The Vjosa / Aoos river eco-museum: A transboundary project that promotes and protects natural and cultural heritage

Vjosa / Aoos river The contribution of cultural values to the wise use of wetlands is an important axis of interest for MedWet. In that framework it is important to promote innovative projects that link the natural and cultural values of wetland sites in the Mediterranean. The Vjosa / Aoos river eco-museum project (VAEcoM) implemented through a Greek-Albanian partnership, is such a project and so we took the opportunity to take a short interview from Alexis Katsaros and Aphroditi Sorotou from the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (Med-INA) , the lead partner to the project.

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” and is being implemented by Med-INA and Pindos Perivallontiki on the side of Greece and by the Institute for Nature Conservation in Albania – INCA  and The Forest Service Directorate in Permet on the side of Albania.

Can you explain us what is the ecomuseum concept?

Stitched Panorama. Vjosa / Aoos river

An Ecomuseum retains the basic features of a museum and in this sense is a non-profit permanent institution, in the service of the society and its development, open to the public. It conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of the region and its environment for the purposes of study, education and enjoyment. The Ecomuseum term was first introduced by the French museologist  Hugues de Varine in 1971. It is a dynamic way in which communities preserve, interpret, and manage their heritage for a sustainable development and it is based on a community agreement. In other words, an Ecomuseum is the identity of a place, presented through structure routes within a spatio-temporal context.

What are the main characteristics of the Vjosa-Aoos River Ecomuseum?

The river, the movement of the water, the conditions created in its shorelines and the opportunities it has given through centuries for species to evolve are the main subjects and the sources of inspiration for the thematic routes of the Ecomuseum. This museum without walls will not be just the result of the knowledge and imagination of a museologist but it will depict the aspirations and beliefs of the societies around it. Traversing the lands along the Aoos/Vjosa river is like a crossing through mystic routes of natural and cultural wonders, that the traditional wise use of resources and the dynamism of the environment inscribed on them.

How will the local communities be involved in the project?

Stitched PanoramaLocal communities participate from the beginning. They actively contribute in its development, such as the conducting of the scenarios of the thematic routes and through applied studies, providing testimonials and relevant material (photos, videos etc.). Within the project framework, it is expected that they will soon operate as an official network, consisted of local participants, public and private organisations, local producers, other stakeholders, etc.;  the Ecomuseum will continue its activities, make the museum known and extend the opportunities for cross-border cooperation beyond the life cycle of the project.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of the project? Will there be a lasting impact in the area?

We have already seen that the project has a significantly positive impact on this cross-border area in a socio-cultural, economic and environmental level by improving communications and connectivity amongst the local societies, will initiate new projects and foster future cooperation, and will enhance the welfare and development of local communities. The development of the ecomuseum through research and cooperation with the local communities is expected to have the following tangible results: Four thematic routes (the scenario of which reveals the identity of the region); a Trilingual guide; a dedicated website; a virtual tour of the ecomuseum; an international conference and two capacity building workshops; and finally the establishment of the Ecomuseum network.

When will the Ecomuseum be launched ?

It is expected that the Vjosa-Aoos River Ecomuseum will open its doors late October 2013. For more information please visit please visit the Ecomuseum website:
or contact Alexis Katsaros