Top 10 Museum Trends in 2019

From augmented reality to goat yoga, discover the museum trends that will shape 2019.
This lists also highlights organizations and museum professionals that are redefining the future of museums.

#10 — Foodies Invade the Museum

  • Visitors expect food choices that match their lifestyle and smart museum professionals are stepping up to this trend. “Our guests are eating lighter and more conscientiously and that means offering menu items that include vegetarian and gluten free options, said Maureen Sharaf, foodservices manager at Millstone Café at the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, PA.
  • Also the Smithsonian’s newest restaurant offers burgers and fries as well as pan-fried rainbow trout with a side of hazelnut butter.

#9 — Museum Meetups Become Common

#8 — Museums Finally Take a Stand

  • Anyone who has watched the news for the past 12 months or past 12 minutes can easily tell that things are broken. Research explains that museums are viewed as one of the few remaining places to get true statements and discover educational joy. Expect more museums to strengthen their missions by directly highlighting community challenges. The Tenement Museum, a historic site that focuses on 19th century European immigration to NYC is now engaging the current U.S. — Mexican border refugee conversation.
  • This trend is quickly growing, art museums from Birmingham to Portland are also addressing local community challenges.

#7 — Trusted Places and Safe Spaces

  • If knowledge is truly power, then museums should have great leverage to step in as a center for facts and accuracy. As a smart museum professional here is an opportunity to serve as an active change maker. The public wants your museum to be relevant.

#6 — Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality Goes Mainstream

  • There are a lot of questions surrounding artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and its relation to museums. What about an automated collections process or an algorithm that creates programs or exhibits? Though museum professionals are not getting replaced anytime soon, AR/VR is playing a role in replacing the standard visitor experience. There is a growing field of affordable options for augmented reality.
  • Recently, the Los Angeles Natural History Museum hosted a 6-minute VR underwater expedition. The experience let visitors “swim” without the need for underwater breathing equipment. This example is a great way to spark the minds of visitors and gain a foothold in the growing STEAM initiative.

#5 — More Shared Histories

  • The open secret that most museum professionals are ignoring is the boom in genealogy research. Due to inexpensive genetic testing and the digitization of personal data, thousands of people are building a deep interest in past family lines. In 2018, Ancestry.com announced that it had tested over 7 million people. This explosion in genealogy is a great opportunity to create sustainable programming and exhibits tied to community origins.
  • It also opens the door for museums to reveal and share local non-Eurocentric stories. In the American South, Historic Columbia, is doing an excellent job of preserving the home of a local civil rights activist as well as interpreting the importance of black freedom.

#4 — Expect New Leadership Models

  • Here is another open secret that museum professionals won’t say out aloud — museum attendance rates are declining across the globe. Artnet reported, “In total, London’s seven biggest art institutions have seen their attendance figures plummet from more than 26 million in 2014 to 24.7 million in 2017.” Lower attendance is also happening in U.S. art and history museums.
  • Smart museum professionals understand the need to be relevant to the general public. Here are two museum directors that exemplify data-driven museum leadership — Charles Venable at Newfields (he dramatically increased attendance by combining the arts, nature and a beer garden) and Jennifer Trainer Thompson at Hancock Shaker Village (she introduced farm-to-table dinners and goat yoga to a village farm museum).

#3 — Making Data-Driven Museum Decisions

  • As the majority of museums continue to struggle with audience engagement, a few set of cultural institutions are increasing audience growth and engagement through data analytics.
  • Imagine if you could click 2–3 buttons on your computer, get a real-time dashboard that highlighted your museum’s audience trends and then automatically receive a personalized recommendation for audience growth. It’s not magic, it’s real. Here’s a shortlist list of museums that are using data analytics as a competitive advantage.

#2 — Everyone Museum Should Have an Instagram Moment

  • If your museum’s average visitor is over 60 years old, your museum will continue to face attendance and engagement issues. As a law of nature, older audiences are decreasing every day and museums need to grow by focusing on younger visitors.
  • Sustainable growth can easily happen by purposely creating “Instagram Moments,” these are experiences worth sharing on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WeChat etc.)
  • As museums across the world are struggling to figure out how to get younger people through the doors, for-profit companies have hijacked the term “museum” to fulfill the exhibit experiences that younger audiences want.

#1 — Museums Embrace the Startup Mindset

  • What happens when you have limited funds and a stretched staff working on multiple projects in high pressure situations? A typical day for a museum professional. The only difference between a museum and a tech startup is how each group responds to limited resources, overworked staff and demanding tasks. The lean startup drives towards innovation, while the traditional museum drives toward conservatism.
  • The museum now more than ever has the ability to utilize free and low-cost tools to leverage the nimble startup spirit.

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