Launched in 2016 in Apulia, Southern Italy, Swapmuseum offers young volunteers – the swappers – and local museums the possibility to collaborate to refresh and enrich small local cultural institutions. The initiative involved adolescents in museums’ daily practices, inviting them to undertake non-specialised tasks. For their hours spent volunteering, the swappers could then exchange their banked hours for benefits, such as free entrance tickets to cultural institutions and events, or vouchers and discounts for books or music.
On the basis of research, which demonstrated both low rates of cultural participation by young people and low engagement with small, local cultural institutions, the project aimed to close this gap and to subvert this well-established pattern.
Each call for swappers was carefully defined together with the institutions taking part in the initiative. The swappers have so far helped local museums with marketing, communication and interpretive tasks, which also results in longer term benefits for the local institutions. Young students are turned into active producers for cultural institutions and museums benefit from learning new ways of communicating and producing culture using the most up-to-date channels of communication. In this way, these small institutions have been transformed into incubators for creativity and new cultural content.
Thanks to the support coming from private and public entities, Swapmuseum has far exceeded the initial expectations of its organisers. To date, more than 500 students and 61 museums, including smaller institutions that are usually excluded from traditional tourists’ routes, have participated in the initiative.
The model proposed by Swapmuseum responds to the European Union’s call to promote and ensure the inclusion and active engagement of young people in the social and cultural life of communities. The cultural strategy offered by the initiative could easily be adapted to different museums throughout Europe thanks to its scalable methodological approach.
“The innovative and inclusive character of Swapmuseum is of the highest quality. In speaking the language of young people this collaboration allows museums to learn new skills from fresh minds. The project closely considers and values the link between art and well-being and its values and principles are closely aligned with the European Year of Youth 2022”, stated the Awards’ Jury.