From its sources in the Northern Pindus mountains in Greece, the Aoos / Vjosa River enters into Albania and discharges into the Adriatic Sea. Along its meandering routes it creates landscapes of spectacular natural beauty and for centuries it has shaped the lives and traditions of the populations living around its basin. Greece and Albania have joined hands in order to create the Aoos / Vjosa River ecomuseum, an interactive museum that displays in situ (open space) the natural and cultural heritage and identity of this transboundary area.
The term “ecomuseum” was introduced in 1971 by Hugues de Varine as a dynamic structure through which communities preserve, interpret and manage their heritage for sustainable development. The visitor of an ecomuseum navigates and explores the area based on a structured narrative on a particular theme. The extent of involvement of local communities in the concept, design and implementation largely defines its success and sustainability. Hence, by enhancing the relationship of local communities to their natural and cultural assets, ecomuseums can become a tool for the targeted and sustainable development of an area.
The Vjosa / Aoos river ecomuseum will unfold on four thematic routes with starting points in both Greece and Albania. “Water and culture”, “Movement and travelling”, “Fruits of nature” and “Earth and Water” are the thematic categories visitors will be able to choose from, which will direct them into a trail of discovery and exploration of the natural wonders, the history, the culture and the contemporary life ways of the people living around the Vjosa / Aoos river basin. To guide themselves in the landscape, visitors will be able to follow a trilingual guide book, the ecomuseum’s website and a virtual tour, hosted on the website and allowing remote access to the area.
Ecomuseums around the world have contributed to the safeguarding and promotion of tangible and intangible heritage as well as the revitalization of rural and abandoned areas and traditional professions and crafts. By providing local communities with a tool through which they can preserve their natural and cultural heritage while at the same time positively contribute to their livelihoods, ecomuseums are useful for the preservation of natural and cultural landscapes. In order to ensure the involvement of the local communities and consequently the sustainability of the Vjosa/ Aoos river ecomuseum after its official launching in January 2014, the project partners have developed a transboundary network of public and private organisations, small and medium enterprises and representatives of the local communities that will be tasked with managing the ecomuseum.
The Vjosa / Aoos river ecomuseum is led by Med-INA (Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos) along with three other partners, Pindos Perivallontiki in Greece and INCA (Institute for Nature Conservation in Albania) and the Permet Forest Service Directorate in Albania. The project is co-funded by the European Union and National funds of Albania and Greece under the IPA Cross – Border Programme “Greece – Albania 2007-2013”. The International conference of the ecomuseum will be held in January 2014 and it will mark its official opening.
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