The Inclusive Museum: Broadening the Role of Museums and Cultural Institutions in Society

inclusivemuseumBenaki Museum – Pireos Street Annex

Thursday, November 26, 2015, 09:00 – 16:30

On November 26, the U.S. Embassy Athens, the Benaki Museum and the British Council are organizing the conference “The Inclusive Museum: Broadening the Role of Museums and Cultural Institutions in Society.”

The fifth annual Museum Conference invites museum administrators, curators, artists and students to share ideas and insights on how museums and other cultural institutions can function as change agents in society.  Prominent speakers from Greece, the U.S. and the UK will look into ways cultural organizations become more people-centered and invite audiences to become authors of their experiences.  They will also discuss examples of museums fulfilling their civic roles as community centers, and forums for discussing the pressing social and political issues of today.

Anita Contini, responsible for Arts Program at Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York, will discuss ways of audience engagement in a digital world.  Anita joined Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2010, where she helps cultural organizations strengthen long-term organizational capacity, supports public art projects that enrich the vibrancy of cities, and helps leading cultural institutions implement cutting-edge technology projects that transform visitor experience. Anita has a long experience in corporate philanthropy programs, serving as Senior Vice President and Director of Corporate Public Affairs and Philanthropy at CIT Group, as First Vice President of Global Sponsorships at Merrill Lynch, and as Vice President and Director of the World Trade Center Memorial, Cultural, and Civic Programs at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

Esmé Ward, Head of Engagement at the Whitworth and Manchester Museum, of the University of Manchester will talk about taking creative risks in order to make the community part of the artistic and creative mission of the museum.  The Whitworth, part of the University of Manchester, reopened in February 2015 after a £15million development that transformed the gallery, doubling it in size and creating new spaces that embrace the park it calls home. Since reopening, visitor figures have surpassed all expectations and it has won countless awards, including Artfund Museum of the Year, Leading Culture Destination’s Emerging Cultural Destination (Europe) and it was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize.  Chair of the Artfund Stephen Deuchar said; “The transformation of the Whitworth has been one of the great museum achievements of recent years. It has changed the landscape: it truly feels like a museum of the future.”

Karen Wong, Deputy Director of the New Museum in New York, will speak about the “Ideas City Festival,” a collaborative, civic and creative enterprise that seeks to explore key issues in modern urban life, propose solutions and seed concrete actions.  An experienced arts manager, Karen also founded NEW INC, the first museum-led incubator for art, technology and design. She was the managing director of David Adjaye Associates from 2000-2006 and supports emerging architects in her role as a board member of Storefront for Art and Architecture and + Pool. In the mid-90’s she founded Hobbamock, a Boston-based design firm committed to nonprofits and social causes. She sits on the boards of Rhizome, a platform for contemporary art engaged with digital culture, and Apex, a mentoring and education program for underserved Asian youth.

Representatives of major Greek museums and cultural institutions will also contribute to the discussion:  Maria-Thalia Carras, co-founder of Locus Athens; Fotis Flevotomos, Artist-Musician, Benaki collaborator in the educational program for visitors with impaired sight, “Seeing with the Senses;” Panos Papoulias, Assistant Director of Programs & Strategic Initiatives, Stavros Niarchos Foundation; Elia Vlachou, Archeologist-Museologist, Head of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation; andAmalia Zepou, Vice Mayor for Civil Society and Municipality Decentralization, Municipality of Athens.

Adam Szymczyk, Artistic Director, documenta 14, and Paul B. Preciado, Curator of Public  Programs, documenta 14, will offer the Closing Remarks of the conference.

Following the conclusion of the conference, a special music event will take place at the ground floor café of the museum.  The event will be in dialogue with the exhibition “Wor(th)ship. Tassos Vrettos” (Opening November 19, 2015, and running through January 10, 2016).

There will be simultaneous interpretation into Greek and English.

Entry is free, on a first come-first served basis.  Pre-registrations on the site of Eventbrite are closed.  There will be a limited number of seats available for on-site registrations on the day of the conference.

The detailed program of the conference will be available online (, and on November 10.

On November 27, the conference will take place in Thessaloniki, at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, 10:00-17:00, in collaboration with the U.S. Consulate General in Thessaloniki, the British Council, and the Five Museums’ Movement in Thessaloniki.  Entry will be free, on a first-come, first-served basis. There will be simultaneous interpretation into Greek and English. Registrations begin at 10:00 am.  Electronic registrations at the Thessaloniki conference are available atEventbrite.