledge sphere should be applied to preserving the biosphere as commons. Museums must start seeing their digital strategy as much more than marketing through a web presence but exposing their collections to the hive mind for this purpose. It’s much more than just a technical or legal challenge of digitisation. It’s a philosophical and educational challenge too.

I’m reading a book by Robert Janes called Museums in a Troubled World, which owes a debt to (North American) indigenous communities in the ways that they think about nature as something that is not to be possessed but to be used only as much as is needed for survival. This really underlines for me the extent to which the biggest obstacles to ‘commons thinking’ are cultural. We have an ingrained culture of possessiveness and greed.

Level 7?

Wow Bridget, claps. You blow my mind away. Your notion of Commons extends pratically to… consciousness.

Your vision extends to all humans, and even to all species. (Oneness.)

Preserved and passed down to generations. (Eternal.)

You have listed some of the attributes of ‘God’. The other attributes are:

Is not born

Does not die

Does not change

Does not move

Does not occur





You win the jackpot with this mission report. With this information, from what I can understand, you seem to be approaching the seventh of realization, which is the highest level of understanding of nature (or of the universe). It is called the sacred level. (This does not mean you will be like Buddha tomorrow morning!)

Level 1 (Flight / response mode)

Level 2 (Reaction mode)

Level 3 (Inner serenity mode)

Level 4 (Intuitive mode)

Level 5 (Creative mode)

Level 6 (Visionary mode)

Level 7 (Sacred mode)

Let’s see…

Are you sure about that? I may be wrong - I probably am - but I think of museums as a specific technology to file away stuff of the past (could be recent, but still past) so that it is retrievable and easy to contextualize. You seem to be calling the functionality of doing that “a museum”.

In a troubled world, perhaps, the problem becomes how to conserve memory and perspective, and that’s your common resource. Of course, brick-and-mortar museums can rightfully be conceived as commons too, but it’s far from sure they are a particularly good technology - for one, they seem to be structurally difficult to sustain financially.

Am I missing something?

Good question, good to question

I’m definitely open-minded about what museums are, and what they can be in the 21st century, and in particular what they can be now that the internet is becoming the universal museum, and I think the museums sector is opening up to these questions too. Museums are both a specific traditional ‘technology’ and an emerging set of disruptive institutes (or constitutes) that could be a massively powerful resource for sustainable resilience. Museums have been shifting from being storehouses of stuff (with added ‘temple’ aura to attract visitors) to being safe, neutral fora for dialogue and cathartic/aesthetic encounters that help us make sense of the world. Museum management is going in two directions: 1. Adding more and more expensive bricks and mortar, and attracting more corporate sponsorship and affluent tourist dollars to sustain themselves.  2. Being resilient, reinventing themselves, using digital channels, involving communities to sustain both the museum and the community. The second is more a mode of thinking showing itself in some strands of museum programmes, or some professional networks. However, you can see it in some types of museums, such as rural museums or craft museums (such as the Economusems in Canada & Scandinavia). They are much less about conserving memory and aiding retrieval of it, than about aiding construction of contextual understanding so that we can solve our contemporary problems. They are potentially the ideal public cultural space for the Transition.