MeLa – European Museums and Libraries in/of the age of migrations

There is every hope that museums and libraries, as institutions for the conservation and transmission of cultural values, find themselves today in the middle of a process involving the construction of a pluralistic civic community which should be able of express the variety and dynamics of people’s ever-changing needs as well as the multiplicity of contemporary transnational culture.

The state of this situation is the main food for thought of MeLa Project.


The Project, funded in 2011 by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme, proceeds from the European Call “Reinterpreting Europe’s cultural heritage: towards 21st century libraries and museums?” It intends to define new strategies for the multi-inter-transcultural organization of the conservation, exhibition and transmission of knowledge in ways and forms that could reflect the conditions posed by the migration of people and ideas in the global world and its influences on the European Union process during last 30 years.

MeLa is an interdisciplinary four-year programme which will reflect on the role of museums and libraries, dealing with several complex and crucial issues such as history, socio-cultural and national identity, the use of new technologies and, last but not least, exhibition design and museography.

Adapting some well known concepts like the contact zone concept, museums and libraries are being reconsidered as a historical theme, addressed on the basis of new cultural productions and new connections. Consequently their organizational structure becomes an issue of topical, historical, political and moral relations. In a manner which could be somehow utopian, museums and libraries could therefore be re-evaluated at the same time as public venues for collaboration shared control and complex translation, places of power turned into places of cultural integration, places of complex hybrid multi-cultural representation of identity (different layers of identity), places of knowledge, places of conservation and places of meeting and mutual understanding on the free ground of cultural research in every field of human knowledge.

The MeLa Project objectives therefore on the one hand aim to study and deepen the above mentioned theoretical reflections and on the other hand, to evaluate their operational effectiveness and applications on museum and library architecture, investigating how all these remarks, these changes and these new theories have influenced the practice of curatorship, the design of exhibitions and the typology of museums.

To fulfil its objectives the Project consists of nine European partners, including different universities, two museums, a research institute and a small enterprise, which have all been chosen for their specific expertise and skills in the fields of the project. They will develop different kinds of research tools and methods, some of which are more innovative, such as ‘Think Tank’ modules and ‘Research by Art’, while some others are more traditional, such as desk research and conferences.

At the end of the research project some Guidelines tested by a design application will be developed and collected in a Handbook to support museum and library communities, practitioners, experts and policymakers in developing the mission and forms of museums and libraries in the “age of migrations”.


To fulfil its objectives the Project has been divided into different themes (Research Topics) which are developed through specific Work Packages (WPs) by different Research Tools. Each Partner participates to the Project and to all the research activities and WPs considering their own individual specificity, interests and skills; Partners can also be involved as Leaders of one or more WPs. The WPs are:

WP1 Museums & Identity in History (WP Leader UNEW)
WP2 Is Cultural Memory a Paradigm? Why Preserve it (WP Leader UNO)
WP3 EU Transnational Museums and Libraries Network (WP Leader GU)
WP4 Cultural Studies in/for Museum Contexts: Museum Studies (WP Leader UNO)
WP5 ICT Role in Museums, Libraries and Exhibition Design (WP Leader CIID)
WP6 Curatorial and Artistic Research (WP Leader RCA)
WP7 Envisioning Museums & Libraries for the Post–national Society (WP Leader POLIMI with all Partners)
WP8 Experimental Design Application (WP Leader POLIMI)

WPs 1- 5 have been studied and developed with the objective of stimulating and enhancing knowledge advancement in relation to the research topics. They are structured in the same way with several research tasks which will be developed mainly through different research tools (“Desk Research”, “Field Investigations”, Think Tank” modules, and “International Conference”).

WP6 aims to stimulate the development of knowledge advancement on specific proposal themes mainly by artists’ works (Research by Art).

All the results of these firsts “Themed WPs” will find validation in WP7 where all Partners are deeply involved in relation to the Project objective of envisioning and experimenting with new strategies and praxis to increase the role, awareness, and capabilities of Museums and Libraries in promoting EU citizenship “in the age of migration”.

WP8 will be devoted to verifying and testing ideas and thoughts emerging within WP7 through the use of ICT and virtual design.


The quality of the whole project and related results are also committed to an innovative structure for the WPs, which will be developed mainly through different research tools used to exploit the different themes of the central topic of the whole proposal. These are “Desk Research”, “Field Investigations”, “Think Tank” modules, “International Conference”, and an innovative “Research by Art Practice”.

Some of them, like the surveys on site and the conferences, are standard research methodology; others, on the contrary, are experimental, like “Research by Art Practice”, which adopt an interdisciplinary approach in order to investigate the research themes through unconventional disciplines. Some others, like “Think Tank” modules, are taken from different domains and have been chosen because their peculiar approach can better investigate and focus on the topics, providing new perspectives and ideas: we believe an actual and complex topic such as new missions and roles for Museums, Libraries and Galleries in our post–national society, needs a new and groundbreaking approach.

Field Investigations: to record and monitor case studies within and outside the Proposal Network to define the state of the art and identify potential advancements.
Desk Research: a traditional secondary research to define the state of the art.
Think Tank process: for an in depth consideration of issues and challenges whose relevance reaches beyond the individual person or program and the immediate time frame.
International Conference: to gather and collect knowledge and to widen the discussion and the cross–fertilization of ideas, also with an International Call for Papers.
Research by Art: to spin–off the role of art/artists in understanding/interpreting contemporary society.


For more informations and updates, please visit MeLa official website.
You can keep yourself updated on MeLa-related events by following the official MeLa-blog.



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