Travelling exhibition MEMEX kicked off in Lisbon: “People can voice stories about their own heritage now”

Opening of the MEMEX travelling exhibition in Lisbon. Image: MEMEX Project 2022

An exciting moment in Lisbon, as the MEMEX travelling exhibition opened its doors to the public on 19 September. It shows the results obtained by the EU-funded project MEMEX, which aims to promote social cohesion through intelligent and interactive tools, including an augmented reality app for mobile phones. The exhibition will continue its journey to Paris (5-13 October), Genoa (20 October – 1 November), and Barcelona (9 November – 23 December).

The MEMEX project was launched in 2019 to develop artificial intelligence and augmented reality technologies able to help the social inclusion of people who risk being marginalised. By giving them access to digital tools, “they have the ability to create their own stories”, explained Maud Ntonga, project & communication manager at Michael Culture, one of MEMEX’s partners. “It’s not only an app. We also organised story-writing workshops, so the participants can tell their stories and voice what they actually want to say. And they all formulate some sort of definition of what heritage is for them.”

Behind the scenes

Focus in Lisbon. Image: MEMEX Project 2022

The project’s main achievement is represented by a new mobile app prototype that has been tested in Paris’ most vulnerable residents of the 19th district, in Barcelona by migrant women, and in Lisbon by the first and second-generation migrants. Coordinated by the Italian Institute of Technology (Genoa, Italy), the project has been funded by the European Union under the programme “Horizon 2020” with almost 4 million euros for 3 years. It involved research institutes, NGOs and companies in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, France and Belgium.

Visitors will encounter an audio-visual exhibition, introducing them to the stories created by the community participants on the cultural heritage of their cities and their relationship to them. The exhibition also brings the audience to the “behind the scenes” of the MEMEX project: creation and management of pilot activities, digital storytelling methodology with the audience and app prototype co-creation.

Complex communities

What kind of stories can visitors expect? “It depends entirely on which pilot area we are talking about. Different people have different relationships with an area”, explains Ntonga. “For example, in Lisbon and Barcelona, the areas are often a bit older, so there is a lot of more ‘traditional’ heritage so to say. Like statues of conquistadors, which for a migrant community resembles something different than for a native person. Or they tell stories about their arrival as migrants, or how they integrated into society by often visiting a music theatre, for instance.”

Different perspectives on heritage are key to the MEMEX exhibition. Image: MEMEX Project 2022

She continues: “Paris is different again because here the pilot area is more focused on urban heritage, and how the community has witnessed a lot of changes over the past decades.” From the demolition of a hospital in the neighbourhood to the once quiet boulevard transforming into an important road for traffic, including a tram. “They talk about their childhood or the shops they used to visit. It’s more like the heritage of every day for these people.”