The 2002 Conference

The UMAC 2002 Conference was held in Sydney and Canberra in Australia from Sunday 29 September - Friday 4 October 2002.

The title and theme of the conference was: Exposing and Exploiting the Distinct Character of University Museums and Collections.

University Museums at the Crossroads

Peny Theologi-Gouti
Patras University Science and Technology Museum

Patras is located in Southern Greece in the Northwestern part of the Peloponnese. Patras University is located, just 10 km from the city of Patras, on a self-contained campus of about 24.000m2. The campus has a lot of open-spaces; tree shaded areas and characteristically Mediterranean olive groves. It lies at the foot of Mount Panachaïkos with a view over the Gulf of Corinth to the mountains of Central Greece across the water1.

The University was founded in 1964 and it started functioning in the academic year of 1966-67. As all Greek universities it is a self-governing public institution under the supervision of the Ministry of Education financed entirely by the state. The University of Patras was the third University to be created in Greece and is now the third largest in the country.

The initial orientation of the University was towards science and technology with the first departments to be established Biology, Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry, followed shortly by Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Over the years the number of departments has grown to 22, and the academic orientation of the institution has been balanced by the creation of the School of Health Sciences and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the school of Management and Economics.

The University acquired its own independent campus a few years later, which include the Regional University Teaching Hospital, the Central University Library, the Conference and Cultural Centre, a nursery, a primary and a secondary school, a bank, a post office, a swimming pool, a gymnasium and a café-restaurant open to the public.

From the beginning, the University had quite a lot of problems to be integrated to the local society. The local society still believes that the University is a source of money for developing the town of Patras, but they also believe that the University Professors are peculiar people, who work a lot and they cannot participate to the life style they are used to. I must admit that the local population is not very much aware of what is going on within the University.

So, in the early 90's the Rector started thinking and discussing with the University Community of different ways or strategies of opening the University to the town and region, in order to facilitate the contacts between the University and the town and to better integrate the university to the town.

For that reason it was decided to build and found a Conference and Cultural Centre, a café-restaurant and the Science and Technology Museum. The Conference and Cultural Centre and the café-restaurant are already functioning. The Science and Technology Museum is a big ongoing project.

Patras University is famous for many of its Departments and it was decided from the very beginning that the Science and Technology Museum could become the mirror of the University activities, in order to show them to the public and familiarize the public with them. So, from the very beginning the words "Pedagogy, Heritage and Identity" played a very important role for the discussions that started within the University about the role and the goals of the Science and Technology Museum.

The first concern was identity. "Do we have to show people the scientific and Technological identity of the University, or we need to make a liaison with the scientific and technological identity of the town?" I must underline here that the town and region of Patras were areas, where the first schools were founded after the liberation of Turkish occupation in the middle of the 19th century and where the first engineers, doctors, chemists etc worked at this period. The extended area of Patras is also one of the most important areas of industrial heritage in Greece. And there is no other museum of this kind.

At this stage the word Heritage started playing in the discussions. "Should we collect only the University's heritage, or do we need to collect the scientific and technological heritage of the area or even Greece, or should we extend our area of interest?" And as we are a department/service of the University, how can we a) use the knowledge of the University Professors and researchers and b) involve them as well as the students in the project of organizing the museum at this stage and in the museum life afterwards? And finally what kind of public do we want to have and how open the museum will be to the general public and schools.

It was decided that the Museum must acquire, conserve, and research all the traces of the sciences and technology, starting with those sciences taught in the university's academic departments, in order to exhibit them for the purposes of study, education and enjoyment, in accordance with the ICOM definition of the museum2. The museum's activities will be accessible to as many sectors of society as possible

So, the preparation process of Patras University new Science and Technology Museum started in May 1998, with the first aim to make design and build a new museum building and create, enrich and document the Museum Collection. The Museum was officially founded in September 20013.

The new museum building will cover a surface of 3.500 m2, which will be extendable4. It will be placed in the center of the University Campus, just in front of the new Conference and Cultural Center - which hosts an important number of conferences, seminars and cultural events - and beside the University Café-Restaurant - which is very visited not only by the university students and staff, but also by school groups and people for the community, and organizes many social events for different kind of people. This position within the university campus confirms the role that the Museum can play within the University and the local community. The construction of the first part of the building will start in a few months time and it will be funded by the 3rd European Community Support Framework.

Many University Departments, Sections or Laboratories hold different collections of old equipment used in them, material collected in the field for research and education purposes or other kind of collections, as those of the Department of Education, the Department of Physics and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Technology. So, we are registering all this material and we collect and document by priority. At the same time we are looking for any object that could be collected in the area of Patras.

We are seeking support from the University staff for getting information on the existing material and we have made a good connection with a number of professors in different fields, who propose projects to their students, within their courses in order to support the collection and documentation of the collections. In this way a number of students and staff are supporting the museum.

A building was given provisionally by the University to start the collections and their documentation. This building was renovated in order to have facilities and equipment needed for the creation of the collection. The collection, documentation and evaluation procedure started in the academic year 2000-2001. The content of the Science and Technology Museum collections will depend of the number of sciences represented and the variety of the traces of the history and the evolution of each science, which will of course influence the museological implementation plan and the final form of the exhibitions.

The plans for involving the academic community of Patras University and for opening the museum to the society include5 the organization of fieldworks in collaboration with the University Departments, the organisation of seminars and the support of the University Departments' courses on the history of sciences, the involvement of the Departments' staff and students in the organisation of museum activities, the collaboration with the Departments for the development of products on the history of sciences and technology, based on new technologies, the involvement of as many as possible local people (specialists of different sciences or technology, school teachers...) or local corporate bodies (associations of people belonging in different sciences, professional networks, institutions, industries...), in the enrichment and documentation of the collections, the organisation of special events, exhibitions and the likes on the actuality of science and technology, the development of contacts with all concerning bodies of education, the organisation of special areas in the museum for children's atelier and educational programs, the organisation of activities and courses on the history of sciences for adults as well as on the actuality of science and technology.

Describing the role of "Pedagogy" and "Heritage", in order to determine the "Identity" of Patras University Science and Technology Museum, was a core goal since the beginning of its preparation. We have worked a lot in this direction and we intend to continue working on this goal till the opening of the museum and after, as we understand that it is our duty to keep the identity of the Museum as much as possible compatible to the role Pedagogy and Heritage have to play in its life.



3. Presidential Decree N.290, Journal of the Greek Democracy, First Issue, N.199, 12 September 2001

4. Theologi-Gouti, P. (2000), "A new museum for an ancient land: Patras University Science and Technology Museum", MUSEUM International, Vol. 206 [as above], no 2, pp. 25-27

5. Theologi-Gouti, P, "The Patras University Science and Technology Museum", Managing University Museums, OECD, 2001, pp 169-177

Copyright © 2002 Peny Theologi-Gouti. All rights reserved.

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