Last week I was in Stockholm to give a talk on ‘Museum Crowdsourcing Games: Improving Collections Through Play (and some thoughts on re-inventing museums)‘. Again, my thanks to @kajsahartig and @nordiskamuseet for the invitation to speak, and to all the lovely people I met for sharing their own stories with me, and for listening to a talk in English. The quote of the day came from @charlotteshj during a panel discussion on museums and innovation at the end of the day: digital museum collections should be ‘shareable, spreadable and nerd-friendly’.
Based on what I learnt about the audience I ended up including more explanatory material on museum crowdsourcing games and didn’t really have time for the ‘re-inventing museums’ bits, so I thought I’d share those notes here. It’s still very much a work-in-progress but since there are so many smart people thinking about the same subject, it’s worth sharing for comment… (Also because Jasper Visser, who is also thinking about the future of museums, asked me what I was going to say. Btw, Jasper’s #kulturwebb talk inspired the whole room, watch the video on his post about it.)
I know the future of museums lies in fitting into people’s lives as well as being a destination; being the cathedral and being in the bazaar. Cultural heritage needs to be ‘out there’ to help people value and make time for visits the physical place. It’s about new types of engagement and outreach. It’s not all digital, but as the world is networked and mobile and social, we should be too.
I was thinking about new metaphors for museums – what if we were Amazon? A local newspaper? A specialist version of Wikipedia? A local pub? A student blog? A festival, a series of lectures, or a film group? A pub quiz? Should a museum be at the heart of village life, a meeting place for art snobs, a drop-in centre, a café, a study space, a mobile showroom?
But I realised that the answer to the question of the future of museums is deeply personal to any museum, because museums exist in the intersection of their collections, their fans and their local audiences. This is good, because it means you can apply your existing knowledge about what your audiences love about you. The answer to the question ‘what would your museum be if it was invented in 2011?’ is up to you…
Every time I approach the question of the future of museums, or of how the future of museums will be informed by what’s happening the world today, I seem to come at it from a different angle. Today I’m wondering about the implications of the fact that there are no (g-rated) offline activities anymore – people will do almost anything with their mobile in one hand, and could be doing anything from googling to find out more about the museum object in front of them to looking up the lyrics of that one-hit wonder from that summer they went camping with friends. Their head could be in any space as well as in your space.
I’m also thinking about outreach, whether improving wikipedia articles, snippets of local history on the back of pub toilet doors or putting a museum exhibition in a truck and taking it to kids in the outer suburbs. Tomorrow I’ll wake up with some new ‘what if?’ in my head. And I’m curious – what are you thinking about the future of museums?