Museum of Ceramics of Sacavém

Ana Paula de Sousa Assunção

director of Loures Network Museum

Museum of Ceramics of Sacavém

Quinta do Conventinho, 2670-000 Loures, Portugal

Raising questioning minds with all the senses

- in memoriam of Kenneth Hudson.
The Teacher, the Friend and the Man.

ls"The World is waiting for it. "Snow and penguins in India, palm trees and monkeys in Alaska" should be the motto of the next generation of museums.'
(Kenneth Hudson, Exhibiting Cultures, p.463)

To be directly connected to one of the best projects of heritage, even if just on a European level and in a certain context, is not only an honour but a great responsibility, especially for someone who has observed it and aided in its growth.
For the reflection I am about to present, I have chosen as a reference point a sentence by K. Hudson, which, in connection with the project or the activity that has been carried out at the Museu de Ceracirc;mica de Sacaveacute;m, I would like to dissect, rebut or confirm as I go along.
My reflection on your (anxiety-provoking) question about excellency has led to me look inside myself and everyone else for the answer. Thus, I spoke to (and heard from) everyone who works with me, from drivers to telephone operators, from researchers to the secretaries, and have read and re-read every single page from the opinion books. Let us see if I can answer this question properly.
My intervention will be about:
1) The formation and foundation of the Museu de Ceracirc;mica de Sacaveacute;m, underlining, in particular, the profound moral and social crisis that resulted from the closing down of the factory, as well as the strategy adopted to overcome/sublimate it. (Illustration  - Oven 18)
2) The creation of a new form of speech that would continuously honour work, as well as men and women, and that would unmistakably assume a role of social and cultural intervention; a Museum of Social and Industrial History, given the immensely rich archival heritage that it has been possible to gather.
M. Halbawachs said that ls"there are symbols that form the collective memory' (Les Cadres Sociaux de la Meacute;moire, 1925/1994, p.289) and the heritage of this Factory reasserts itself as if it were a national colour, and perhaps this is one of the assets of this museum: that of being a non-territorial form of heritage, one that is a common national possession.
3) Innovation in its construction and utilisation have already been recognised through the Micheletti award, but there is some new data that I would like to share with you. Such as the availability of certain areas of the Museum to offer training in the field of industry, through the establishment of protocols with a company which, in return, provides staff training and Web site management for the Museum. Learning in a work environment and the excellence of the installations of the Museu de Ceracirc;mica de Sacaveacute;m: education, e-learning, training, exchange of assets ... (Illustration - TGV).
4) Since we live in a state of globalization, I suggest approaching this question and calling for a global utilisation of our capacities to feel and accede to knowledge, to transport ourselves in the discovery of what it means to make full use of our senses. (Illustration for the exercise of the senses - the feet)
ls"Objects can often express our deepest feelings and beliefs' (Pearce., S. M., Objects in Structures, 1989, p.47).
This is the starting point for the conception of exhibits. The introduction of bas relief images, with recordings for the blind or the illiterate and  signs posted on floors or walls, was more spectacular than what was expected because everyone, even visually-unimpaired people wanted (and still want) to experience what it is not be able to see or to read! (Illustration - Exhibit A Faacute;brica e Sacaveacute;m pelos olhos de Eduardo Gajeiro ?The Factory and Sacaveacute;m through the eyes of Eduardo Gajeiro?: Figure of Manuel Surdo and another one in bas relief)
And the touch, the feeling of the exhibited pieces on the level of the hands, the eyes, without any display cases or confinement. It has now been three years since we started the project and nothing has been lost, much to the contrary...
The museum does not prepare anything for this or that segment of the population: everything is global, just like life, and everyone has the same opportunities to listen, touch, feel.
We are, as human beings, a factory of senses and feelings, sensorial windows that are many times ignored in museums, be it for convenience or by negligence or forgetfulness.
In Sacaveacute;m, at the museum, we look at the person, we take care of the person; the person is our most profound reason for existing.
As Aristotle so well put it: ls"All human beings want to know naturally; this is demonstrated by the pleasure caused by sensations, since they please us independently of their utility' (Metaphysics, A, 1).
It is necessary to stimulate the senses and create new sensations to build a museum that may offer each man and woman the conditions to understand a text or an object. In Sacaveacute;m, we put into practice an anthropology of the senses, and even though it has been a gradual process we are heading in that direction; many colleagues come to us to ask questions and learn, and thus we all learn a little more.
What good does it do to have a form of heritage that is not seen, smelled or rubbed against the skin, that is not physically loved? (Illustration - figure of Manuel Surdo in bas relief being touched)
Towards this end, we have introduced, in a clear and daring way, the gender discourse and we have always, always questioned ourselves about the truths produced.
5) Finally, we intend to approach the new Europe, the one that has no longer felt the need for the dishware of Sacaveacute;m, or for its bathroom lavatories.
The anthropology of the senses is, in our opinion, necessary for us to be assertive in our messages, in our contents, in the availability of knowledge - speaking for African Europeans is not the same as speaking for natives of Sacaveacute;m or Dubrovnik.
The culture of every man and woman builds what should be seen and how it should be seen: among sensorial stimuli there are meanings to which symbolic values are associated, different forms of understanding, and museums are increasingly inevitable places of globalisation.
6) Finally, excellence.
The collective conclusion: the direction and organisational form; charging each man and woman on every project with a sense of responsibility; the stability of our teams; the clear and unequivocal definition of the museum's mission, of the goals of Museology; the genuine care given to the treatment of every single user; the respect for the gathered  information and for those who provide information or donate pieces; and, finally, collectively assuming that we are a public service pursuing quality. And we are working towards this end, even when it would be easier to give up or to comply with political demands.
We in general, and I in particular, have a clear awareness of our responsibility to work towards a change in behaviour and mentalities, to counter the monotony of life and the passive acceptance of what is presented in a museum or any other space. We have to question the world that we are also building (whether we want to or not) and I believe, in the absence of a better opinion, that we have to make use of this and other daring acts to learn how to say ls"I do not like this', to cultivate doubt and to correct that which is politically correct simply because it is comfortable.
If ls"Heritage with Affection' is what makes us move in Sacaveacute;m, then we cannot travel alone; we must increasingly demand more of ourselves and of those close to us.


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