Time to reinvent – DREAM and the Gunpowder Factory

01/10/2021 12:00 am

Over the last few decades, there are many examples of structures reinvented, expanded or re-signified, turned into facilities ready to welcome new uses and programmes, allowing memories to continue to exist and spaces to be brought back to life. Spaces that do not surrender to the hardships of time, that transform and evolve to take on new forms, giving voice to historical legacies and where past, present and future overlap to create a new meaning.


Gunpowder Factory of Barcarena is an example of this throughout its history. From the 15th to the 20th century, it has always demonstrated its capacity for innovation, evolution and adaptation until its deactivation in 1988.

In 1995 a new chapter in its history was written along with the purchase of the Factory by the Oeiras Municipality which, ten years after its closure, took the reins of this project, which reborn with a completely different function from that for which it was originally intended.

The former factory gave way to an open-air museum, to a museologic and cultural complex, with different services aimed to cultural, leisure and entertainment activities, which after the renovation became the shelter of this memory.

The legacy of industrial legacy gains strength, weight and importance, it has a meaning that goes far beyond its use and physical appearance. It bears witness to disappeared techniques, work processes, customs and memories, with objects that allow us to understand industrial contexts in the labour world and its social transformations that are now approaching the community by opening its doors (I would cut this).

The dangerous Gunpowder factory, restricted, serious, workplace, gives way to a safe factory, open to everyone, free, fun, inclusive, bold and modern.

Introduced in 2004, the educational service at the Factory was always active and aware of change. It was the first to publish a Pedagogical Manual launched in 2005, a set of other innovative pedagogical tools that sought to broaden and diversify the fields of educational intervention, meeting different audiences, with different needs and interests. All tools worked on the Museum’s collection using playful and appealing objects and support materials that promoted interactivity with visitors, providing moments of reflection, creativity, sharing and discovery about this heritage.

Pioneers at the time, an example of this were the provision of multimedia games, the launch of a CD ROM with a game, a chronology, various articles, an image gallery and a digital encyclopaedia, audio guides that support visitors on their visit to the Museum and Factory and audio guided tours.

The Mapa das Ideias played a crucial role in the history of the Factory’s Educational sector and still is one of its great partners, as it is the case in the DREAM Project.

The Gunpowder Factory has faced, over the years, multiple challenges during the changing times, adapting to the new demands of the museological discipline, to new trends, to new technologies and to the primordial form of communication: the interaction with the public.

The forced closure to all types of users by the pandemic situation launched a series of totally new challenges for the Gunpowder Factory of Barcarena that will certainly be a unique opportunity for this magnificent museum complex to reinvent itself.

The space closed in itself and created with the main goal of preserving and safeguarding a heritage, makes no longer sense and has become unsustainable for an audience that lives in a world in constant and rapid change and that desires sensitive experiences through interconnection with the museum object.

Today’s museums are required to play a role of mediation and consecration that unites the online and offline aspects, and this gains an even greater importance with the pandemic, which made the digital the only weapon against closure.

Digitalization is nowadays a key element in the heritage mediation process. It allows the optimization of resources, disassociating them from the restricted access to academic use, enjoyment, heritage preservation for the future, creation of models that compensate the losses, new ways of exploring collections, new ways of apprenticeship, possibility for the public to create its own narratives and freedom. A fearless museum needs to open to new communication possibilities, maximizing the offer, the protagonism and involvement of the visitor with the museum.

Nowadays the Factory has the new challenge of keeping up the evolution of times.

The Factory and the Museum complex as a whole cannot escape an increasingly mobile, digital and virtual life. They have to be able to find the way between the traditional and the digital, which affects the way we live the physical space itself, where technology is a tool used to improve our experience, enhance our physical and sensory surroundings.

The factory recognizes digitalization as a key element in this new stage, aware that this must be a well thought out and structured process.

The DREAM project comes at the right moment, at the right time, being a great opportunity for the factory/Museum in partnership with Mapa das Ideias to open up to new communication possibilities, become an attractive space, maximize the information offer, giving the visitor the leading role and the opportunity to become much more involved with the museum, strengthening ties.

We are ready to embark on this journey!




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