Ecomuseus educação patrimonial

Museums are things too serious to be taken seriously!

One of the symptoms of the decline of Portuguese museums is the atrocious impossibility of them to manifest the Laughter.

When we enter a museum, the smiles we see in its visitors are rare. There is no room for laughter. The objects embodied in his plinths do not elicit any laughter. When we leave museums we do not feel any happiness, although “surveys to the satisfaction of visitors” are one of the current tools of what can be called “cultural marketing”, they never ask if we are happy. It is true that they ask, on a scale of 1 to 5 if we like, if we will return, if we recommend a friend. But happiness is an absence. Never ask if we laugh, if we are happy, though happiness is a criterion of satisfaction.

So little, in the current search of the ICOM community, for a new museum concept (, we checked the mobilization of the search for the dimension of happiness and laughter in the museum. We can then verify a correspondence between this absence of nouns or adjectives directly related to the generative tree of laughter (and happiness) and the practices of so-called museology (traditional or objects).

What I am trying to show, in my thesis, is whether in museums we could be happier, or stay happier, we would be closer to a comprehensive museum. A museum that achieves a design of relevance to society, in addition to the great collection of objects of hegemonic memories. And there are several examples of such experiences.

In Jean Luc-Godard’s film “Band à Part” (1964) the protagonists Anna Karina, Samy Frey and Claude Brasseur try to break the record for the fastest visit to the Louvre. ( This experience, which is a practice of happiness and well-being, warned, in the protesters of the sixties of the last century, about the need to open museums to the world. “Let the Seine cross the Louvre,” wrote the sixty-eight rebels on the walls of the Museum. It was then a sign of change, which Santiago sought to interpret.

It’s been a few years, in a meeting I had at the Museu dos Coches in Lisbon where I did some reflections on the proposals for work in museology and launched some challenges to museums in Portugal: With the title “a museology that is useless for life is useless”, As is customary in our land, these kinds of ideas are the target of the piece of “gerontocracy” illuminated and forgotten in the garbage cans of seminaries built for statistical purposes and career management.

The structural idea of his work was based on a reading (or search) of the need to adapt museological processes to the times of the city. This is because, at the time, I had the perception that Museums, as places where processes of patrimonial memory took shape, were, as they still remain, increasingly out of step with the rhythms and senses of the world. Museums, in Portugal, are more and more places of other times with narratives where analogue monovision emerges as more and more frightening forms in its fake production configuration.

For those who have the patience to observe that in museums there are no laughs or even a few smiles, this is visible to the naked eye. These post-pandemic times are an example of this. As we witness in the city the enormous happiness of this reunion with life and with others, now that the Pandemic is under control, museums continue with “their usual business” of selling cultural programs of yesteryear, stereos and without feeling the pulsation of life.

Despite everything, there are proposals from social museology to enhance laughter. To work with happiness. The proposals of Pierre Mayrand, in this country of ours, and a few years ago I spoke of it, are an example of this, although as usual things have gone unnoticed in these museologies which, for fashion reasons, claim to be critical. The debate is even denser than it may seem at first glance, rooted in Renaissance debates, as we will speak elsewhere.

But let’s go to the absence of the laugh in the city’s museums.

Returning from an experience in Barcelona, I was amazed to see that the city was full of young people laughing in the streets. Some of them gathered in the museums of the “Barrio Chinó/La Raval”, occupied bookshops, played outdoors and extolled what made them happy: -Live life! It was an experience of happiness “walking the streets remembering Francisco Ferrer, the educator shot after the tumult of the tragic week of 1909.

In our capital Lisbon, I faced the city without laughter, anxious, without youth. Closed bookstores, no people. Cultural centres and lifeless libraries. It is true that the population has aged. It is true that young people in the country have an appetite for riparian areas where access to beers is easy and uncontrolled. It is true that the schools have resumed, and as such the necessary occupation the daily. But still, what justifies the absence of laughter in the city’s proposals? And in their museums?

There are some hypotheses that are worth thinking of as a critical exercise. One of them is the “aging” of museums. All social organizations have a life cycle. A youth, irreverent and creative; a maturity when its services extend to society, and a definition, when its services cease to adjust to the rhythms and needs of the city.

Social organizations, as living bodies, are subject to the laws of nature and need to show their social relevance. IF they do not show their value to society, they cease to be relevant. They define and society stops counting on them. They are replaced by other forms of organization.

It is true that there is always the possibility of adaptation and regeneration of social organizations. If museums are aging they may eventually reinvent themselves, recreate themselves. They will be able to take on new forms and new qualities, as intended by this new conceptual search.

This is clear, if this question, of its social value, is a problem, as I actually think it is, although many still do not understand it.

To simplify, we can think that this symptom of lack of adaptation, this kind of social Darwinism, applied to the analysis of the functions of museums, is nothing more than the entropy that general theory of systems shows us. Any system is permanently in the process of producing synergies and entropies. Will that theory work for museums?

If so, a museum, or museums in Portugal, as social organizations, observed from the general theory of systems, as a set of interconnected units that perform a set of functions relevant to society, in what situation are they?

If we try to observe the way they relate to society, we can observe their haemostasis and their entropies. The key to understanding the balance of the system is haemostasis. But when systems are analysed, their entropies are essentially sought. This is the force that competes for its deterioration.

And here we are led to the realization, which stems from the post-pandemic observation, that the impossibility and absence of laughter in Portuguese museums is a sign of its entropy. Of its aging. From its decay as I have already glazed here. One solution to the problem would be to let The Laughter get in to Portuguese museums. If you knew how to do it…

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