by Diane Drubay, Founder of We Are Museums
Diane Drubay was invited to speak about the future of museums as part of the “Reframe! The future starts at the museum” launch evening organised by the development fund Engagement Migros for a conference entitled “Rising to the challenge. Digital innovation in museums” on April 26 2018.
A cultural platform in Lausanne where debates can be held, people can meet and culture can flourish, a place of inspiration and relaxation showcasing fine and contemporary art, photography and design — Lausanne is preparing to open a new arts district to local communities and visitors in 2019. Plateforme 10 is a new urban development that will offer people breathing space in the built-up area around Lausanne railway station in Switzerland.
At We Are Museums, we monitor social and cultural trends, good museum practice and the impact of advanced technology at museums on a daily basis, and it seemed logical to us to take the exercise a little further. We analysed the past and present of museums to define five museum models for 2030: the activist museum, the entrepreneurial museum, the neighbourhood museum, the medina museum and the transformative museum.
However, Diane Drubay’s address at “Reframe! The future starts at the museum” focused on the various ways of implementing these models by 2030.
We are beginning to see models emerge which provide some indication of what museums will be like in 2030. Museums have been suffering an identity crisis for a number of years — they are attempting to renew themselves by focusing on visitors, and specifically by placing themselves within an eco-system rather than at its centre. We have observed museums changing their position in society and seeking to play a useful and active role in the development of individuals and communities. They are changing their mission statements and goals, aiming to break loose from the weightiness of their collections and become more like community or social centres.
Let’s take a step back and try to understand where these models for 2030 come from. The impact of globalization, urbanization and digitalization on our lives is discussed almost every day in the media, but I would also add three other fundamental mega-trends that are influencing the development of museums: the revolution of working world due to new organizational structures and working practices, inspired by the agility and flexibility of start-ups; the affluent society, its cult of happiness and the search for simplicity and self-awareness; and the process of humanization that is leading us to focus on our humanity and rediscover what makes us different and authentic.
1 — From globalization to the “activist museum”
The museum — a place of trust
The effects of globalization are creating worldwide movements which saw the US elections in 2017 take on an international dimension. Above all, it was the rise of fake news that left its mark on public consciousness and museums last year. It enabled museums to begin responding to their identity crisis by establishing themselves as guardians of the truth. By investigating historical events or by analysing history to better understand the present, museums are abandoning their neutrality and taking up a position. Museums are now regarded as safe places where views can be expressed and heard.
2 — From digitalization to the “entrepreneurial museum”
The hybrid museum
Museums are beginning to embrace a new way of working and conceptualising their space in order to create new opportunities for cooperation and interaction. We are increasingly seeing the emergence of museums that double as community centres, coworking spaces, recreational areas, refugee centres etc.
I’ll give you just one example, because there are dozens of them, but in June the @leCMN will also become an incubator for start-ups called “L’incubateur du Patrimoine”, aiming to support the development of cultural start-ups by providing an incubation programme, CMN teams and, above all, various group venues for experimentation.
The virtual companion museum
The museum becomes a virtual companion thanks to intelligent systems that accompany people during their visit and beyond.
We are not talking about IBM’s Watson here but affordable solutions, such as those provided by start-ups like Ask Mona in France or Artalk in Morocco, which offer visitors immediate assistance during their cultural excursions or museum trips using artificial intelligence — these solutions are effectively augmented chatbots.
3 — From urbanization to the “neighbourhood museum”
The permeable museum
Inspired by the cosmopolitan make-up of its visitors, the museum is developing its purpose, identity and form by adapting to local and global developments in society. The museum is constantly listening to what goes on between its walls to ensure it becomes an integral player in community movements.
The Middlesbrough Museum of Modern Art aims to play a useful role for its local visitors by providing a programme that meets the needs of the museum’s neighbours, including community lunches and computers with internet access, all of which is set against the backdrop of the museum’s temporary exhibitions.
The Jewish museum in Frankfurt @@jmfrankfurt is currently undergoing a period of renovation and is constructing an annexe that will allow it to carry out various initiatives to test out its ideas on the city’s residents. The museum runs various temporary venues in the city and provides a social and convivial space where workshops, concerts and debates create a platform for contemporary Jewish culture and illustrate how such spaces can serve their communities.
The universal local museum
Conflict, climate change and economic and political migration are creating a new map of the world. In cities whose diversity is growing at a rapid pace, we find cosmopolitan citizens who are influenced by various cultures through their family life, their professional contacts, or the internet.
Museums can act as bridges between local people and new arrivals by initiating dialogue, as well as showing the way forward by integrating diverse groups of people and opening up the museum’s collections and programmes by discussing different cultures and creating a historical perspective and context for migration.
The Emigration Museum in Gdynia in Poland @MuzeumEmigracji regards each wave of emigration as unique and worthy of being preserved. Whether the emigration is due to political motives or a love story, the museum highlights the fact that emotion is the common denominator in every journey. It is this emotional aspect that is showcased in the rooms of the museum.
4 — From humanization to the “medina museum”
The experiential museum
The rise of experience as a means of learning and discovery in museums is encouraging curators to create genuine emotional, intellectual and virtual journeys enriched by detailed narration.
Part of the permanent walk-through at the natural history museum in Paris @Le_Museum, this exhibition room aims to enhance some of the collections using temporary virtual reality exhibitions. For example, the current exhibition about evolution takes visitors on a journey through the history of our planet’s species against a backdrop of meditative music using an immersive graphic universe.
The intangible museum
More and more museums are collecting intangible heritage to create empathy and contribute towards social cohesion and help maintain cultural diversity.
For example, @ImagineIC is a cultural centre on the outskirts of Amsterdam which seeks to archive what makes up a district and to understand the social impact that shared heritage can have on its residents.
Another example that I find fascinating is the White Cube in Lusanga in the Congo, which is a research and contemporary art centre seeking to create a “post-plantation” movement with local communities. This is a venue used for social and community purposes which focuses on helping local people to transform the plantations into sustainable ecological and economic resources.
5 — From the wellness-oriented society to the “transformative museum”
The museum of well-being
In view of the ultra-virtualization of social interaction and the geographical upheavals that we are currently experiencing, visitors are seeking authenticity and reality in order to rediscover the source of what they have experienced. The museum becomes a place of well-being where people enjoy spending time and reconnecting with themselves.
Museums are trying to adapt to the requirements and schedules of visitors by providing yoga sessions (such as at the Victoria & Albert Museum) or relaxation sessions where visits incorporate meditation or stretching exercises (as at the Museum of Pont-Aven), as well as a host of other activities where people can use art to achieve a healthy body and mind.
These yoga, meditation and contemplation sessions are a first step towards transforming the museum into a source of well-being. They are very easy to set up and provide an opportunity to work with local groups who are almost certain to attract new audiences.
The @museumnohero, which opened in the Netherlands last week, encourages the use of art and museums in the search for happiness. The museum aims to highlight what connects us all as human beings and to use art to give meaning to life.
Imagine if the principal aim of a museum’s contents and collections was to be freely accessible to the whole world, to encourage creativity and contemplation as well as intellectual, sensory and emotional development, and for museums to become places where people can reconnect with humanity.
Is your museum going through an identity crisis? Do you feel an affinity with one of the models for the museums of the future? Take a moment to reflect and then make the leap into the future — how would you define a museum?