Groups of Friends of Museums and Monuments
The Groups of Friends of Museums and Monuments are non-profit associations of individuals and groups engaged in initiatives aimed at the study, inventory, preservation and enhancing of immovable and movable assets managed by museums and heritage-related institutions.
Generally speaking, the Groups of Friends carry out volunteer work and sponsorship with a view to enriching the collections, promoting research, organising exhibitions, editing publications, and developing training actions to defend the heritage of museums and monuments, as well as that of the surrounding areas. They also cooperate with other entities committed to safeguarding and enhancing the Cultural Heritage.
As a result of a neutral, but very relevant civil society initiative, the Friend’s Groups play an important role in boosting activities at museums, monuments and palaces. For this reason, the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage (DGPC) considers the creation of Groups of Friends of Museums, Palaces and Monuments of utmost importance as they will liaise with their governing bodies to develop and consolidate the national museum fabric. This action will encompass all the museums of the Portuguese Museum Network and will contribute for heritage preservation and enhancing.
Drawing from the experience of activities pursued by groups of museums at national and international level, some fundamental issues can be raised that will also be valid for other heritage-related institutions:
- Museums are social institutions with special responsibilities in promoting knowledge, civic spirit and the sense of community belonging; groups of friends can be decisive for museums to reach out to the public and to the surrounding communities;
- Broadly speaking, all museum users are museum friends; donators and volunteers are, in and of themselves, and owing to their actions, special friends of museums; however, the role of those who organize activities and call themselves friends of museums goes beyond that of its mere users: they have an important and active social role and use the freedom and independence conferred by their status to provide the best conditions for their museum to fulfil the social role that has been assigned to both the museum and to its friends;
- Friends of museums should be the most demanding users of the museum and its services; being perhaps the ones who will best appreciate their successes and failures, they should be the first to identify both with a sense of loyalty and belonging;
- In their relationship with museums, friends are expected to adopt the ethical principles and pursue the objectives set out by international standards in this area. Within this context, it is very important that their actions are coordinated so as to reinforce the museums strategic programme as laid down by their governing bodies;
- In order to develop and consolidate a healthy relationship between museums and their friends, this bond should be based on the following three pillars:
• a clear and well-defined boundary between “museum” and “groups of friends”, in terms of people on the one hand and logistic and financial resources on the other;
• a hierarchy of interests and objectives bearing in mind the absolute need to give priority to the museum interests as defined in its strategic plan of action;
• synergy between development of joint actions within the museum’s standard activities and promotion of the friends’ own activities;
- Museums should, as far as possible, shed light on their groups of friends by exhibiting their work in specific showcases, in spaces within their shops, on internet websites and so on. These resources are meant to convey to museum visitors, cybernauts and the public the message that being a friend of a museum is a prestigious civic gesture, as well as an opportunity for cultural enrichment.