A new breed of museums are here.
Why they change the cultural game.
All started two years ago.
I was doing some research on the cultural market regarding museums in Brazil when I discovered something bigger than I imagined.
A new kind of museums had born with the digital revolution, and with this I believe they will represent the museums of tomorrow.
But this, I just understood it later.
In our fast moving world, the impact digital have had on the cultural market is not as impressive as other areas, specially since the cultural market is mainly living by subsidies and is not really focused on the money side, but on their social impact.
However, even with a social mission embedded in them, museums need to make money.
Digital looked like an amazing opportunity to bring new revenues, and still is. With a whopping 109% increase revenues for Art e-commerces in 2015
(BI 2015) it shows that the public is ready to purchase art related products online.
Nevertheless, adding E-commerce to museums sites won’t probably be the answer to museums challenges. Specially regarding funding.
The cultural universe is divided: On one side you have worldwide players that receive public and private grants on an ongoing basis, and on the other, you have smaller museums that every year, fight for their survival.
So we reached a point where even museums, are subject the the “starization’ happening in society. While this scenario look unfair, it is only the reflect of our society and the structure museums are built upon.
Inventory: Where it all begins.
Considered as treasures, and historical reliques, museums have built an unique inventory through the years, receiving it from donors or buying it, and it represents their very blood of it. Museums compete with each others based on this inventory, and it brings three major problems:
Renewability of stock.
Inventory managing costs.
Renewability of stock:
As the inventory being the big differentiator between museums, everyone of them have hunted all these years for the best pieces to hold and, constructed an extensive and very expensive inventory that, they feel obliged to show and monetize in order to justify the very existence of this inventory on the first place.
So museums ends up with some keys masterpieces (depending on how prestigious they are) and a bunch of other pieces accumulated through the years that the lambda visitors won’t even know or care.
Because of the numbers of pieces museums have, and the prices it cost to acquire new ones, it is relatively difficult for museums to get access to new pieces that would draw the attention of the public. The thing is once seen, their own inventory become a commodity for most of visitors, and it represents the start of a vicious circle that is permeating museums today.
People don’t feel like coming back multiple times at museums.
This would explain why the most successful museums of the world are based in the most touristic cities of the world, that have this ways a fresh pool of newcomers arriving every single day.
This, is probably the most challenging place of traditional museums.
Each pieces of this inventory being sometimes worth millions, it needs to be safely kept, but also taken care of by a team of specialist that are able to handle very fragile and historical artworks with the latest technologies available. Multiply it with inventories of 100 000 pieces or more, and you can understand why costs in museums are high.
What you see, is in fact the part of the iceberg.
To finish, showcasing all this inventory is the last pain point museums struggle with.
During the research, I saw that on average, only 10% of the whole inventory are showcased to the public, the rest of artworks being hidden from us due to lack of space, or good state. This directly impact the first item of this list, being the renewability of the existing stock and thus completing the circle.
All these points represent the past, a mindset that I believe will fade, because representative of our consumerist society that wants to hold as much as possible. This is why the museums I have discovered are betting on technology or superstar artworks to draw the crowd, but focus on something that is far more precious.
Using our owns lives as experience for us to learn and grow, these museums offer an intelligent manner to surf on being curious of others people lives.
This time only it has a goal: To understand the symbols, motivations and stories behind the pictures we expose of ourselves, and thats exactly where museums should go next.
For me, the future of museums should hold in getting people closer, understanding better the people we live next to, and get us more sensitive and less individualistic. This is what our century needs.
These museums inspire themselves from a mindset that is very much similar to the digital one, and it brings a lot of freshness to a traditional market.
They are Collaborative.
They are Interactive.
They relate for each one of us in a personal and unique way.
They are scalable.
To finish, they offer us an experience in seeing through the eyes of totally different person.
A totally virtual museum, for offers and in depth experience to others people lives, and defining moments.
You can search in one of the 7000 stories available online, and create your own collections of people stories available. Each story is unique, and offer us a unique perspective on challenges, pains and conquests of people through their lives.
Now, people are literally like an open book.
Both virtual, and physical, it represents for me what the museum of the future will provide.
To have the content to consume it at home (a la Netflix), or the possibility to go to the exhibitions and experience it live. (VR might help in this regard to democratize this).
What the museum offer you, is to literally walk (and physically feeling the discomfort it might be) with someone else shoes of somebody while listening to their story.
I can’t wait multimedia storyteller staring to create narrative in this way!!
Museum of Broken relationships:
This is my favorite, because it mixes a subject I find fascinating, and all the characteristics I was talking about.
People send an object that represent a story of their relationship, specially the end of the latter, and the object turns itself as an artwork during the exposition. I found this idea brilliant, because you gain a perception of everyday objects that you couldn’t have by yourself.
By bringing everyday humans at the center of the expositions and not “gifted artists” , these museums are changing the narrative of what art means.
Art in this case is a story from somebody that can change your perspective. They are participating of something bigger that it happening in the world right now —The redefinition of existing definitions of our world.
It is an exciting time for museums.
To finish, the fact that these models are scalable and replicable regarding of the location is what make them more powerful, and will permit them to gain more traction within the communities they are inserted. In some years they might become one of the major actors of change within society by facilitating the understanding of people between each other.
I hope so.
Thanks for reading. I am Alexis Gérôme, a curious mind about the world we live in. Actually creative & strategist, helping the biggest brands find meaning in the digital world while solving real users problems instead of next quarters chimera.
Passionate about culture, relationships, food, innovation and people.
World citizen — Actually in Rio de Janeiro @HugeRio.
Looking forward hearing from you.