We believe the project will capture peoples imagination, confirm their belief in quality and prove the value of skills in crafts, and it does it all by products that people can touch and taste, take home, talk about and savour. As they do, they help preserve the best parts of their heritage and perhaps best of all, create local employment for young people by supporting a heritage that earns its own keep.
An Économusée is an important cultural tourism attraction and contributes to the sustainability of rural areas through the creation of direct employment and by providing an attraction that disperses tourists to rural regions.
The Économusée concept originated over 20 years ago in Quebec, Canada, where there are now over 50 Économusées contributing to employment and the maintenance of local skills and knowledge in traditional rural businesses ranging from artisan food to boat building”.
Economusée Northern Europe has been a European project between 7 North European countries funded by the NPP-Northern Periphery program. It is also an innovative cooperation based on a successful concept and network with more than 50 artisan member companies that have been established in Eastern Canada during the last 20 years.
Today, there are more than 500 artisans in Canada who proudly present and promote their crafts and Économusées as visitor centers, – to more than 900 000 visitors a year. All the Économusées are private companies that fund their daily operations by themselves. An Économusée combines culture, craft, and tourism to create an economy platform for craft artisans practicing traditional techniques in order to help the crafts survive and create new jobs.
The European project, which focuses on rural or remote communities, assisted remote areas with the transformation of 17 artisan businesses into Économusées that now showcase their indigenous crafts and traditions, as well as providing new jobs and training of young people. The project saw the participating artisan businesses grow. The project has been a great tool to mobilise interest in the local communities and in the public sector in each of the partner regions. This has undoubtedly helped save vulnerable partners and see extra money brought in to each of the artisan companies.
The project has not, for any artisan, helped subsidize the conversion work of their premises or supported financially, the purchase of machines etc. As a result of the Économusée project and the 17 Économusées, 23 full time and 25 new part-time jobs within traditional crafts have been established, and many more jobs have been safeguarded for the future.
The project has generated local interest around each artisan member and this in itself has been good both for the locality and for the artisans. In fact, one of the overarching ideals of the project, to help illustrate to young people that there is a future, in their local communities, in traditional craft occupations – if upgraded and incorporated in a modern setting – has been achieved in this way.
An Économusée is a heritage that earns its keep by combining economy and culture! An artisan craft business that would like to become an Économusée will have to go through a comprehensive process of selection, feasibility study, contracting and physical transformation.
There are six principal components that are universal for the Economusee which needs to be an integral part of the transformation, i.e. 1. the reception and welcoming area, 2. the production and creation room, 3. traditional & historic production area, 4. contemporary crafts presentation, 5. information & documentation centre and 6. the important boutique or sales and display area.
A transformation process requires the intervention and cooperation between the artisan and a team of specially trained ethnologists, architects, designers, as well as various building trades. However, there are adaptations to the concept in the Nordic countries because of different socio-economic contexts, types of handicrafts and places etc., where these trades are practiced. Being an Économusée also provides membership of a non-profit ideal organization that have committees, codes of ethics, and business advisors etc., to support their quest for excellence.
An Économusée, therefore, creates conditions for artisans to continue to produce their crafts and become sustainable by an increase in sales and by showcasing their heritage to the local community and tourists. Consequently, an Économusée often become important heritage “institutions” for the local communities as they often portray a craft that is an important shared heritage for many people in an area.