Inga is the Project Manager of Latvian Museum Association and National Library of Latvia.
In the beginning of 2020, the Latvian Museum Association and the National Library of Latvia started a joint initiative: a program of educational events to raise awareness of the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among the museum professionals of Latvia. Our goal was to start from the basics – to encourage our colleagues to become familiar with the concept of the sustainable development (which was not really on the agendas of museums) and to establish a common understanding of how the SDGs relate to the cultural sector, more specifically the museum sector.
Through stakeholder mapping, we realized that the respective Ministry of Culture and the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia were not yet ready to engage in supporting our initiative as there was no clear commitment for the Government to engage the cultural sector with the SDGs. Our grant proposal to organize the first webinar on the SDGs for Latvian museum professional was not approved.
Luckily, the Latvian National Commission for UNESCO told us about the Center for Education Initiatives (CEI) and their work on Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Education as part of the Bridge 47 project. Meeting with Daiga Zake from CEI and working with CEI was the turning point for us. Together we kicked off a series of informative and inspiring events that successfully brought the issues of sustainable development to Latvian museum community’s attention.
We organised our first webinar on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Museums on 18 May 2020 which was International Museum Day. It was facilitated by the Serbian Researcher and Museologist Dr. Višnja Kisić. As our webinar was promoted as a part of the International Council of Museums programme for International Museum Day, 120 participants from over 10 countries registered.
After the webinar, with great advice and support from CEI and the Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation, we created the very first comprehensive guide on museums and sustainable development in Latvian language with a focus on the importance and strength of cooperation and partnerships for a sustainable future. The guide was launched online on 24 November 2020.
Thanks to the support from CEI and Bridge 47, three museums of Latvia collaborated with scientists in developing three new educational programmes related to different dimensions of sustainable development. These programmes were presented to the Latvian museum community as well as our guide on museums and sustainable development and possible implementation ideas. As a result of this, Latgale Culture and History Museum created a workshop on sustainable economic growth; Latvian Railway History Museum ran a lecture on sustainable transport; and the National Library of Latvia held a permanent exhibition – an escape-room game on printed vs digital books.
All of the projects provided a great chance for the museums to access external expertise and to look at their collections from new perspectives. We hope that the three project examples have also inspired the rest of the Latvian museums to open up their archives and programmes for new approaches and voices.
We are now working on our programme for the 2021 International Museum Day. Looking back a year ago when we just started our initiatives aiming to engage museums of Latvia with the SDGs, we see how important it has been for us to work together with our education sector colleagues and partners. Collaboration and partnerships are really a superpower.
With the first webinar, first publication in Latvian and first interdisciplinary projects for museums on sustainable development, one can undoubtedly say that sustainable development has become one of the main agenda of the museums here in Latvia. This evidence was crucially required for museums to secure the funds that support the cultural sector and other partners. The bridge has been made.