Bryan Sitch on why collecting and displaying a refugee’s life jacket helps promote understanding between different cultures and how it is part of a project to reinvigorate collecting
Dan Hicks explores the potential and implications of digital technologies for museums in the future. He argues that the first step in this process is to recognise that museums are places not just for the display of information, but for the co-production of knowledge
What will museums be like in the future? Leading museum professionals from around the world share their ideas about the future of museums. Join the #FutureMuseum project...
Corey Timpson on the experiential design of participatory exhibitions and collecting stories as born-digital artefacts
Katherine Biggs on why the explosion of online learning offers heritage organisation the opportunity for mass engagement
Alice Millard on how adopting a rapid collection strategy allows museums to keep up-to-date with social and political changes
Rosie Stanbury on how museums of the future should enable people from different walks of life to talk about the big stuff - human endeavour, discovery, nature, history and the future
Fiona Cole-Hamilton on the challenges of attracting and engaging a new target audience and presenting complex scientific ideas
Fundraising is a massive beast, equal parts art and science, and getting it right is difficult. And every museum worker has a part to play in this process. So what’s perplexing is the relative silence surrounding the topic. Maxwell Blowfield on the urgent need to share fundraising ideas as museums have to raise more money from donations
Technology can be incredibly powerful but also risks overgrowth and overthinking the needs of our visitors. So from now on exercise a new measurement of success: if technology is the answer, then what was the question?
Annette Day on the complex ethical challenges of interpreting a difficult and disturbing collection
The instinct for ‘sharing’ is really little different to that for ‘keeping’, but it is best driven by leaders who understand the necessity to invest in parallel in collections and their audiences. Roy Clare - Director of the Auckland Museum in New Zealand - on how the market has changed and museums need to move in step to stay relevant in modern lives
Collecting is no easy matter. The frantic activity of the latter half of the 19th century and the heady take-it-all bonanza of the post-war years are things of the past. Acquisition Funds, if surviving at all, are increasingly being squeezed. Many collections are coming under threat. But collecting is, of its very nature, a future focused activity and we must nurture something of the essence of that maverick spirit which built those very collections we work so hard to protect, promote and develop. Hadrian Ellory-van Dekker on the five steps to successfully completing a seemingly ever more impossible mission.
Perhaps being average had become the modus operandi for many museums. But then a new interpretation of the traditional museum model emerged. Adam Rozan, Director of Audience Engagement at Worcester Art Museum, talks to Museum-iD magazine about audience engagement and how museums should be mindful of every opportunity to delight audience
Museums have benefited from formalizing their public offers and mitigating risk through business perspectives and approaches. But popularity has come with a price. Some museums have lost their uniqueness and authenticity. Sameness has crept into the public offer. While this can be popular it doesn’t create the most transformative of experiences. Mike Sarna argues that museums should look to their unique assets to challenge the way their public offer is delivered
Hiring great people is only part of assembling an innovative team; the team also has to develop the right muscles and then use them – repeatedly. Embracing failure and iterative development are key parts of innovative practice, but this can’t just be rhetoric. The journey also includes an examination of institutional culture and challenging traditional assumptions about accepted practice. Museums must develop practiced innovation leaders across the entire institution that can drive experimentation, organizational learning, and strategy refinement
Gravity Goldberg argues that in our desire to create innovative programming being alternative and whimsical is not enough; we must also be audacious. Gravity has done this at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco by embracing the power and possibilities of a variety of narrative interpretations and outside points of view
Emmajane Avery on how the V&A has established a dynamic dialogue with children to enable them to have a voice in the museum and ensure the collections remain relevant to their lives. The collaborate project has identified and removed barriers to access to the collections and has recruited families to devise and deliver tours.
Instagram is an increasingly popular platform for museums to explore. Russell Dornan on how the social network allows museums to create new kinds of mutual engagement
What is the creative reuse potential of collections? What do digital public reuse projects tell us about our audiences and the future of the museum? At Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums we have 9 museums and galleries and 1 archive. On the last count we had 1.1 million objects and 12 miles of filled archive shelf. The richness and creative potential of this material is limitless. Capacity at TWAM to trawl this material is very much finite
Catherine O’Donnell - Engagement and Events Officer at the People’s History Museum in Manchester - on their project to make the museum more relevant to today’s audiences. The experimenta and multidisciplinary project pushed organisational change in every area by radically altering their approach to become more relevant, resonant and responsive to their visitors needs
Art & artists is the most visited area of the Tate website with approximately 40% of users visiting these pages while browsing the site and around half a million visits per month. Elena Villaespesa carried out audience research to better understand the users as well as the motivations that drives them to the site
The informal learning landscape is changing due to a number of interconnected and interrelated drivers, such as digital and technological advances; system disruptions, including the latest economic recession and the ecological challenges; the intrinsic and economic value of knowledge; the impact and value of cultural experiences; the needs and demands of learners and academic research in neuroscience and on learning. This volatile environment creates a great deal of opportunities for museums, while at the same time, it holds some risks
Andrew Lewis outlines the data-driven strategies for delivering web and mobile services to audiences at the V&A, the importance of digital asset-management and making data web-portable. Real-life examples are used to illustrate how this strategy is translated into services that adapt flexibly and efficiently to audiences’ rapidly-changing and diverse range of digital devices, and their increasing digital expectations
Being simply average has become the modus operandi for museums. But a new and bold interpretation of the traditional museum model is slowly emerging. Adam Rozan talks to some of the pioneers in the field of audience engagement about museums that are mindful of every opportunity to delight their audiences
Major moves of collection material are more commonplace than ever in the sector, as the cost of storage rises. Museums meet this challenge in a variety of ways; from moving to out-of-town locations to the digitisation of selected material in order to widen public access. But what happens when a national museum closes for redevelopment and has to decant its entire collection to another location? Edward Purvis - Registrar at the National Army Museum in London - on using technology to overcome the challenges of moving collections
Hannah Fox of Derby Museums on developing a co-production approach that enables citizen makers and curators to get hands-on
Making a good museum game means serious collaboration between game-makers and curators. Danny Birchall and Martha Henson on how to develop engaging games for a discerning audience
Iain Watson - Director, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums - looks at the relationships between museums and stories and how stories are a way of creating meaning. In doing so he explores how the concept of ownership is developing and what this means for the role of museums in shaping as well as reflecting society
If numbers reached were the only measure of audience engagement, one could conclude that we are meeting the mark: Our three museums, The Science Museum, the National Railway Museum and the National Media Museum have 4.4 million visitors a year. But numbers are a crude measure of ‘audience engagement’ in encounters that we design to stretch, challenge and involve our visitors in an active learning experience that is ‘life-enhancing’.
Museums today operate in a new digital, participatory age. For museums these changes require new thinking with regards to audiences, collections and the basic role of the institution itself. The challenge for many museums is the balance between traditional museum activity and the social, cultural, and participatory demands from new younger audiences. Museums are often weighted toward the side of tradition and this imbalance puts museums out of step. What is needed are new models from which museums can begin to work from.
"Art isn’t just entertaining or decorative. It is life-giving." These are not the words of an art historian, but of Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, in response to seeing the Sistine Chapel tapestries reunited for the first time with Raphael’s cartoons on which they were based. He sums up the significance that art can have on human existence and in everyday life. In so doing, he highlights one of the challenges faced by today’s museums and galleries in presenting great works of art. These challenges were tackled in the redevelopment of the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Many, perhaps most, museums were set up to be democratic. Many have failed, over many years, as they succumbed to pressure from interest groups to ignore the principles upon which they were founded, and instead seek to serve elite minorities, social and academic.
Museums, more than many structures, are designed to grapple with issues around space and place. We talk about the museum space, and we acknowledge the significance of exhibitions created through the meaningful arrangement of objects in that space. We also see the museum as place, a destination for a certain kind of tourist, a wonderful place for a party, and a safe place for families and children
The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust collects and exhibits artifacts of Jewish life worldwide in the 20th century. Although we are known primarily for our prewar and Holocaust collections, we also actively collect material reflecting the vibrancy and diversity of contemporary Jewish communities. Our collections policy mandates that we collect only exhibitable material. In this time of social media, when so much happens electronically, we continue to search for compelling physical traces of events, for display now and in the future. Because ephemera is, in a word, ephemeral, we try to collect material before it is discarded: a demonstration sign lettered in magic marker on an unused pizza box; a place mat from a kosher McDonald’s in Buenos Aires
The Canadian Museum of History recently undertook a major organizational change to meet visitor needs and expectations, and the demands of an increasingly fast-paced and integrated workplace. To allow us to deliver a more innovative and integrated visitor experience, we struck a working group of cross-divisional staff to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the existing Exhibition Development process.
On 20 January 2010 a single tweet sparked a lively debate on Twitter. “Is augmented reality really useful for a museum/gallery or is it over hyped?” was the question posed by @MuseumNext. Augmented Reality (AR) is a hot topic in the museum community. It is a frequently used buzz word in conferences and meeting rooms. It is widely discussed, but not well understood. Since that original debate, several museums have tackled the challenge of creating AR applications that deliver value for museum visitors.
We’ve really done it this time. We brought pornography into the 19th Century historic house museum. And not 19th Century pornography, though of course, we’re fans of that as well. No, this time we brought the real thing, hardcore: dildos, whips, vulvas, cocks of every shape, size, and color, and put it all up on the big screen for the public to view. Call it the dream of a mischievous museum worker. Or, call it a successful outreach plan.
Linda Duke - Director of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Kansas State University, and prior Director of Engagement at the Indianapolis Museum of Art - on the need for museums - art museums, certainly, but other kinds of museums as well - to be clear about the role they play in providing and raising consciousness of aesthetic experience for the public
Strategic marketing, clear objectives and conscious branding have been some of the success factors for the Swedish National Museums of World Culture. In around 10 years, the number of visitors to the four museums that make up the organisation has increased by more than 350%, and some of the country’s most prestigious cultural institutions have been successfully repositioned. But with a highly streamlined organisation and a limited budget, the rapid development within digital media, which in itself contains so many positive opportunities, is a major challenge.
Alongside the essential need for museums to examine how they interact with the world and change their behaviours to become more sustainable, museums also need to consider, within the specificity of each of their missions, how they can craft exhibitions, permanent displays and public programmes to create exciting new interventions about the environment. Sharon Ament - Director of the Museum of London and past Director of Public Engagement at the Natural History Museum, London - on museums and the part they can and should play in the future of the planet
Over the last 40 years many museums have been established dedicated to celebrating the technology, life and landscape of individual industries, or localities and regions. Generally, two methods of interpretation are used - explaining the technology of industry, and providing a “taste” of what life in an industrial community was like in its heyday. The first method tends to be very object-centred and technically-focussed, while the second often attempts to give the visitor an immersive environmental experience. We attempted to break out from this mould in a thoughtful and elegant way.
The expanding online landscape for museum audience engagement lends a new urgency to the questions: What is the museum’s responsibility to those who may never be able to visit the physical museum in person? And, how can museums engage online audiences on all the platforms they now use with the same degree of impact, if not the same kind of experience, as the “real world” museum encounter?
As museum professionals we must look at ourselves, our curatorial practices, exhibition programming, acquisitions polices, educational activities, and all client services such as marketing and development and ask ourselves – who is this for? Are we honestly able to say, when we develop and eventually make some form of narrative available to the public, through our displays and programmes, that we are democratic and speaking on behalf of the masses?
The individuality and uniqueness of a museum and its collections shape the emotional well-being of visitors and the value they place on their museum experience. The potential that collections have to strike a chord and make a personal connection to an individual is hugely powerful. However it is not the collections alone that define a museum’s uniqueness or identity. Claire Benjamin - Head of Communities at National Museums Liverpool - on how the overall holistic experience, be this the visitor welcome, educational message or participation, makes one museum stand out over another