The 4th United Cities and Local Government Awards has recognised the Chiang Mai Center Museums Network which consists of the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center, Chiang Mai Historical Center and Lanna Folk Life Museum as one of seven projects worthy of a special metion.
The two winners this year were in Medellin, Colombia and Segou, Mali.
Chiang Mai’s network of museums falls under the Municipality’s Urban Development and Promotion subdivision allowing it to link its cultural promotion functions, with its city development imperatives. Its mandate is to preserve and present the history, arts, culture and traditions of Chiang Mai to locals and visitors.
According to the jury, “It works with three cultural assets: the unique cultural heritage of the region’s Lanna people; the Old City as an ancient urban form based on sustainable development principles; and the city’s deeply intertwined relationship to its natural and agricultural environment. Taking a collaborative approach, the Network uses its organisational capacity and central location as ‘work tools’, providing access for its citizens to municipal resources, and in this way mobilising its content as ‘cultural capital’ for the betterment of the city. This participatory approach, centres on connecting the city’s diverse urban civil society groups, academic and cultural groups into what it sees as a ‘movement for change’ to improve the liveability of the city and to enhance the well-being of its citizens.”
The Network’s three sites are clustered in the heart of the Old City, serving as public space, where government, citizens and others can work to further shared visions of Chiang Mai, drawing on the city’s rich cultural and environmental assets. Through a series of collective projects it aims to be a catalyst for sustainable urban development in the city, by offering opportunities for conservation, expression, information dissemination, dialogue, education and collaboration. The Network acts as a knowledge hub and community centre for civil society, to help revive the values embedded the city, building on its institutional capacity to propel Chiang Mai into a more sustainable future.
“This award is by a network which encourages local governments around the world,” said Suwaree Wongkongkaew, Chief of City Development Promotion Sub-Division of Chiang Mai Center Museums Network. “Chiang Mai is a member. One of my friends works with them and they had heard of our works. Our museum is different from anywhere else, as we use our museums to drive the city, not just focusing on culture or the environment. Our museums are integral and active in driving the city’s direction and movements. So we applied to this prize and out of 81 cities we were one of seven projects with special mentions. What is good about this is that the act of writing the proposal forces us to do due diligence. Such as what we are doing, we need to make sure that we are actually doing it and doing it right. If we get the award what would we do, we need to make sure that we do it. It is very useful to us, more so than the award itself. We also got to learn about other cities and what they do and we will be bringing all the good practices to our city.”
In parting, Suwaree urges everyone to come and visit the three museums, “I believe that people who visit will leave with more. They will be enhanced somehow, through knowledge or inspiration.”