How do you define culture?
‘Culture’ can be an intangible thing - that each of us struggles to explain or put down in words.
So, we want to hear from people of all ages and all walks of life about what culture means to them. Is it a space or place? A feeling, a moment or a connection with people? We’re gathering voices from across the city to help us express through a series of short blog posts how culture can play an active role in our everyday lives.
Below, Jennifer Duffy, Visitor Experience Assistant at National Library of Ireland, tells us what culture means to her.
Jennifer has hosted several Culture Club events with us fpr the National Library of Ireland. Culture Club is a series of events that helps you see, experience Dublin’s cultural places. You can find out more about Culture Club here.
Connecting through culture
As someone who works with an exhibition, and who spends a lot of her free time reading or watching films, culture forms a huge part of my life. At first I found this brief hard to answer, wondering how to explain the formative role culture has played in my life.
Upon reflection, I decided that for me culture is all about connection.
Culture can help build connections between communities and diverse experiences. Films, literature, art, theatre and music can introduce us to experiences that are vastly different to our own. While we live in a digital era, with a wealth of information at our fingertips, I believe the creative arts still enable us to understand things more deeply through engaging with another viewpoint. The emotional component of story facilitates empathy and shows the shared concerns and feelings that we all experience, regardless of circumstance.
Access to new worlds
Culture can also help us know ourselves better. It can lead us to reflect on our own lives and experiences, to reconsider where we find meaning and value. Some of our consumption of culture can be private and personal, and can help us work through hardship or develop our own sense of self. Seeing yourself reflected in the media you consume can be a very validating and profound experience. Culture can help us make sense of the world – think of the role books can play when discussing difficult emotions with children, for example.
Through public libraries we have access to worlds of knowledge across the globe and throughout time. We are so lucky in Dublin that so many of our museums and galleries have free admission. This allows people to enjoy the exhibits irrespective of income or to revisit a collection and enjoy it at their own pace. I think we still have a lot of work to do to make our cultural institutions accessible and comfortable for all, just because a place has free admission does not mean everyone feels free to enter. Improving accessibility in all senses should be our priority.
Some of the most meaningful moments of my museum work have been when visitors shared their stories and perspectives with me. It is often said that we are a nation of storytellers, and working in cultural and heritage sites has proved this time and time again. While we connect to the paintings, books or songs in question, these art forms also enable us to connect with one another. They act as springboards for all types of discussions, lessons and experiences.
During the pandemic, cultural events have been an important contact point for me. As part of the team at ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again’ hosting workshops for Culture Club has been a wonderful chance to ‘meet’ with people and discuss poetry. The poems led people to reflect on their own experiences, to share insights and suggest additional readings for others to explore.
Throughout lockdowns, culture has provided me with escapism, comfort and community, all from within the walls of my tiny apartment.