I have blogged before about the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) community outreach program in Peru. This week I have the opportunity to participate and experience the program firsthand. As well, this week PIARA Directors Rebecca Bria and Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza, and I are discussing collaborative projects that can involve PIARA, the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, and the University of Memphis Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program. We envision that these multiple agencies can participate in the co-creation of cultural heritage opportunities with the Hualcayán village and archaeological site. We are discussing projects that can align with the missions of all agencies involved.
Hualcayán is located at 3150 masl in the Province of Huaylas, Department of Ancash, Peru flanked by the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra Mountain ranges in the Callejón de Huaylas valley. The village is a rural agricultural community located in the midst of archaeological sites that span the last 4000 years of human history in the region. Although there is a small museum in the nearby city of Caraz, the region’s cultural heritage is not promoted to its potential and archaeological sites are not protected. In terms of tourism, Caraz and Hualcayán are viewed by most visitors as brief stopovers on their way to adventure tourism and trekking opportunities to lagoons and glacial peaks in the Parque Nacional Huascarán.
As discussed in the previous blog post, PIARA’s perspective on the cultural heritage development is in line with a co-creative participatory process with the community. In fact, one of the reasons for the close fit for potential PIARA and C.H. Nash Museum collaborative efforts is the common perspective toward cultural heritage development of the two agencies. Both institutions operate in communities that are generally considered underserved. In the past few years, both organizations embarked on long-term programs of community engagement and empowerment through cultural heritage development. As well, both organizations are situated in rich environs of cultural heritage resources.
Another important similarity is that both organizations have spent the past several years laying the groundwork for collaboration with their respective communities. At the C.H. Nash Museum, that work is summarized in a recent article. At PIARA that collaboration operates in a very similar manner. For example, this past Saturday, August 3, PIARA was the initiator and co-sponsor along with the Universidad Nacional Ancash – Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo and the Provincial Municipality of Huaylas of the First Annual Cultural Festival of Hualcayán. The Festival included visits to the ongoing archaeological excavations in Hualcayán, display of excavated cultural materials, the inauguration of the community library funded and built by PIARA, regional dances, local food, and much more.
As with the recent community outreach projects at the C.H. Nash Museum, the Festival of Hualcayán could not have happened without PIARA’s previous years of community engagement. That is, without the consistent community outreach by PIARA and engagement over the past several years, there would not have been the collaborative basis on which to build and inspire the Cultural Festival. PIARA views the Festival as a node on a continuum of community outreach and engagement. As at the C.H. Nash Museum, the direction of that outreach and engagement for PIARA will continue to develop as a co-creative process with the Hualcayan community. For example, as posted previously, this summer C.H. Nash Museum intern Lyndsey Pender created the Southwest Memphis Cultural Heritage website only after discussions and collaboration with community residents. Although the broad parameters of website development were set, the precise future content will be based in community discussions and input. The dialogue with PIARA and the Hualcayán community continues along on a similar plane.
Which brings me to one of my favorite preaching points – community relevance. As small institutions, both the C.H. Nash Museum and PIARA are gaining traction, growing, and now receive exponentially greater community support than in the past. The increased support results because they approach their work in cultural heritage resource management from a perspective that prioritizes not just the co-creative process, but also is based in an approach that is relevant to the community in which they serve.