• Fundacja Polska Debatuje

Debate in museums workshop at IDEA Youth Forum 2021

Last month, Gabriela Manista and Caroline Wierzejska facilitated a workshop for debate educators from a variety of European countries to share our knowledge about using debate as an educational tool in cultural institutions such as museums. Polska Debatuje has been successfully creating partnerships with museums for several years and we were happy to share some of what we have learnt and listen to other perspectives. There was a great deal of interest in our workshop as IDEA Youth Forum participants were keen to learn about this innovative way of popularising debates outside of classrooms and tournaments. Some participants mentioned that museums have become a key part in their national discourse. During the workshop we generated a lot of dialogue about how debating might be applicable to cultural institutions in countries from the north to the south of Europe.

Workshop participants had an opportunity to hear about and reflect on three projects that Polska Debatuje completed in partnership with different museums in Poland over the last few years. We then shared the key findings from our research conducted as part of the Debate Education in Museum Across Central and Eastern Europe project funded by the Visegrad Fund. As a group, we discussed the aims and problems that many museums face: wanting to be democratising spaces for critical dialogue but often struggling with attracting audiences and creating a long term commitment with them.

There was a good deal of excitement about the fact that as debate organisations we have a lot to offer museums and can help them solve some of their key challenges. This was followed by a lively discussion about the sensitivities surrounding the setting of debate topics in partnership with local cultural institutions and the fine line between opening dialogue and counterproductive controversy which needs to be carefully balanced in each local context.

Towards the end of the workshop, participants had a chance to work on identifying synergies between local museums in their countries and their own debating organisations. Many came up with ideas of what potential projects could look like from Estonia, through Romania and Italy, to Egypt and Tunisia. Some of our favourite ideas included a treasure hunt involving debating, debates based on local archives and a projects involving various countries in the Mediterranean collaborating to create a series of debates about an exhibition that would travel the region by boat...

The workshop was recorded and it is available here (from 03:33:00)

Author: Caroline Wierzejska

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