Preserving tradition: A new digital repository aims to become a reference website for Portuguese crafts, promoting them as contemporary activities
A new digital repository has been launched to “safeguard, recognise and promote Portuguese handmade products”.
As part of a broader cultural programme, the Saber Fazer (Know How) platform is designed as an ongoing project, which, over the years, will compile and share information about all traditional Portuguese arts and crafts and the country’s artisans.
The digital repository is part of the Saber Fazer programme, announced in July 2019 by the Portuguese government to affirm traditional craft production as “a dynamic, innovative and sustainable sector”. Among the programme’s first measures, the Saber Fazer repository was created to gather and disseminate knowledge about traditional craft production through a digital platform.
The page organises, describes and gives access to information about the artisans, natural materials and technologies that transform them as well as places where anyone can gain more knowledge about these practices, such as museums, institutions, workshops and interpretive centres.
The project involves mapping and characterising each traditional art in Portugal. It is “a Herculean work of collecting dispersed information, from city councils, craft centres, museums and universities”, carried out by the Directorate-General for Arts (DGArtes), explains the General Director of Arts, Américo Rodrigues. It is a work in progress. “From today onwards, it won’t stop. For years and years to come, we will be feeding the platform, not least because there is an invitation on the website for people to participate,” says Rodrigues.
Designed as a user-friendly website, the platform is straightforward to navigate, enabling users to find information quickly. The contents are presented in accessible language with different levels of interest and depth on each topic, together with beautiful photography depicting each craft, appealing to visitors of all ages. The idea is to promote the crafts as contemporary activities and for the platform to become a reference for Portuguese arts and crafts, making craft products and services more accessible.
Over the centuries, crafts have survived and thrived thanks to knowledge-sharing, as masters passed down and taught their skills to their apprentices. With many of these crafts at risk of disappearing, the platform comes to give these trades a boost, offering anyone the possibility to learn about crafts and techniques online or to find live workshops and courses.
The Saber Fazer repository works “like a large atlas” that maps the existence of artisans and artists of traditional arts and crafts throughout the country, with interactive maps, photo galleries and texts about each practice.
The repository also includes the Saber Fazer Routes, a selection of thematic routes dedicated to a specific art or craft. These include black clay pottery, wicker basketry, cordgrass weaving, tinwork, wood furniture making and wool weaving.
Each route is explained in detail in downloadable PDFs featuring information about the art or craft, where it is practised today and where it can be learnt.
With no starting or ending points, the routes allow anyone to build their journey through Portuguese arts and crafts. Each point on the route corresponds to a place of knowledge and practice, forming a living network of sites to find, discover or learn about these skills.
The project is essential for the sector, as it values the social, cultural and economic dimensions of arts and crafts. It is a tool that will reflect the work carried out by the Ministry of Culture and its partners, who have collected, organised, produced and shared knowledge on these practices, local agents and their raw materials, underlining their relevance as tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
The mission, notes Américo Rodrigues, is to “disseminate knowledge about these practices, about traditional arts and crafts” and help people discover artisans and workshops across the country.
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