Community museums now exist throughout the world. Community museums are initiatives that embody the definition of ICOM, which considers that museums should be “in the service of society and its development”. In general terms, a community museum constitutes a tool of identity reaffirmation and of social and heritage empowerment.
Symbolically, two key moments can be identified in the formulation of the concept of a museum linked to social development. One of them was the 1971 concept of the ‘Ecomuseum’, idealized by Huges de Varine’s as a new type of museum, framed by the environment and liberated from being within four walls. The other, occurred a year later, at the Round Table in Santiago, Chile, where the concept of the ‘Integral Museum’ was born. This advanced the notion that a museum does not have to be stuck within the temporal past of its collections, instead, the integral museum looks for new ways of being integrated into society and contributing to its development.
Here we endeavor to reflect on the variety that exists between community museums in European, Latin American and Caribbean contexts, demonstrating how each country or region adapts to its own realities and needs.