When the association turns out to be a live Museum with the exhibition “Material Culture of Iberian Associations”, by Curator Maria Zozaya

The exhibition “The Material Culture of Iberian Associations” was designed to be itinerant and interactive, changing according to the space hosting it. This is how its curator María Zozaya-Montes conceived it from the outset. It began its cultural journey in August 2023 in Portugal, in the Évora Public Library, where it exhibited the eighty most outstanding pieces of the associations founded in Évora more than 120 years ago. It brought together pieces representative of all its social groups.

Thanks to its objects and layout, the exhibition was immersive in nature, reproducing the meaning they acquire in an association depending on their location. It had a markedly playful character, both because of the subject represented, the associations of play and free time, and because of details that began with the invitation to visit the exhibition, carried out in the style of the 19th century. In this way, it followed in the footsteps of that “homo ludens” who shaped part of the change in the social and political life of the 19th century around leisure (following Johan Huizinga’s theories).

Although that initial exhibition was unique in its kind, as it brought together unique pieces representative of the Iberian associationism of several Portuguese associations (at BPE), it is also unique in its subsequent state (at SHE).

Material Culture of Iberian Associations Itinerant Exhibition at Sociedade Harmonia Eborense.

Material Culture of Iberian Associations Itinerant Exhibition at SHE, Évora, Portugal.

The itinerant phase, where the exhibition transits to the associations and gentlemanly capitalism clubs themselves, makes it a pioneer again, turning the association into a living museum.

As an installation, it transforms the associations into living museums thanks to several elements: its graphic panels explaining the meaning of these centres, the dialogue it establishes with the rooms, with the existing pieces, or with the exhibitions themselves that the association might have; and to the discourse of mediation narrated in the guided tours by the curator, where even activities of the association’s daily life are evident.
The exhibition “The Material Culture of Iberian Associations” has entered a second phase with its recent inauguration at the Harmonia Eborense Society, one which, thanks to its panels and the mediation of the visits, manages to turn the associations themselves into living museums.
With this cultural installation, the CIDEHUS researcher María Zozaya-Montes highlights a transversal reality between Spain and Portugal that developed during the period of change from 1836 to 1980. With this exhibition, she promotes the transfer of knowledge of her research carried out over the last 25 years (the last decade devoted to Portuguese associations), which has resulted in four specialised books, multiple thematic articles, and dozens of conferences in international contexts.

Triptych of the exhibition Material Culture of Ibeiran Associations, Curator M. Zozaya

The exhibition “Material culture of Iberian associations” (A cultura material nas associações ibéricas) proposes a journey through the objects and objects of associativism: the time of leisure, daily life, and informal education, carried out through games, sounds, theatre and other playful activities that could hide a social and political versatility. Part of the explanations and objects can be seen “in situ” online, in the documentary “The Cultural Heritages of sociability”, directed by María Zozaya-Montes, shown in the site that gathers the information of the exhibition, here.

Documentary about the cultural heritage of associations, dir. Maria Zozaya (CIDEHUS-UÉ)

Read more in portuguese/

Leia mais em português: here

Read more in Spanish/

Leer más en español: here


María Zozaya-Montes, “When the society turned out to be an live Museum with the exhibition: “Material Culture of Iberian Associations, by Curator Maria Zozaya”, Socyhume, Sociabilidad y patrimonio, ISSN 2952-1130, 4 October 2023, available at:

Cite this blog post
Maria Zozaya (2023, October 4). When the association turns out to be a live Museum with the exhibition “Material Culture of Iberian Associations”, by Curator Maria Zozaya. SOCYHUME: sociabilidad y patrimonio. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/ug96

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