Designing hybrid spaces with cultural heritage

Image: Persian Envoys before the King of Ethiopia. Franciszek Smuglewicz. Lithuanian Art Museum. Lithuania. Public Domain

Museums, libraries and archives are essential non-formal education spaces that have been working for years in close collaboration with schools and universities. They are providers of endless primary sources that help us all to fight against disinformation and promote equality and diverse cultural representation.

The current health crisis is jeopardising physical access to these educational spaces. Now, with  a second lockdown in many European countries, cultural heritage institutions (CHIs) have been required to close their doors again. This has limited their interaction with schools and children to the digital environment, which is a space where some educators of these institutions do not feel extremely comfortable.

A survey run by Europeana, in collaboration with NEMO, shows that around 70% of museum educators have never received training to digitally develop their activities and thus do not use their digital collections. After several conversations, observations and research (Dutch programme and EuroClio case study), it seems clear that cultural heritage institutions are not maximising their digital offer in education and connecting properly with schools.


Image: Untitled [school girls in a line] from the series On a Good Day, Al Vandenberg, Victoria and Albert Museum, United Kingdom, CC BY-SA

Europeana is exploring how to help professionals in the sector to strengthen their virtual interactions with schools and students. One solution is to design hybrid spaces. Besides the Europeana Classroom, a new online room with 400+ learning scenarios and many other resources, Europeana is researching the potential of Historiana as an interactive tool, as well as reinforcing the collaboration between teachers and non-formal educators through educational challenges like the recently launched #reinventingBeethoven, based on the life and work of the musical genius.


Image: Beethoven in Schönbrunn. Universität Osnabrück, Historische Bildpostkarten. Germany. CC BY-NC-SA

At the end of the day, digital access to cultural heritage content is paramount to supporting quality education.

Isabel Crespo is Education Specialist at the Europeana Foundation.