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Top Five Museums and Ecomuseums to Visit in the UK by Mustafa Doğan

Top Five Museums and Ecomuseums to Visit in the UK by Mustafa Doğan

Ecomuseums, Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development in Southeast Turkey

The South-East Anatolian Region is known as Mesopotamia inside Turkey. Nine cities are located within the political borders of the South-East Anatolian Region. The region is relatively poorer than the others in Turkey, particularly some cities such as Diyarbakır, Batman, Şırnak, Siirt, and Mardin. It has seen some political, socio-cultural as well as economic troubles. The region has a rich cultural diversity that is based on ethnic and religion minorities such as Kurdish, Arabic, Syrian and Yazidi, and a distinctive intangible cultural and natural heritage. My research project is aimed to examine the functional models for sustainable development of the local-rural areas of the region. The cultural and natural heritage can be used as an important factor for development via the ecomuseum concept and practices. 

Definition of Ecomuseum: An Ecomuseum is a dynamic way in which communities preserve, interpret, and manage their heritage for a sustainable development. An Ecomuseum is based on a community agreement.

Thanks to The Nahrein Network Visiting Scholarships Scheme and funding from the BIAA, I visited the UK to examine the most important heritage areas such as museums, ecomuseums and natural parks. My field trips focused on learning the best practices of area management like ecomuseums and unique experiences. As a result of the project, I have created potential maps and routes that focus on the cultural and natural heritage for my region in Turkey. My project has only been possible with the support of Prof. Roger Matthews from Reading University (seen in the image right).

The next deadline for The Nahrein Network Visiting Scholarships Scheme will be 23:59 on Saturday 15th February 2020. Find our more information here.

Top Five Museums and Ecomuseums to Visit in the UK

Here are my top five museums or ecomuseums that I visited whilst in the UK, which I found most impressive:

Number 1: The Museum of English Rural Life is located in Reading and administered by Reading University.  I started my trip to the UK with a visit to this museum: a classical museum representing English rural life plus a broad exhibition area with collections and materials. The museum is managed with a creative approach and cares not just for tangible heritage, but also intangible heritage (practices, representations, expressions, knowledge or skills). It is located on the "Great East Way" route and is one of the most important tourist attractions of the area, which is also easy to access via train from London. The museum has a huge collection and many artefacts that have been donated by the local people. Exhibits are in a large enclosed area, but it also organises some useful and creative activities such as workshops and training for local communities, school groups, artists and craftsmen in the open area and halls. It is important to find out more information about the agriculture and livestock history of England, as well as its function to develop for new methods of the future.

Number 2: Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum is focused on the Flodden Battle of 1513 between England and Scotland. It is located in Southern Scotland near the English border. It consists of the tangible and intangible heritage of the history and region. The ecomuseum combines war fields, graves, monuments, along with cultural assets such as churches, historical buildings, castles and natural wonders. It recorded and documented the traditions and legends of the region and has been presenting them in different ways for the visitors. For example, the border Ride Outs and the bagpiping tune of Floo’ers O’ The Forest. The ecomuseum has been managed by a volunteer team since 2008. This was one of the most interesting types of ecomuseum that I saw.

Number 3: Cateran Ecomuseum is located in Northern Scotland and covers a large area of natural beauty and tangible-intangible cultural assets that dates back to the Neolithic times. The centre of the ecomuseum is Alyth, but it covers the six different neighbouring territories under one area and framework. It has some distinctive kinds of exceptional flora and fauna. It is very important to obtain authentic information and experiences about both nature and historical times. The museum is managed by a volunteer team who identifies it as a "museum without walls". They organize many activities for local communities and visitors at scheduled times. It is near to the Dundee and Edinburgh. I also explored some of the countryside and historical, natural, cultural sites in Scotland, including Dundee and Fife. My Scottish experiences provided very useful models for my research area.

Number 4: Beamish Open-air Museum is one of the first examples of an open-air museum in the UK. It is in Newcastle and even though it was created the 1970s, it continues to improve nowadays. There is a coal mine gallery in the heart of the museum. There is also a small town with traditional occupations and shops from the 1900-1950s, including a dentist, bakery and pub. It is like a dramatisation of life belonging to the 1900s in England. It is even possible to learn some jobs and crafts whilst shopping in these traditional shops! As it covers such a large area, they have functional historic vehicles such as a tramway, which are enjoyable activities for travelling inside the museum, particularly for the kids! These act as useful tools for children to understand the past and experience some fun historic activities.

Number 5: Quaker Tapestry Museum is an interesting museum located in Kendal town on the southern border of the Lake District. It is a small but extraordinary museum that exhibits information about the Quakers and their history through their tapestry custom. It introduces the Quakers' most important traditions and explains their daily life plus some beliefs and values of the community through the artefacts. It is also possible to learn about the influence of the Quakers in the museum, particularly their impact in the UK’s commercial and industrial history. The museum organizes some informative meetings and activities in the centre for their community and visitors.

​The Lake District, North England and the entirety of Scotland were really amazing for me. I think that both the protected natural destinations and wild natural areas, including natural parks, historic castles and other buildings, have all been utilized effectively for local tourism and educational activities. Additionally, meeting with the magnificent people who dedicated their life for community development and heritage work was a highlight for me. Volunteers such as Mrs. Clara Cooper, Mr. Ninian Stuart, Mr. David Marrs, and Prof. Peter Davis (below, left), who have been striving for their local communities and heritage impressed me a lot and motivates me to continue my study. It is impossible to forget the long and unique interview with Mr. Ninian in a Medieval Castle in Falkland Town (below, right). I believe that protecting, managing and sustaining all heritage is dependent on the efforts of people like him.

Excluding the project framework, I also visited Stonehenge, Salisbury, Bournemouth, the British Museum, the National Museum of Scotland, and the Newcastle Discovery Museum. All of these visits have extended my vision and knowledge. I have learnt a lot of useful information about ecomuseum practices in the UK. Thanks to the project I have gained an invaluable understanding of the management of different resources in rural areas.

My Next Steps and Future Projects

The South-East Anatolian Region is so large that it may be more practical to establish several connected ecomuseums, rather than one large one. My experiences in the UK have shown that this may be one way to combine the different assets and manage a territory for common objectives. Additionally, the ecomuseum approach and practices also contribute to planning for a region that has many different administrative units and authorities. The "Flodden 1513", "Cateran, Falkland" and "Land of Oak Iron" ecomuseums and the "Great West Way" practice are all good examples based on area planning in the UK. 

My next steps include presenting my research project to the local governments and NGO’s in the region. Additionally, I will examine how to develop applicable models according to the findings. I will focus on establishing a Social Entrepreneurship (Cooperative) or a Charity Organization (Associate) to manage the Ecomuseum Project. I will also look into generating some volunteer groups for these jobs: mapping of the region and creating routes; research for the geographical, geological and archaeological sites and structures; oral history works; informing and training of the local communities; documentation and publication. 

I will study potential routes and ecomuseum maps in the region. My next research title is The Ways of Civilisation: The Ecomuseums of Mesopotamia and the outputs of the research project will be:

  1. The Trails of the Humanity: Archaeological Heritage Sites and Museums:
  2. Artuklu (Artuqids) Architecture Ecomuseum
  3. The Ecomuseum of Turabdin-Syrian Community: Turabdin Region
  4. Batman Petroleum and Oil Industry Ecomuseum
  5. Sason-Botan Valley Ecomuseum: Beşiri – Sason – Kozluk - Kurtalan -Botan Districts.
  6. Botan Valley and its Natural Wonders

UCL, the BIAA and Reading University, as well as my supervisor Prof. Roger Matthews, all provided me with such a significant opportunity for my project. Project funding is so vital for researchers and their dreams. I would like to give special thanks to the BIAA and hope for the continuation of these opportunities, particularly for researchers who are working in disadvantaged countries and regions.

Mustafa Doğan is an academic from Batman University in Turkey. He visited the UK as part of UCL’s The Nahrein Network Visiting Scholarship Scheme, which was then funded by the BIAA. His major study areas are Sustainable Tourism, Ecomuseums and Cultural Heritage. He has focused on the development of the local communities who are living in rural areas, via sustainable tourism and heritage managing, ecomuseums. He has been living in Batman for 5 years and would like to contribute to the development of the Mesopotamian Region utilising its cultural-natural values and assets through his research project.

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