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Review
MuseumNext

Intellectuals from across the museums sector gathered recently for the European edition of MuseumNext. Held at London’s Royal Geographic Society, it was a conference to remember. Tom Anstey was there for Attractions Management

By Tom Anstey | Published in Attractions Management 2018 issue 3

useumNext has been welcoming decision-makers from the museum's community to its events since 2009, to look at the future of museums and how institutions can adapt to a constantly changing world.

The ‘D’ Word
Diversity was among the issues up for discussion at this year’s conference, with Shaz Hussain, assistant curator at the London Science Museum, telling delegates not to “deflect responsibility” on the issue.

Speaking at the previous edition of the conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Hussain had said using the word ‘diversity’ suggests a museum and its white, middle-class audiences are ‘normal’, with any other type of visitor considered to belong to ‘other’ categories. She proposed that ‘diversity’ should be replaced by ‘representation’, with the sector’s goal being to represent the entire community in its work.

Picking up the theme, Hussain said: “Last year I basically trashed museums, saying how much I hate it when museum professionals use the word ‘diversity’. I challenged everyone to think of ways in which they could make a difference and use their own power to create change.

“I receive messages every week asking me to take part in projects and speak at conferences,” she said. “I don’t tell you this to brag – actually I’m exhausted.

“Despite being a curator, I never get asked to speak about collections, only about diversity. Doing that every day isn’t fun.

“I’m not special, I’m not your poster girl for diversity. People of colour won’t carry the load and that means you have to do some work. You can’t deflect your responsibility.

“In all the conversations I’ve been having, none of it is innovative. Next time you slide into my DMs, think hard if you’re asking me to solve your problems or coming to me to tell me about what you’re already doing.”

The intelligent museum
For museums to succeed, they must adapt to the ever-expanding presence of artificial intelligence. That was the message delivered by Sara Boutall – from data analytics company Dexibit – who looked at how AI is being used in museums and looked at future trends in this area.

“We have to get our heads around AI in a museum context,” she said. “We expect Amazon to know what we want to buy and Uber to know where we are. People will expect that intuition in our institutions.”

A number of projects have already shown creative use of AI. San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art recently introduced Send Me – an SMS service which acts as an art discovery tool. In Philadelphia, the Barnes Foundation art gallery used machine learning to interpret art, pairing digital work together using ‘visual identity’ to recognise art style, objects and even images of Jesus. Artificial concierges are also a new innovation, with the Smithsonian Institute, for example, developing Pepper – a 4-foot-tall interactive humanoid robot.

“We need to embrace AI,” said Boutall. “It’s a growing part of our lives, we need to teach our children about it and we can use it in the world of museums to make them more agile, more open and more flexible.”

Spearheading an initiative aimed at creating community inclusion in museums, Nina Simon, director for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH), told delegates about the OFBYFOR ALL philosophy, which she deployed to turn around the failing institution in 2011.

The OFBYFOR ALL initiative stands for “of, by and for the community”.

Now a thriving community hub, MAH was in serious trouble when Simon took over, with thousands of dollars of debt and an identity issue that meant it was struggling to stay relevant to its audience.

Simon asked two new questions – what was the museum willing to change in order to draw new visitors and what was it willing to do to help them feel they belonged?

When she started in 2011, MAH had an annual budget of US$700,000, with seven staff members and attracted 17,000 people a year. Seven years later, income stands at US$3m a year, MAH has 32 staff members and welcomes 140,000 visitors.

Raising funds for communities
OFBYFOR ALL was recently launched as a standalone programme for other museums and community organisations, to offer guidance on community transformation.

OFBYFOR ALL has already raised more than US$900,000 and the team behind it wants to involve a million new people in culture over the next two years.

“Answering two questions took us from the brink of failure to stunning success,” said Simon. “We’re able to engage, because we’re of, by and for our community.”

Shaz Hussain challenged delegates not to “deflect responsibility” on diversity representation
The Santa Cruz museum was rescued from financial ruin
Send Me SFMOMA, an SMS service provided by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, has sent art to thousands of users by text Credit: shutterstock
Shaz Nina Simon delivered the keynote at MuseumNext, explaining how she used community to turn around the struggling Santa Cruz Museum.
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Review
MuseumNext

Intellectuals from across the museums sector gathered recently for the European edition of MuseumNext. Held at London’s Royal Geographic Society, it was a conference to remember. Tom Anstey was there for Attractions Management

By Tom Anstey | Published in Attractions Management 2018 issue 3

useumNext has been welcoming decision-makers from the museum's community to its events since 2009, to look at the future of museums and how institutions can adapt to a constantly changing world.

The ‘D’ Word
Diversity was among the issues up for discussion at this year’s conference, with Shaz Hussain, assistant curator at the London Science Museum, telling delegates not to “deflect responsibility” on the issue.

Speaking at the previous edition of the conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Hussain had said using the word ‘diversity’ suggests a museum and its white, middle-class audiences are ‘normal’, with any other type of visitor considered to belong to ‘other’ categories. She proposed that ‘diversity’ should be replaced by ‘representation’, with the sector’s goal being to represent the entire community in its work.

Picking up the theme, Hussain said: “Last year I basically trashed museums, saying how much I hate it when museum professionals use the word ‘diversity’. I challenged everyone to think of ways in which they could make a difference and use their own power to create change.

“I receive messages every week asking me to take part in projects and speak at conferences,” she said. “I don’t tell you this to brag – actually I’m exhausted.

“Despite being a curator, I never get asked to speak about collections, only about diversity. Doing that every day isn’t fun.

“I’m not special, I’m not your poster girl for diversity. People of colour won’t carry the load and that means you have to do some work. You can’t deflect your responsibility.

“In all the conversations I’ve been having, none of it is innovative. Next time you slide into my DMs, think hard if you’re asking me to solve your problems or coming to me to tell me about what you’re already doing.”

The intelligent museum
For museums to succeed, they must adapt to the ever-expanding presence of artificial intelligence. That was the message delivered by Sara Boutall – from data analytics company Dexibit – who looked at how AI is being used in museums and looked at future trends in this area.

“We have to get our heads around AI in a museum context,” she said. “We expect Amazon to know what we want to buy and Uber to know where we are. People will expect that intuition in our institutions.”

A number of projects have already shown creative use of AI. San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art recently introduced Send Me – an SMS service which acts as an art discovery tool. In Philadelphia, the Barnes Foundation art gallery used machine learning to interpret art, pairing digital work together using ‘visual identity’ to recognise art style, objects and even images of Jesus. Artificial concierges are also a new innovation, with the Smithsonian Institute, for example, developing Pepper – a 4-foot-tall interactive humanoid robot.

“We need to embrace AI,” said Boutall. “It’s a growing part of our lives, we need to teach our children about it and we can use it in the world of museums to make them more agile, more open and more flexible.”

Spearheading an initiative aimed at creating community inclusion in museums, Nina Simon, director for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH), told delegates about the OFBYFOR ALL philosophy, which she deployed to turn around the failing institution in 2011.

The OFBYFOR ALL initiative stands for “of, by and for the community”.

Now a thriving community hub, MAH was in serious trouble when Simon took over, with thousands of dollars of debt and an identity issue that meant it was struggling to stay relevant to its audience.

Simon asked two new questions – what was the museum willing to change in order to draw new visitors and what was it willing to do to help them feel they belonged?

When she started in 2011, MAH had an annual budget of US$700,000, with seven staff members and attracted 17,000 people a year. Seven years later, income stands at US$3m a year, MAH has 32 staff members and welcomes 140,000 visitors.

Raising funds for communities
OFBYFOR ALL was recently launched as a standalone programme for other museums and community organisations, to offer guidance on community transformation.

OFBYFOR ALL has already raised more than US$900,000 and the team behind it wants to involve a million new people in culture over the next two years.

“Answering two questions took us from the brink of failure to stunning success,” said Simon. “We’re able to engage, because we’re of, by and for our community.”

Shaz Hussain challenged delegates not to “deflect responsibility” on diversity representation
The Santa Cruz museum was rescued from financial ruin
Send Me SFMOMA, an SMS service provided by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, has sent art to thousands of users by text Credit: shutterstock
Shaz Nina Simon delivered the keynote at MuseumNext, explaining how she used community to turn around the struggling Santa Cruz Museum.
 


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Leisure Media, Portmill House, Portmill Lane,
Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2018

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
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