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7902 - Who cares? Evaluating the role of the communitary museum in Santa Maria Zapotitlan, Oaxaca, Mexico

The small ‘communitary museum and educational center’ in the Chontal village of Santa Maria Zapotitlan , Oaxaca , was inaugurated in November 2009 as a collaborative effort between the indigenous community members and the ‘Chontalpa Historical Archaeology Project’. Unlike with most museums in urban settings, the integrated artifacts and imagery are rooted in the immediate surrounding physical, social, and cultural landscapes, thus representing a microcosm of the ancestral land. The rapidly growing number of such communitary museums in Oaxaca can attest to the empowerment of indigenous groups, who continue to adapt this essentially Western institute to suit their cultural sustainability needs in this fast globalized world. Other than fortifying the community identity and collective memory, such spaces can further serve as important didactic spaces and challenge state-imposed monolithic national narratives or exclusive touristic discourses. As such local museums become interdependent on the regional, national, and international levels, adopting decolonizing stances is becoming indispensable to larger institutions if these truly wish to engage indigenous audiences among their visitors. Still, the Zapotitlan museum has yet to define its place and function in the community and the region. Internal factionalism often inhibits its orderly operation, while lack of external funding and institutional support prevent its necessary expansion. This paper will focus on the particular development of this museum, while attempting to draw more general conclusions on the role of such spaces in Oaxaca and beyond.

Keywords: Communitary museum, Oaxaca, Chontal

Author: Zborover, Danny (University of Calgary, Ud States of Am / USA)

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