Dear audience: some thoughts on the Museum Next 2011 conference

Photo album by atendees of the conference.

“Dear Audience” was the title of a series of meetings and discussions organized by CCCB Lab in 2009. The event helped to reflect on the role that the public should have in the process of creating an artistic or cultural project in the context of technological change in which the voice of the public is increasingly protagonist. The issue remains a major concern for museums, as we could read in the papers of the conferences held by Museum Next in Edinburgh last May. Users of the museum – and not technology – are the engine of change in cultural institutions. The challenge is how to integrate the voice and needs of the user in our programs, buildings and collections. And technology, the creation of multidisciplinary teams and designing a comprehensive strategy with new media are allies to be considered to achieve good results. We make a summary of 6 points from some of the impressions we took from Museum Next.

  1. Turn to the audience, user-centered design. Given the fact that the widespread public in museums is decreasing and aging gradually, museums have among their priorities working with the public. The challenge is how to connect, get involved and interact with visitors, especially with young people who will be the future users of museums. In this sense, the project N8 submitted by the project manager, Geer Oskam, seemed an exciting and innovative initiative . N8 is a project that is bringing audiences of between 18 and 35 year old to museums in Amsterdam. How? Curators themselves are young people who are less than 25 years old and organize a series of online and offline activities – including the Museum Night in Amsterdam -. They do not have a working relationship with the museums, their profits come from ticket sales and sponsors – they work independently and with content created specifically by and for young people. The tendency, then, is that museums are boosted towards programming models focused on the user (” bottom-up “) just like the tools and projects, seeking a closer relationship so you feel more involved and loyal to the museum.
  2. Comprehensive and integrated strategy. Strategies for working through a review of three areas that can not be understood or thought separately: physical space (museum, exhibition or collection), virtual (web series or online files and social networks) and mobile space (cellphones). The design of the physical and virtual experience is thought under the strategic paradigm. These are not new technologies to new technologies, but seem to integrate both the virtual and physical.
  3. Schedule activities. Most museums a the Next Museum conferences have a collection. Therefore, one of the issues that was raised is the need to program activities (including virtual ones) beyond the collection to complement them and provide them with new perspectives. It was understood that the use of new technologies should be used to extend, and disseminate its contents to prevail beyond the date of the activity. In his speech Jasper Visser, Project Manager New Media Technology and the Nationaal Historisch Museum, talked about of the possibility of extending the life of a classroom activity with existing digital and social media so that the public associated with this activity continue to work in areas such as Wikipedia, Flickr or on YouTube. According to him, it is key to multimedia projects to provide holistic content where the audience interacts.
  4. Transversal and multidisciplinary teams. Some museums have a department or team dedicated to new media and audience, composed of a multidisciplinary team (technology, exhibitions, participation, space). Participatory projects are meant to engage all those involved in the project, considering the 3 spheres must be an overall strategy of the institution.
  5. Importance of data and ongoing research. Studies and analysis of public data (web traffic, online reputation etc..) And results on the behavior, and uses of user-generated content have become key to assess the viability and success of a project and redefining the global strategy. Museums are constantly seeking what lines and participatory projects have to be carried out to adapt to a changing audience and a young, growing technology.
  6. Beta on a permanent basis. Museums operate in a context of constant beta trial and error attitude. Within the overall strategy we must be aware that we must take risks with new and unknown things and learn from mistakes. There are no manuals of use for the current context.

Museum Next is an interesting meeting to share information about the future of museums and what are the trends and future concerns of cultural institutions. Next year, as announced by the conference director Jim Richardson, the meeting will be in Barcelona.

We list here of some of the links, online resources and projects presented at Museum Next that we think may be useful as sources of inspiration:

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Dear audience: some thoughts on the Museum Next 2011 conference