Museum MUSEUMS GALLERIES HERITAGE ARCHIVES CULTURE Issue 23 â&#x20AC;¢ museum-id.com
In Step with the Future
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25 21 Museum Ideas 2019 Eighth edition of the annual international conference - explore the ideas shaping the future of museums around the world
60 Collections & Communities Rather than be defined by outcomes, Royal Museums Greenwich wanted their ÂŁ25m Endeavour Project to be shaped by the journey
25 Multaka Oxford Nicola Bird on the new model of collaborative and socially engaged museum practice creating volunteer opportunities for refugees
70 Invisable Insights Coline Cuau and Harrison Pim on using data from TripAdvisor reviews to gain valuable insights into the visitor experience
30 Sharing the Love Nick Merriman on why museums must look to the best of Victorian liberalism and re-avow the vital importance of appealing to all
77 Museum of Rapid Transition Andrew Simms asks what is the public role for museums in a world where civilisation faces existential environmental crises?
35 #FutureMuseum Project What will museums be like in the future? Leading museum professionals share their ideas, hopes and expectations
86 Reclaiming the Edge Katrina Lashley on enabling communities to challenge the often stigmatizing narratives around their connections to the natural world
40 Gallery of the Islamic World In a new suite of rooms at the heart of the British Museum, this major re-display explores the Islamic world through art and material culture
101 Defining the Activist Museum Jennie Carvill Schellenbacher argues the more museums can can inspire action in their visitors, the more relevant they will become
44 Museums Against Neutrality Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell on considering the crucial role of social justice in defining the 21st Century museum
106 Project Portfolio Highlighting exceptional work by leading companies - exhibition design, display cases, audio-visual, interactives, and museum fit-outs
51 Structuring for Digital Success Kati Price and Dafydd James on why museums need to be better at defining digital success and the steps required for digital transformation
114 Museum Visits of the Future Pioneering collaboration plans to reimagine museum visits of the future using storytelling and virtual technology 7
FILMING AT SILVERSTONE CIRCUIT, JULY 2018. PHOTOGRAPHY: AMY SHORE
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Contributors - issue 23 Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell, Head of Public Programs, Smithsonian American Art Museum and The Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C., United States Nicola Bird, Project Manager, MultakaOxford; Community Engagement, Oxford University Gardens, Libraries & Museums Nick Merriman, Chief Executive and Director, Horniman Museum and Gardens, London Laura Wilkinson, Programme Director New Museum, Museum of London Maria Ribas, Head of Audience Development, CCCB Centre de Cultura ContamporĂ nia, Barcelona, Spain Martin Brandt DjupdrĂŚt, Chief Curator and Head of Research & Presentation, Den Gamle By Open Air Museum, Aarhus, Denmark Kati Price, Head of Digital Media and Publishing, Victoria & Albert Museum
Dafydd James, Head of Digital Media, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales Gail Symington, Director of Collections & Public Engagement, Royal Museums Greenwich Andrew Simms - author, analyst and campaigner - books include Ecological Debt: Global Warming & the Wealth of Nations; and Do Good Lives Have to Cost the Earth? Coline Cuau, Visitor Insights Manager, The British Museum
Harrison Pim, Data Scientist, Wellcome Trust, London Katrina Lashley, Program Coordinator, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, D.C. United States Jennie Carvill Schellenbacher, Curatorial Assistant, House of Austrian History, and PhD student, University of Vienna
Museum Ideas 2019 - venue partners, sponsors and supporters
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Museum MUSEUMS GALLERIES HERITAGE ARCHIVES CULTURE Issue 23 • museum-id.com
Editor Gregory Chamberlain Creative Director Emma Dawes Design and Production NewEra Media © Museum Identity Ltd 2009-2019. All rights reserved. ISSN: 2040-736X Cover image Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World © The British Museum Image by Charles Hosea Online museum-id.com Email firstname.lastname@example.org
“As we celebrate our first 10 years and look forward to the next, we are grateful for your ideas, enthusiasm and support - it has made all the difference”
Twitter @MuseumID - join 36,000+ followers #MuseumIdeas Editorial statement With a progressive attitude and international approach, Museum-iD magazine explores the ideas shaping the future of museums with articles and essays by leading museum professionals. Views expressed are those of the writers and not necessarily those of Museum-iD magazine. Advertising Promote your work to decision-makers in museums, galleries, heritage sites and cultural attractions. To discuss how we can help you reach the international museum community email email@example.com. Subscriptions Museum-iD magazine is published twice a year. The magazine is free - subscribers just help cover postage costs. 12-month UK sub £4.95. 12-month Europe / North America sub £9.95. 12-month Rest of the World sub £19.95. Additional fees apply to back issues. Order subscriptions and back issues online: museum-id.com. Copyright Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of study and research no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted without the prior permission of the publisher. Image notice All images are published by the kind permission of the copyright holders.
Editor This year we are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Museum-iD. A decade ago we started by organising some small-scale study days and seminars and publishing a couple of modest practical guides for museum professionals. Ten years later we are looking forward to holding our eighth annual international conference and you are reading the latest edition of our biannual magazine. Our aim has always been to keep things open, interesting and collaborative - to have a progressive attitude and international approach and to share as widely as possible. Over the past decade we have published a brilliantly varied range of essays, articles and case studies by both established leaders and new voices and made them freely available in the magazine and on our website. Alongside the magazine, over the years our Museum Ideas conference has welcomed delegates from over 30 countries to share, explore and advance the ideas shaping the future of museums. Each year we invite a deliberately eclectic group of speakers and challenge them to share transformative ideas in concise, powerful talks. We always try and keep the cost of tickets low - otherwise you risk excluding people who need to be there to help move the conversation forward in a meaningful way. This year we made a quarter of tickets either fullyfunded or available at a subsidised rate for students, emerging professionals, freelancers, independent museums, and professionals often underrepresented at museum conferences. All these tickets have now been reserved and all the earlybird tickets have also been booked up in record time. We would like to thank everyone who has been involved with Museum-iD in one way or another over the past decade readers, contributors, delegates, speakers, advertisers, sponsors and supporters. As we celebrate our first 10 years and look forward to the next, we are grateful for your ideas, enthusiasm and support - it has made all the difference. Thank you. Gregory Chamberlain
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With a progressive attitude and international approach, the Museum Ideas conference has welcomed thousands of museum professionals from over 30 countries to share and advance the ideas shaping the future of museums
useum Ideas 2019 – the eighth edition of the annual London-based conference – will explore social impact, new models of collaborative and socially engaged participatory practice, progressive public engagement, immersive theatre and much more – sharing pioneering ideas that will help shape and support change in museums around the world. E ach year the conference br ings together a deliberately eclectic group of speakers and challenges them to share transformative ideas in concise, powerful talks. The aim is for delegates to be inspired by perspectives outside their own specialism and locality. We want delegates to be challenged by speakers who can spark change in unexpected ways. What unites the conference is the passion, committment and enthusiasm of contributors along with their desire to share valuable expertise and experience. We want Museum Ideas to be a genuinely creative experience for delegates. An event where you can feel both deeply moved and joyous, welcome and questioned. As Julia Pitts from the Science Museum, who took part in the 2018 conference as a delegate, commented: “We felt good/ bad/ awkward/ happy… that’s a good mix.” We couldn’t agree more. We want Museum Ideas to be a different kind of conference experience collaborative, independent and authentic, not too expensive, corporate or overproduced, and not promoting self-styled ‘gurus’, ‘influencers’ or ‘thought-leaders’. Our aim is to simply put on a welcoming, meaningful and surprising conference for a wide range of people to meet up, make
new connections and talk about museum ideas in an informal and supportive environment. For example, at the 2018 conference playwright Linda Brogan spoke movingly about the ‘Excavating The Reno’ community project in Manchester’s Moss Side. Bringing together archaeologists, artists, social historians and the public, the project explores the story of a soul
As well as actively choosing a wide range of speakers and topics, we also try to break down silo thinking and hierarchies. One simple way of doing this is by not including job titles on delegate badges or in the conference guide. It’s just a small thing but all it’s part of trying to produce a collaborative event where unexpected conversations can take place, and all are made to feel equally valued and welcome. A crucial part of trying to be a more inclusive event is also working hard to keep the cost of tickets low. Budgets are tight - especially at smaller organisations and for those new to the museums sector. Having a higher ticket rate means excluding people who should be represented and who need to be there to help move the conversation forward in a meaningful way. Otherwise there is the risk of museum conferences becoming an echo chamber for those privileged enough to be able to attend. This year we made a commitment to ensure a quarter of all tickets were either fully funded or available at the subsidised rate of £77. This rate was available for students, emerging professionals, freelancers, those working at independent museums and smaller organisations, and for professionals often underrepresented at museum conferences. The initiative proved popular and all these tickets have now been allocated. All the early-bird tickets have also been reserved in record time. Museum Ideas 2019 takes place 10 12 September in London. With new ideas and insights to refresh and challenge you, the event will add value to your current work and is an active investment in the future and what you choose to do next.
Museum Ideas 2019 London Explore the ideas shaping the future of museums
and funk club that became a sanctuary from racism in the 1970s. Linda’s talk was extraordinary, frank and compelling. This is what Sandra Shakespeare from Museum Detox had to say about it: “Excellent to see the work of Excavating The Reno – an absolutely remarkable fresh change to see such honesty at a museum conference where the tendency is always to showcase the great and the good. It was deeply moving to witness vulnerability and authenticity.” This was echoed by Dhikshana Pering from the London Transport Museum: “Still thinking about the Excavating The Reno project at Museum Ideas 2018 - hands down no conference session in my life has left such an impact... thank you.”
Top left: Bonita Bennett, Director of the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, spoke at Museum Ideas 2017. Top middle: playwright Linda Brogan spoke about the ‘Excavating The Reno’ project at the 2018 conference. Above: speaking at Museum Ideas 2019 - Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell, Washington, D.C. based cultural leader devoted to exploring ways to engage with marginalized audiences through museum and social justice practice. Left: London Wall Bar is next to the Museum of London and is our venue for pre and post conference drinks.
“A conference for mind expanding conversations and international networking” - Martin Payne, The British Museum 2019 Speakers include Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell is a Washington, D.C. based cultural leader devoted to exploring ways to engage with marginalized audiences through museum and social justice practice. Kayleigh recently served as Education Specialist with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, curating participatory public programs. Previously she launched the Women, Arts, and Social Change initiative at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Kayleigh is now Head of Public Programs, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Joyoti Roy is Head of Marketing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay (CSMVS) Museum in Mumbai, India. Previouly she was Head of Outreach of the National Museum in New Delhi. Between 2011 and 2013 she worked for the National Culture Fund where she coordinated the Ministry of Culture’s Museum Reform Programmes including 22
the Leadership Training Programme in collaboration with the British Museum. Joyoti was the International Clore Fellow from India for 2017-18 and is currently investigating and searching for the real role of museums in India. Nina Finigan is a curator at Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira in New Zealand. She is interested in concepts around identity, memory and representation, and understanding museums/archives as politically charged sites of power and resistance. Nina believes that exploring how divergent forms of power are created, reinforced and potentially dismantled within institutions is essential for museums to understand their identities and potential roles in the contemporary world. Booking your ticket There are now fewer than 60 tickets available for Museum Ideas 2019. Go to museum-id.com to book your place.
Conference Venue The Museum of London documents the history of London from prehistoric to modern times. The museum is located on London Wall and is a few minutes’ walk north of St Paul’s Cathedral, overlooking the remains of the Roman city wall and on the edge of the oldest part of London, now its main financial district. It is primarily concerned with the social history of London and its inhabitants throughout time. The museum is the largest urban history collection in the world, with more than six million objects. It welcomes more than one million visitors each year. Conference Sponsors Thank you to our sponsors for supporting the sharing of ideas in museums: Absolute Museum & Gallery Products; Acoustiguide; Antenna International; ATS Heritage; BECK; Bruynzeel Storage Systems; Cogapp; Designmap; Goppion; Haley Sharpe Design; Meyvaert; Squint/ Opera; V&A; Vernon Systems
ICONIC FIT-OUT FOR ICONIC BUILDINGS
Image by Ian Wallman
Multaka-Oxford: a â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;meeting pointâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; for people and cultures Nicola Bird on the new model of collaborative and socially engaged practice being developed at the Museum of the History of Science and Pitt Rivers Museum
ultaka-Oxford is a two-year project, inspired by the internationally acclaimed Berlin project Multaka: Museum as Meeting Point, which creates volunteer opportunities for people who have recently arrived in the city as forced migrants, and which uses the museum collections as a focus to bring people together. Multaka - which means meeting point in Arabic - aims to bring different perspectives to the presentation and interpretation of objects in two collections: Islamic Astronomical Instruments, and Textiles from the Arab World (recently donated by Jenny Balfour-Paul). It also offers people who have recently arrived in the UK the opportunity to practise their English, learn new skills and gain work experience.
Funded by the EsmĂŠe Fairbairn Collections Fund and working in partnership with local community organisations including Asylum Welcome, Connection Support and Refugee Resource, the project is recruiting 40 volunteers to enhance collections narratives, deliver tours in different languages, deliver public events, co-curate a community display and run social media channels. The project team are also tasked with supporting other local museums to develop models of volunteering to support social impact. The project derives from strong collaborative partnerships with local grassroot organisations that support refugees and asylum seekers in Oxford, developed over seven years. During this time the museums have co-curated displays, decorated an embaire (musical 25
Multaka-Oxford events at the Pitt Rivers and the Museum of the History of Science © University of Oxford. Previous page: image by Ian Wallman
“We started to ask questions: what was actually important to people and our local partners and how can museums support this? What needed to change to bring more equity into our relationships with partners?” instrument), delivered family visits and community celebration events of music, dance and poetry. It has been dynamic and inclusive but as the partnerships progressed, we questioned whether we were meeting the needs of all the stakeholders. To paraphrase Community Ambassador Nuha Abdo as we prepared to co-present at the MA conference together in 2016: ‘Everything we have been doing with the museum has all been very nice, but it’s for the museum and it’s not really very useful for the Syrian families. What we need is jobs, to become confident with English and start living in Oxford, not just surviving. Our children are settling in school and now we must also settle.’ Our previous models of collaboration, whilst valid, nevertheless brought the museums’ agendas to the fore. For 26
example, the museums wanted to activate the collections, bring in different voices into the displays; building people’s confidence and supporting integration were secondary aims. We started to ask questions: what was actually important to people and our local partners and how can museums support this? What needed to change to bring more equity into our relationships with partners? Why do museums only plan for the collaboration itself and not for the subsequent organisational change? Since Multaka-Oxford began in January 2018, the project team has started to address these questions. First, we identified common goals between the museums and partners. So, whilst achieving agreed outputs - for example setting up volunteer-led tours of the
museums in Arabic - we also measure success by achieving shared goals of social inclusion, building confidence, learning English and gaining valuable work experience and transferable skills. Bringing equity to the stakeholders’ roles was a more complicated process. We now ensure that consulting with our partners, including Multaka volunteers, is built into the project through review meetings and the Community Advisory Board. We have also taken on our first paid Community Ambassador, who worked with us as one of the community leaders and who had previously worked in Syria as a social worker supporting Iraqi refugees in Syria. This new role recognises her professional experience, knowledge, and networks. She makes links into organisations that the museum staff team would never know, provides valuable insights into the local Syrian community and people’s thoughts about the project, and galvanises individuals to take part. The volunteering roles are not just looking at the enhancement of the museums but provides a structured and bespoke training for people who are not ready for paid employment. The
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programme explicitly highlights the transferable skills people are learning. The project is bringing together volunteer agencies across the city to support progression routes as people move on. To further develop this, Multaka-Oxford is co-planning and co-delivering the first cross-sector networking day with the volunteers and partners which focuses on routes, barriers and experiences of volunteers across Oxford city. The project has also sought to think beyond its core activities to its impact on organisational change. Volunteers are changing the types of information added to collections databases; they are looking beyond factual information to experiences, memories, stories, songs, and images. Rather than engaging people in silos, volunteers from different communities and cultures are brought together, allowing a platform for intracultural dialogue as people learn together and learn from one other. One volunteer explained “Multaka-Oxford represents the interchange of diverse cultural and historical experiences through museums as a meeting point. Participation is especially important because it helps us see the beauty in diversity and brings about more tolerance and acceptance.” Involving museum staff in the training and inviting
“Multaka-Oxford has been the starting point for developing a responsive model for socially engaged practice, for supporting wellbeing, building social capital and providing people with the first steps into employment” staff to work with the volunteers on events and workshops has also offered opportunities for the wider team to learn new perspectives and approaches from the volunteers. So far Multaka-Oxford has been the starting point for developing a responsive model for socially engaged practice, for supporting wellbeing, building social capital and providing people with the first steps into employment. What has happened over the last 12 months started with collaboration and has developed into a project which is exciting and new and which is achieving impact that was beyond the original scope. Abdullah, a Multaka Volunteer explains “It is my first time of understanding the acceptance of new cultures. Seeing this meant that me, as a newcomer, I can also be accepted. …
Multaka has been a second home for me, it is a place where I am not a foreigner.” The Multaka-Oxford volunteers have become activity planners and deliverers, representatives and advocates, and the instigators of change. They have helped us develop the museums into a community space and realise the potential of working together to achieve common goals and a shared vision. “Here at the museum we see we share a human history and culture. We see we are similar. Through similarities, we meet together. The museum is really a [multaka] ‘meeting point’ for culture.” Nicola Bird Project Manager, Multaka-Oxford; Community Engagement, Oxford University Gardens Libraries & Museums 29
Sharing the Love: Community Engagement in the 21st Century Nick Merriman on why museums must look back to the best of the founding impulses of Victorian liberalism, acknowledge and be honest about their problematic colonial history, and re-avow the vital importance of appealing to all
World Gallery Over 3000 objects from around the world explore the question of what it means to be human © Horniman Museum
n the front of the Horniman building is a dedication plaque, recording that Frederick Horniman gave it as a gift ‘to the public forever as a free museum for their recreation, instruction and enjoyment’ in 1901. Horniman came from a family of Quaker tea merchants, and he said that he ‘regarded money-making not as the be-all and end-all of human life, but as a means to an end, and money as a trust to be used to the advantage of his fellow men’. For well over a century the Horniman has worked closely with its local community, and particularly with local schools, to become one of the most loved museums in the country. I can say this because since taking over as Chief Executive from Dame Janet Vitmayer in
May the one phrase that I have heard most often is ‘Oh, I love the Horniman!’ Given that ‘philanthropy’ literally means ‘love of people’, I am sure Frederick Horniman would be pleased at the enduring impact of the institution that he founded. How do museums engender such love and loyalty from their communities and what do they have to do to ensure that it continues? This is a question that has been uppermost in my mind recently as I’ve worked closely with staff and other stakeholders to review our mission for the times we now find ourselves in. These are characterised by austerity, greater social divisions, greater diversity and rising intolerance, and set against a background of climate change and concerns about digital technologies impacting on our lives. 31
“Museums provide rare spaces where people from all backgrounds can come together to share what it means to be human”
Perspectives Promoting understanding between cultures and a sustainable world © Horniman Museum
For the Horniman this is a significant question because by most measures we are hugely successful. Under Janet’s leadership annual visits to the Museum and Gardens grew from less than 250,000 at the turn of the millennium to over 935,000 last year. A more commercial model, involving charges to new attractions - aquarium, butterfly house and family exhibitions has helped bring financial sustainability, and driven memberships, which now stand at 7,800, encompassing some 30,000 individuals. The vast majority of visitors are from the local area, and most of them visit repeatedly over the course of the year. This love and loyalty has been built up through generations, through both the Horniman’s intensive work with local schools, and through providing events and activities for local families. Many of the people I have met reveal a pattern of visiting the Horniman that goes back over generations. Such is the success of the Horniman that trustees were concerned that they might be becoming complacent, so asked the incoming Chief Executive to assess whether this was a danger. What I have found is that there can be a tension between rising visitor numbers and subsequent financial sustainability, and the achievement of a social mission which, in my view, is our justification for public funding. 32
I found that the Horniman’s huge success in visitor numbers masks the fact that its audience demographics are less diverse than they were 25 years ago, because the extra visitors have mostly come from the incoming middle class population that has gentrified Forest Hill and other localities. BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) audiences make up 18% of visitors compared with 40% in the London population; disabled 5% compared with 14% and NS-SEC groups 5-8 (less socio-economically advantaged groups) 16% compared to 35% in the London population. So, we have a dilemma: continue as we are, with great visitor numbers and a thriving business model, but one which only attracts a certain section of the population, or should we try to widen our audiences, despite the difficulties in doing this? What would Frederick Horniman have wanted us to do? Fortunately the answer was pretty obvious, and was already underway when I arrived. I was lucky to inherit a project close to fruition that exemplifies many of the qualities of a museum with a reinvigorated social purpose. The redisplay of the anthropology collections in a new World Gallery which opened in June 2018, is accompanied by an introductory text which includes the lines ‘We can discover the common
human virtues of love and compassion, trust and friendship, dignity and courage’. The gallery was produced following consultation and input from over 200 different individuals and communities, locally and internationally. In addition, The Studio, which opened in October, is a new space for displaying work created by artists and community members inspired by the Horniman’s collections, and where the process of collaboration is as significant as the final outcome. The museum landscape we see today was essentially created in the Victorian period when a combination of taxation and philanthropy allowed them to spring up throughout the country. While many more were founded from the 1960s onwards, they were a post-war continuation of the idea that museums are contributions to the public good. They are one of the few remaining institutions trusted by the public, through their provision of disinterested information, their commitment to access for all, and their ability to change with the times and remain relevant. 21st century museums must look back to the best of the founding impulses of Victorian liberalism, acknowledge and be honest about their problematic colonial history, and re-avow the vital importance of appealing to all and engaging their communities. At a time of increasing intolerance, “fake news” and a coming generation which will be worse off than the current one in many ways, museums provide rare spaces where people from all backgrounds can come together to share what it means to be human and to try to work out how to shape a better future for the planet we all share. Nick Merriman Chief Executive and Director, Horniman Museum and Gardens
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Future Museum Project What will museums be like in the future? Leading museum professionals share their ideas, hopes and expectations. Join the #FutureMuseum Project at museum-id.com and add your voice to the future of museums
he Future Museum is a deconstructed form of its current self; it is more adaptable, creative and confident, enabling it to survive and thrive in times of change. Whilst museums as institutions have stayed static the world around us has radically shifted. We are living in times of accelerated change. Growing social inequality, major environmental issues and the digital revolution are all affecting the role of museums as part of the cultural fabric of our society. Systemic problems are restraining the impact of museums. The monoculture that pervades most senior management teams remains a significant issue. Decades of attempting and failing to tackle the lack of diversity means we need to change tack. The speed of technological change is transforming the way people access, enjoy and create culture and if we don’t seek to fully grasp its potential there is a real risk that we become obsolete for those we seek to engage. It’s not to say there hasn’t been any progress. We’ve seen pockets of innovation; new partnership models have been formed, there have been attempts at rebalancing power through methodologies such as co-production, and years of austerity have forced round after round of restructures but fundamentally the museum as an institution remains the same. How do we do change? By a wholesale review of the system. We need to look at more than the organisational chart when we talk about change; we need to challenge the formal structures and processes; and informal norms and behaviours that shape the way we work. By working with people not like us. Partnership and collaboration will be core business – not just something for one or two departments to lead on.
“We are living in times of accelerated change. Growing social inequality, major environmental issues and the digital revolution are all affecting the role of museums as part of the cultural fabric of our society” Teams will be formed with more than just ‘museum’ people. We will naturally draw in talent from across the creative industries and the social sector to create museum experiences that deliver the change we hope to see. By challenging our hierarchical models of decision making. A more participatory model will tackle the impenetrable old-fashioned silos participation will extend within and outside the museum and we will explore more human-centred models of design. By loosening up our structures and flexing the 9-5. An increasingly intergenerational workforce presents huge opportunities for the sector. We will widen the pool of people we employ by enabling those who aren’t able, or choose not to work a standard 5 dayweek ensuring we can benefit from the lived experiences of the many, not the few. By extending our horizons. We will commit time to exploring our collections and programme through futures thinking to ensure we are relevant for the audiences of tomorrow. By letting go. The funding climate isn’t going to get any easier. In order to adapt we need to look critically at what we do and stop that which has least impact. We can’t always predict the future but by rethinking the institution we can create the conditions for the Future Museum to thrive. Laura Wilkinson - Programme Director, New Museum, Museum of London
useums exist to serve visitors and society. In order to do so successfully, there are three aspects museums need to focus on: visitors’ personal and social needs, the museum’s credibility, and an income that can secure the running and development of the museum. Having all these parts in place will ensure the museums are beneficial for society as well as for individual visitors. 1. Focus on visitors’ personal and social needs: Surveys in recent years have shown that visitors come to museums to satisfy personal and social identity-based needs. The primary reason for visiting the museum is not to see a particular object, but to fulfil a personal need, and museums make good settings for social activities and meaningful experiences and learning. Here we must be aware that social gatherings and learning function best in attractive surroundings, with somewhere to have a meal, good service and clean toilets. 2. Focus on the museum’s credibility. Museums should make it their mission to bring their stories and knowledge alive and make them accessible for the public. The spaces and objects in the museums support this mission. So does the museum’s credibility, a valuable asset which few institutions in today’s society possess to such a great extent as museums. Museums should be active and give their opinions of society, and their statements and positions must never compromise 35
“Museum professionals will be less concerned with specialisation and more with making connections through collaboration. Silos will be dismantled in favour of multi-disciplinary teams working in an agile fashion towards a set of shared objectives informed by audience insight” their credibility, nor should efforts to raise funds detract from credibility. 3. Focus on an income that can secure the running and development of the museum. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Funding is necessary for gathering knowledge and telling stories well. If museums take the initiative themselves, and plan how they can generate income through collaboration, sales and admissions, they will be in the best position to plan and invest in their own future. Here it is important to remember that museums do not exist to earn money, but that money has to be earned for making better museums. They must be mission driven, not market driven. So do visitors’ personal and social needs and the museum’s need for an income conflict with its credibility? Not for the museums of the future. By firmly maintaining its integrity and credibility, the museum remains worth visiting, and attractive content makes it financially attractive as a business partner. The museum can tell its stories best by taking visitors’ needs seriously, which will also attract visitors and facilitate contacts with companies who can strengthen the museum’s earnings. Museums are ignored if they are not relevant enough, and they may be bypassed if they do not have the funds to draw attention to themselves and unfold their stories. Relevance is created through focus on visitors’ needs and the opportunities in the stories museums tell, and focus on earnings can secure funding to invest in studies of the stories and the best ways to disseminate them. Martin Brandt Djupdræt - Head of Research & Presentation, Den Gamle By Open Air Museum, Denmark 36
aving walked the line between museums and innovation for a quarter of a century, it seems clear to me that the sector is resistant to exponential change. Traditional museums have played an important role in making connections between different objects across time and space. Increasingly, they have used the stories around these collections to create a connection with their different audiences. Future museums will continue to build on this, adding multiple layers of meaning and placing greater emphasis on brokering different perspectives. They will capitalize on their position of trust to become authentic mediators between expert and popular opinion. Increasingly aware of their role in the issues of today, they will draw on their unique evidence base to provide context to current events. Valued both as a preserver of memory and instigator for ideas, they will empower people to seek answers and foster action. Museum curatorship will have evolved beyond preoccupation with preserving and presenting collections, to propensity for encouraging connections. A genuine two-way relationship will exist, with the audience given agency to drive the agenda. The distance between past and present will be reduced, with history providing meaning. The division between high and low art will be dissolved, with heritage providing contrast to popular culture. Museum professionals will be less concerned with specialisation and more with making connections through collaboration. Silos will be dismantled in favour of multi-disciplinary teams working in an agile fashion towards a set of shared objectives informed by audience insight. Pet projects will be a thing of the past, with data used to demonstrate
impact and inform a continuous cycle of development. The physical/ digital museum divide will be dissolved, with a seamless relationship created between the two. Analogue interaction will be more important than ever and digital will become less of a distraction and more a ubiquitous layer delivered through a range of devices to complement the before>during>after real-world experience. None of this sounds particularly radical but, when it comes to envisaging the museum of the future, it’s clear that evolution is more realistic than revolution. Oliver Vicars-Harris - Director, Connecting Culture
useums everywhere have the potential to serve as agents of social change – bringing people together, contributing to local communities, and changing people’s lives. Given our current moment of political polarization, highly-contested social debates, and widespread global efforts to confront oppression, now is the time to challenge the entrenched traditional notions of museums and proactively shape a new future. Now is the time to transform the roles that museums serve within our communities, envisioning them as living institutions and active spaces for connection and coming together, for dialogue and difficult conversations, and for listening and sharing. Museums have the potential to amplify marginalized voices and celebrate unheard stories. They can be spaces for acknowledging and reflecting on difference, and for bridging divides. They can be spaces for justice, growth, struggle, love, and hope. It is the vital task of museum professionals – as well as museum visitors, civic leaders, community organizers, and the broader public – to radically expand the work of museums as agents of change and more fiercely recognize the work that museums are doing to enact change around the relevant issues in our communities. These conversations and actions cannot take place solely behind museum walls or in the isolation of
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professional conferences. We need to publicly work together to realize this change. This work involves an enormous amount of listening, developing trust, and building relationships – both within our museums as well as with our audiences and communities. It involves shaping and productively debating a set of core values that reflect a commitment to accessibility, inclusion, justice, and human rights. It involves growing a community of change and advocacy from within, and envisioning the work of our museums as human-centered. The future of museums is being shaped by the work we are doing right now to take action toward positive social change and bring people together into a more just, equitable, compassionate, and connected society. Mike Murawski - Director of Education & Public Programs, Portland Art Museum,
hinking about the future as in the year 2050, I believe museums will be awesome! We will have lively cultural institutions, that will use all the new technologies - some of which we cannot imagine - to enhance the diffusion of their collection, as well as stimulating enhanced audience participation in many and varied ways. Visiting museums will be an outstanding and incredible experience, where everyone will be able to enjoy, in their own way, the amazing stories, heritage, nature and art within the museum’s collections. Museums in the future will have a very active role in lifelong learning, with special emphasis in empowering each person in their lifelong search for what is most of interest to them. Museums will also have an important role in the motivation of each citizen in taking a critical look at society, the past and the future. Globalization is affecting our society in so many ways and the museums of the future will be a reflection of the diversity in society. They will have to understand and celebrate this diversity. Museums will also have to be accessible to everybody, in every sense. Today most museums are prepared for wheelchairs and strollers, but not for hearing aids, for cochlear implants, for devices for low vision, and many other
“The future of museums is being shaped by the work we are doing right now to take action toward positive social change and bring people together into a more just, equitable, compassionate, and connected society”
disability solutions. Museums will have individual solutions for each visitor, making the visit equally accessible, enjoyable and satisfying for everyone. In our near future, museums will become more relevant to all the communities around them. Museums will have worked out better ways to inspire these communities to use the museum as they think best. This approach, together with the use of new technologies and improved participation, will produce innovative ways of making museums the best experience for all! Maria Ribas - Head of Audience Development, CCCB Centre de Cultura Contamporània, Barcelona, Spain
he future of museums is one where the old paradigm of a collections-focussed approach versus an audience-centric approach are no longer the only two spheres we think in and they are no longer put up against each other as an either/or argument. For museums in post-colonial countries, the primacy of the object in engaging with indigenous communities will be the driver and not the afterthought. Shifting visitor experience from the museum’s selfproclaimed voice of authority to genuine conversation - utilising the agency of collections to empower, engage, to uncover layers of meaning - is the future. This will require an opening of the doors, an understanding that there are multiple view points and that museums are the sharers of collections and the gatherer of different knowledge systems relating to multiple audiences. Co-development will be the norm rather than the exception, acknowledging the importance of engaging communities
from the outset in the development of programmes, exhibitions, collection development and collection care. This is a next step from consultation, it is a meaningful process where the outcome has not been already defined by the institution and presented to the community for input, but one where the outcome and the process is open at the outset to the influence of the communities whose cultural heritage is held in safe keeping by the museum on their behalf. A true bi-cultural approach is one based on genuine partnership, and is at the heart of co-development. Taking the collections to audiences, whether digitally or physically, is part of this conversation, as are considerations such as the importance of communities being able to engage without barriers, to touch, to celebrate and to perform alongside collections. A global view, moving away from “museum best practice” to community best practice is required. Elizabeth Cotton - Head of Human History, Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tamaki Paenga Hira, New Zealand
Join the #FutureMuseum Project and add your voice to the future of museums. This ongoing project is open and free-to-access. New contributions will be published on museum-id.com and in each new issue of Museum-iD magazine. A wide range of museum professionals based in 14 countries have already contributed their ideas to the #FutureMuseum Project and we look forward to publishing many more. To join the project simply email around 350-600 words to firstname.lastname@example.org 39
The new gallery allows for a comprehensive presentation of the Islamic world through art and material culture © British Museum
major re-display of the British Museum’s world-class Islamic collection, the new Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World opened in October 2018 and is a comprehensive presentation of the Islamic world through art and material culture. Situated within a new suite of rooms at the heart of the Museum, it underscores global connections across a vast region of the world from West Africa to Southeast Asia and reflects links between the ancient and medieval as well as the modern world. The first phase of the project was led by HOK architects to reinstate the original gallery space, including repairs to the Grade 1 listed fabric and conservation of the existing historic details. HOK worked with Stirling prize winning Stanton Williams Architects, who have led on the new gallery fitout, and the British Museum Capital Projects team, to co-ordinate the gallery design services, whilst focussing on protecting and restoring the historic fabric. These works were completed by Coniston. Stanton Williams worked with Arup’s lighting team on the design for the gallery, which incorporates the natural daylight of the space while also protecting the objects on display from the potentially damaging impact of direct sunlight. This was achieved by careful treatment of the roof lights to control the direction and intensity of light and through the insertion of new windows into the external fabric and onto an internal light well previously blocked off from the gallery. The state-of-the-art showcases were manufactured and installed by Goppion. 40
Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World, The British Museum Situated within a new suite of rooms at the heart of the British Museum, this major re-display of a world-class collection is a comprehensive presentation of the Islamic world through art and material culture
State-of-the-art showcases were manufactured and installed by Goppion © British Museum
Islam has played a significant role in great civilisations as a faith, political system and culture. The new gallery features objects that give an overview of cultural exchange in an area stretching from Nigeria to Indonesia and from the 7th century to the present day. The British Museum’s collection of Islamic material uniquely represents the finest artworks alongside objects of daily life such as modern games and musical instruments. The collection includes archaeology, decorative arts, arts of the book, shadow puppets, textiles and contemporary art. The creation of the Albukhary Foundation Gallery provides an extraordinary opportunity to display these objects in new ways that showcase the peoples and cultures of the Islamic world, as well as the ideas, technologies and interactions that inspired their visual culture. The great medieval dynasties up to about 1500 are explored in the first room, highlighting connections within nearby galleries relating to Byzantium, the Vikings, the Crusades and Islamic Spain. The second room introduces the three major dynasties dominating the Islamic world from the 16th century: the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals. Their patronage saw the production and trade of magnificent objects, including ceramics, jewellery and painting. The gallery also includes 19th- and 20th-century objects and textiles from Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and South and Southeast Asia, many of which have not been displayed before. From elaborate 19th42
century mother-of-pearl inlaid wooden Turkish bath clogs to a brightly decorated Uzbek woman’s robe with Russian lining, juxtapositions of objects continually draw attention to the cross-fertilisation between regions and time periods. The new gallery allows a permanent presence for lightsensitive objects such as works on paper and textiles which will be regularly changed. These will include stunning 14th century illustrated pages from one of the most celebrated oral traditions, the Persian epic Shahnama (Book of Kings) which is shown alongside monumental folios of the 16th-century Indian Mughal emperor Akbar’s Hamzanama (Adventures of Hamza). These belong to the Islamic literary tradition, which stems from a rich and diverse history of storytelling that predates the advent of Islam, featuring epics about real and mythical kings and heroes, as well as romances and religious narratives. The arts of the book and calligraphy will be displayed alongside musical instruments, including an outstanding 19thcentury lyre from Sudan and 20th-century shadow puppets from Turkey. Works on paper by artists from the Museum’s growing collection of contemporary art will be presented in dialogue with the cultures of the past. An exciting collaboration with the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts emphasises continuing traditions of paper-making, painting and illumination alongside masterpieces of Persian and Indian painting. An area dedicated to temporary displays opens with an exhibition from the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia exploring the idea of the arabesque; an abstract vegetal motif that spread across the Muslim world for over 1000 years. Visitors have the opportunity to engage directly with objects at a dedicated handling desk managed by the Museum’s volunteer programme. There is also a trail of surprising objects on the floor levels of the display cases which children will notice first, such a large jade terrapin from India or ceramic blue and white shoes from Iran. The displays are enhanced by an engaging new programme of digital media that comprises a series of introductory films focussing on topics such as architectural decoration, ceramic technology, arts of the book and music. An accompanying website allows for further research and exploration of the collections on display. The curatorial team for the project consists of Venetia Porter, Ladan Akbarnia, Fahmida Suleman, Zeina KlinkHoppe, Amandine Mérat and William Greenwood. Hartwig Fisher, Director of the British Museum, said, “The galleries and permanent displays of the British Museum’s collection show us the interconnectedness of our shared cultures. The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World allows us to display this world-class collection to tell a more universal story of Islam in a global context. I am grateful to the Albukhary Foundation and the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia for supporting this important new gallery.” Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World Location: The British Museum Architects / Design: HOK / Stanton Williams Fit-Out: Coniston Display Cases: Goppion
Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell on considering the vital role of social justice in defining the 21st Century Museum
n considering the future of museums it seems museums still operate in the past. Museums are of course stewards of the past, but in terms of progressive thinking, museums still seem stuck with a 19th Century mindset. The future of museums needs to be distinctly decolonized, inclusive, and truthful in regards to institutional histories. While equity and inclusion are necessities of responsible museum programming and practice, in clinging to the notion of neutrality, our profession as a whole is still far from exemplifying an honest future. In recent years our profession, understanding its current crisis in equity, has been tiptoeing around the idea of the role social justice in our work. Social justice is our buzziest of buzzwords. While increasing interest in exploring social justice practice has certainly brought new vocabulary into the fold, we have not yet made the effort to fully grasp the severity and complexity of social justice practice for museums. Social justice practice requires taking a stand. It is political. It is polarizing. It is everything that neutrality is not. As museums continue to clutch hold of the falsehood of maintaining “neutral spaces,” social justice practice cannot thrive. Embracing the fullness of social justice practice can be a resourceful tool towards breaking free of repressive norms or addressing a culture in crisis. Today, our profession is certainly in crisis. According to a 2014 US Census Bureau report, the US will comprise a minority-
majority by 20451. According to the 2010 Center for the Future of Museums study by the American Alliance of Museums, non-white museum visitors make up only about 9% of visitors across the US2. If nothing changes in museums in the next 26 years the intersection of these two developments spells disaster for our profession. And we all know that progress moves excruciatingly slow in museums. Defining the 21st Century Museum Readers of Museum-iD will be already familiar with our long history as elitist, exclusive, monolithic institutions, as described in many books, blogs and journals. But I’d like to point out that many years of research show “that worldwide, museum visitors are disproportionately more affluent and well educated than the general public [and] in most Western countries, visitors are much more likely to be drawn from European extraction.”3 Further, post-colonial research shows that museums are “perceived by many to be unsatisfactory: serving a cultural elite... reflecting white values, and excluding from the interpretive process the very peoples whose cultures were represented in the collections.”4 This startling revelation of the impending irrelevance of the service of museums manifests a crisis to threaten the very existence of museums themselves. Across the field we are searching for answers to uphold our value and place in society before this critical 2045 juncture. While this heightened agitation within the field is unsettling, it is also compelling.
A profession in crisis is a profession in evolution. Charles Darwin, in exploring the science of evolution by natural selection, noted that only species who were the most adaptable to change survive.5 This observation applies to many concepts, even museums. If cultural shifts continue as such, the 21st Century Museum will come to be defined by two factors: 1) it’s ability to adapt to change and 2) it’s relationship with social justice and community activism. But how do museums, whose longstanding traditions actively resist change, begin to adapt? How do institutions, believed “neutral” enact social justice practice? In fact, as this article will reveal, neutrality has never existed in museums and thus should not be upheld now. Investigating the modes in which longstanding practices have been upheld, and even longer-standing terms have been defined, is a challenge. But questioning these norms not only reveals the relationship to historic (and present) racism and oppression communicable throughout the field, but also the truth of self-imposed structural limitations towards solving some of the museum’s most pressing concerns, including how to engage with social concerns. Manifestations of Neutrality What are the potential gains when neutrality is dismissed as having no place within the museum? Firstly, acknowledging neutrality as a normalizing force, dismissing neutrality
1. Brookings, ‘New Projections’ 2. Farrell and Medvedeva, ‘Demographic Transformation’ 3 and 4. Anila, ‘Inclusion, 109 5. Darwin, On Evolution, p58 44
Taking A Stand Against Neutrality has the potential to increase equity in to the idea that museums should not take practice today, demonstrating that the museum practice. Through a historic sides, museums should not be political, impact of a neutral approach has persisted lens, understanding the ways in which museums should not agitate socioas the forces of dominance, normalization, neutrality has presented itself in the field, cultural events. The politics of funding and exclusion within museums. I will argue that much of the normalizing, alone, should exemplify the position of Three decades ago we praised dominant and monolithic practices, museums as non-neutral, considering museums for “work towards a universal now contended widely throughout that the presence of politically-charged view of man’s achievement or knowledge.”9 museums, stem from a false notion of donor funds by environmental, financial, But notably today, “ . . . knowledge is neutrality. Moreover this fluid . . . The universal article discusses how the meanings and approved nature of being neutral curricula that formed “Repealing the myth of innocence within forbids fully participating the basis for [monolithic] museums reveals opportunities to engage in museum practice from education have become working towards equity problematic.”10 We accept in deeper and more authentic to expressing the breadth that knowledge is power practices of social justice” of narratives involved and power is political. within our objects and our Furthermore, as a means communities. Secondly, of flattening diversity, repealing the myth of innocence within and lobbying industries makes museums all neutral exhibitions, programs, museums reveals opportunities to engage “political arenas.”8 But fear of financial initiatives are monolithic because they in deeper and more authentic practices instability, fear of fallout from donors, downplay variance from the determined of social justice. Additionally, I will argue fear of unfavorable scrutiny paralyzes monolith, or norm. This idea of neutrality that empathy, as the opposite of neutrality, museums in a cycle of non-neutral incorrectly determines that forced unity offers museums more fulfilling roads behaviors: dominance, normalizing, is noncontroversial, because “Implicit towards social justice practice. mistakenly called neutral. social norms … call for avoidance of But neutrality as a problem goes conflict and downplaying differences.”11 Neutrality as a Normalizing History beyond financial soundness. It’s It’s assumed that avoiding difference From today’s point of view and a geohistorically based. Through the lens of is the same as avoiding conflict, but in economic perspective, it is impossible critical race theory, or the means by which fact these monolithic practices further for museums to be neutral. “In the sense we contend with dominant narratives, we solidify problematic systems. “If we of tourism, museums have never been can examine how neutrality manifests as avoid these conversations, which aim neutral, contributing to the sense of monolithic practice. Neutrality has time to unpack [colonialism, Eurocentrism, locale identity.”6 Moreover, “museums and again, manifested as resistance to monolithic narratives] … we perpetuate influence identity formation of those change from the normative or monolithic that power dynamic.”12 Moreover, 21st who come in contact with the museum narrative. As an exclusionary practice, century museums know that it is limiting – and those who do not.”7 Museums are neutrality keeps out voices and positions to try to “understand history as linear, too influential, and invested in their whom disrupt the norm. We know this coherent, sensical and verifiable. The communities, to be considered neutral. behavior as monolithic storytelling. institutionalization of history is a political But still the profession remains married Monolithic narratives continue to frame craft: it redacts, edits and omits in order
6. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture, p7 7. Anila, “Inclusion,” 109. 8. MacLellan, “Myth of Apolitical.” 9. Wilson, National museums. 10. Hooper-Greenhill, “Education, Postmodernity,” 369. 11. Sue, Race Talk, 58. 12. Brown, Gutierrez, Okim, and McCullough, “Desegregating Conversations,” 122. 45
to bind and constitute communities.”13 The very act of determining knowledge and influencing consensus around that knowledge is a political act. Therefore the very essence of museums is non-neutral.
threat to the essential makeup of the museum when culture is under attack? Dismantling the Innocence of Museums In embracing a position of neutrality, museums have jointly disseminated the falsehood of their innocence. As servants to the public perhaps there is an implied virtue to museum work, but certainly the proven track record of corruptibility within museums diminishes any sense of presumed innocence. Moreover, the field exerts itself in the pointed task of labeling, categorizing, curating, and
only skims the surface. The lack of innocence suggested by MacLellan is rooted in the profession itself not as a practice that can be rebuked, but as a permanent condition. As an institution positioned towards authority over the past museums are fraudulent. For the reason that, as MacLellan notes, “history can be read, written and presented to distil a sense of patriotism or nationalism framed by [overt forces]…” museums cannot be innocent.19 So long as we engage in art, culture, history, and science, museums can never be neutral.
Considering the Consequences Remaining neutral in social, political, cultural conflict may seem a reasonable way to “protect” the museum from undue critical ire, but in fact these practices are counterintuitive to museum work. “Such protectionism can limit the potential of the artwork [or object] to lift out of a static past and serve as a point of dialogue about The Role of Social those very discrepancies Justice “The very act of determining knowledge and of belief, values, and Efforts towards a neutral meaning. It also influencing consensus around that knowledge reading of history in museums have led to fundamentally denies the is a political act. Therefore, the very essence monolithic practices. legacy of the past on the The impossibility present consciousness of museums is non-neutral” of neutrality should of viewers.”14 As spaces be reason enough to explore difficult to attempt it, but questions and provoke critical thinking, museums cannot engage moreover, if museums are to engage educating – none of which exists in a in neutrality. with social justice, neutrality must be neutral state. In fact museum researcher As national rhetoric, international left behind. Tiffany MacLellan, warns “… against the populist movements, and federal policy In the Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, perpetuation of myths that render the increasingly seek to infringe upon the the Accident, Nobel Prize winner and museum innocent. … museums are not rights and humanity of already vulnerable Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel writes, the final authority on history and the groups, 21st Century museums will have “We must take sides. Neutrality helps master of our pasts.”17 to decide how to define their service the oppressor, never the victim. Silence Just as US President Donald J. Trump to their communities. The end of the encourages the tormentor, never the refused to acknowledge the inflammatory, 20th Century saw increased rhetoric tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. hateful rhetoric that spurred violence, around diversity, equity, inclusion, and When human lives are endangered, leading to the death of one woman accessibility in museums, which would when human dignity is in jeopardy, and the injury of many others, at the suggest which side museums stand in national borders and sensitivities become Charlottesville white nationalist protest on the 21st Century, but still complacency irrelevant. Wherever men and women are August 12, 2017, some histories will alter thrives. As Desmund Tutu famously persecuted because of their race, religion, the events of that fatal day to eliminate said, “If you are neutral in situations of or political views, that place must - at the responsibility from said white injustice, you have chosen the side of the that moment - become the center of the nationalists.18 Efforts from the last fifty oppressor.”15 Neturality is complacency. universe.” years of our profession to acknowledge Educational theorist Paulo Freire Social justice, as of late, does not the centering of whiteness within history explained, “Washing one’s hands of yet function from the center of most are wasted if we continue to purport the the conflict between the powerful and museums, but current discourse myth of the museum’s innocence. the powerless means to side with the demonstrates “an increased field-wide Taking a stand against neutrality powerful, not to be neutral.”16 While interest in positioning museums as counters this myth. Resisting acceptance associated museum communities are sites for social engagement and civic that museums have done, and continue under threat, so is the museum itself. As activism.”20 However as Mr. Wiesel points to do harm, however unintentionally, is a vestibule of culture, what is the potential out, there is no room for neutrality in misplaced. Recognizing harmful practices
13. MacLellan, “Myth of Apolitical.” 14. Anila, “Inclusion,” 111. 15. Younge, “Secrects.” 16. Freire, Politics of Education, 122. 17. MacLellan, “Myth of Apolitical.” 18. Shear and Haberman, “Trump defends.” 19. MacLellan, “Myth of Apolitical.” 20. Brown, Gutierrez, Okim, and McCullough, “Desegregating Conversations,” 121. 47
engaging with social justice. For any authentic engagement with social justice to flourish in a museum setting, it cannot be approached from a neutral position. Justice in any sense requires the choosing of sides. There is no neutral justice. The same goes for social justice. As audiences increasingly express interest in authentic experiences in museums, social justice will be no exception.
As, on social media, museum visitors increasingly seek to engage with museums on social justice issues, 21st Century museums are becoming publicly recognized as platforms for exploring social justice in explicit terms. While the means: social media is new, the outcome: social justice engagement, is not. Considering the historical role of museums as spaces to explore identity
culture, museum interpretive practice itself can be a form of liberatory, social justice. Due to a convergence of powerful factors: populist movements, digital forces, and visibility of social concerns and empathy, social justice is primed to play a key role in 21st Century museums. Museums can be empathetic spaces if we prioritize empathy as an explicit goal, not an unexpected The Museum Visit Itself byproduct of meaningful An Act of Resistance engagement by visitors. “For any authentic engagement with A cursory examination of Neutrality as opposite social justice to flourish in a museum any social media platform to empathy dismisses quickly reveals concerns the empathetic values setting, it cannot be approached about social issues of visitors. We can do from a neutral position” expressed not only by better. In the immortal the often well-informed words of Sam Cooke “a minds of museum visitors, change is gonna come.” but from the worried It needs to come. It hearts of museum practitioners - from and culture, social justice has always must come. Museums need this change. educators to fundraisers to curators to been ingrained in practice. When Neutrality only serves to alienate us from directors. The future of museums lies integrated with critical multicultural the creative and thoughtful agency of in the embrace of political position education, which works to investigate our visitors. - not necessarily a partisan one - the the maintenance of authentic cultural abandonment of the idea of neutrality, history, the subjugation of non-dominant Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell, Head of and the openness towards radical shifts cultural knowledge and the continuous Public Programs, Smithsonian American in social concern. movement, fluidity and evolution of Art Museum and The Renwick Gallery Bibliography Anila, Swarupa. “Inclusion Requires Fracturing,” Journal of Museum Education 42, no. 2, (2017) 108-119. Autry, LaTanya. A Critical Lens on Diversity and Inclusion in Museums: #museumsrespondtoferguson, National Council on Public History, March 2016. Brown, Lovisa, Caren Gutierrez, Janine Okim and Susan McCullough. “Desegregating Conversations about Race and Identity in Culturally Specific Museums.” Journal of Museum Education 42, no. 2. (Summer 2017): 120-131. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2017.1303602 Darwin, Charles. On Evolution: The Development of the Theory of Natural Selection. ed. Thomas F. Glick and David Kohn. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1996), 58. Farrell, Betty, and Medvedeva, Maria. “Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums.” American Association of Museums, 2010. Freier, Paulo. The Politics of Education: Culture, Power, and Liberation. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1985. Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. “Education, Postmodernity and the Museum in Museum Revolutions.” In Museum Revolutions: How museums change and are changed. ed. Simon Knell, Suzanne MacLeod, and Sheila Watson, 367-377. New York: Routledge, 2007. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage. Berkley: University of California Press, 1998. MacLellan, Tiffany. “The myth of the apolitical museum.” Ottawa Citizen, December 9, 2013. https://www.pressreader.com/canada/ottawa-citizen/20131209/281698317552482 “New Projections Point to Minority Majority Nation in 2044,” Brookings, accessed August 11, 2017, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/theavenue/2014/12/12/new-projections-point-to-a-majority-minority-nation-in-2044/. Sharma, Manisha. “Undisciplined Space: Indian craft heritage sites as texts for critical practice.” In Multiculturalism in Art Museums Today, ed. Joni Boyd Acuff and Laura Evans, 111-126. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. Shear, Michael D. and Maggie Haberman. “Trump Defends Initial Remarks on Charlottesville; Again Blames ‘Both Sides.’” The New York Times, August 15, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/us/politics/trump-press-conference-charlottesville.html Sue, Derald Wing. Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc: 2015. Younge, Gary. “The secrets of a peacemaker.” The Guardian, May 22, 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/may/23/interview-desmond-tutu Wilson, Sir David M. National museums. In Manual of Curatorship: A Guide to Museum Practice. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd,1984. 48
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Structuring for Digital Success Kati Price and Dafydd James on why museums need to be better at defining digital success and the steps required for digital transformation to succeed
t was a shared nerdery around organograms that began our research into Digital Team structures. We realised we weren’t alone – that many others, in fact, had a desire to know how different museums manage their activity on digital platforms. But that information isn’t readily available. This prompted our recent survey of team structures, objectives, resourcing and skills. We had responses from leaders and workers within the museum sector and beyond, and from across the globe. Our research feels timely. The pressure to sharpen up our digital game is mounting from our funders and supporters, who are increasingly demanding that the cultural organisations they fund have a robust digital strategy (e.g. Arts Council England). Yet, a lack of digital skills and literacy are cited as one of the major barriers to digital ambition and growth within the cultural sector (Nesta, Digital Culture 2017: https://www.nesta. org.uk/report/digital-culture-2017/). However, we were surprised how little literature there was around how organisations resource their digital programmes and activity, and structure the people who provide them. The paucity not just of literature, but also of any practical advice, points to an urgent need for our study, Structuring for Digital Success.
Where our research began We read through the little material that exists, including Loic Tallon’s article benchmarking 12 art museums in the USA1. We also knew of digital consultant Oliver Vicars-Harris’s (unpublished) study of seven National Museums in London. We have been involved in the ongoing OnebyOne research project led by University of Leicester2, exploring a digital literacy framework for staff in the museum sector. We pored over organograms kindly shared by some of our peers. We also combed through lots of interesting material outside of the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) sector, especially around digital maturity segmentations and frameworks. The journey towards digital maturity A digital maturity model helps an organisation to determine its level of digital competence and provide a number of strategies to consider for digital transformation. Many of the models, which tend to be developed by large consultancy firms, score the digital business against a number of different aspects to map the organisation against segments of digital maturity. Most of these digital maturity models, if not all, require you have to pay to find out where you sit on the scale. And they are typically geared
towards commercial companies. This is why we’d like to know if there’s appetite for a new digital maturity model for the GLAM sector that takes into account some of the nuances of non-profits that are geared towards public engagement. Digging into digital maturity models, backed up by Nesta’s Digital Culture 2017 research, we found that: • Digital will have even greater impact in the later segments of digital maturity • Those that are willing to invest more in digital are seeing higher levels of digital maturity, helping them become differentiators in their respective fields • It is a virtuous circle: the appetite for innovation is higher among those that invest more in digital and who are therefore seeing better results. The survey We designed a survey that ran for a month at the end of last year, with nearly 60 responses from museums and other cultural organisations across the globe. We followed up with in-depth interviews with 10 peers from a range of GLAM institutions to explore some trends we recognised a little further. This turned out to be a far bigger exercise than either of us had ever imagined. We definitely bit off more than we could chew. But chew we must...
1. https://medium.com/@loictallon/digital-is-more-than-a-department-it-is-a-collective-responsibility-786cdf816d12 2. http://one-by-one.uk/ 51
So, who responded to our survey? Unsurprisingly, given that we’re both based there, most of our responses were from the UK. Half in fact. Next up was North America followed by Europe and Australia, with one from Brazil. For the purposes of our survey, we defined the size of an organisation according to the number of staff, in the following way: • • • •
Under 10 = very small 10-100 = small 100-500 = medium 500+ = large
Survey The survey received nearly 60 responses from museums and other cultural organisations across the globe
Team How many people are in your digital team (centralised/hub models)?
The majority of responses – nearly 80% – were from small (43%) and medium-sized (36%) organisations. 19% were from organisations of over 500 people, and the remainder were from very small organisations. Funding, people and skills Perhaps unsurprisingly, our research revealed that budgets are not large enough to serve our organisations’ digital ambitions. This quote from Oliver VicarsHarris will resonate with many: “Without adequate revenue to invest in ongoing digital development, attention and effort will constantly be pulled in the direction of highly visible digital initiatives that might be more opportunistic than they are strategic.” We would argue it is therefore vital for digital leaders to make the case for continuous (rather than continual) investment in digital activity and infrastructure. Digital leaders must manage organisational expectation of what is realistic with existing, as well as with future, budgets. Even with the right funding in place, you need enough people to deliver digital success. It’s interesting to see, here, that over 60% of our respondents have five or less in their digital team. When we set out on this research we, perhaps naively, thought there might be some perfect, or at least established, ratio between the size of the digital team and that of the organisation. There isn’t. The optimal size is most likely to be determined by the number and 52
complexity of functions overseen by a digital team. 75% of our respondents cited a lack of digital resource relative to the organisation’s long-term ambition. But, as we all know, size isn’t everything… “In my experience a small team can get a lot more done – don’t be concerned about building an empire.” - Lucie Paterson, Product Manager, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Australia It was when we were exploring skills that we were quite shocked by our findings. Despite being cited among the most important skills, technical leadership and data management and analysis are the most underrepresented skills on digital teams. Why, we wonder, do organisations recognise that tech and data skills are vital, yet these are two areas that are typically under-supported? We imagine the answer will have something to do with paucity of supply, and GLAM organisations struggling to hire the most talented tech and data specialists because they are unable to remunerate skilled digital workers adequately. We found that content, product management and social media skills are all relatively well represented on most digital
teams. But we would add a note of caution here: organisations must recognise the need to continuously invest in these core competencies. We urge our peers to consider now the future skills needed to support emerging technologies. What we’re really talking about here, is people. As Piers Jones, Chief Digital and Product Officer at the Natural History Museum, London, advises: “Spend as much time as you can on hiring and bringing the right people into your team when you get the opportunity, one great hire can be transformational, one poor hire can be a disaster.’” Leading digital success So who’s in charge? The title of the most senior role in charge of digital depends on the organisation’s digital agenda and what it wants to achieve. • CDO (Chief Digital Officer) – driving digital transformation • CXO (Chief Experience Officer) – delivering a holistic customer experience • CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) – using digital for marketing and communications • CTO (Chief Technology Officer) – streamlining technical infrastructure
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“For digital transformation to succeed, the senior most leaders in the organisation need to own and help drive that change”
• CPO (Chief Product Officer) – developing a product culture • CCO (Chief Content Officer) – championing content whatever the platform Where your organisation is in its digital maturity journey determines what leadership role it requires, and where this sits in the organisation. Some of our interviewees had strong feelings about where the digital function should report (or not). “Digital should NEVER report to Marketing. I’m yet to meet a Marketing team who fully understand the breadth and depth of the need for digital in a service.” - Zak Mensah, Head of Transformation, Bristol Culture, UK In our survey we asked ‘Where should digital sit?’ Danny Birchall, Digital Content Manager at the Wellcome Collection in London, kindly highlighted the absurdity of our question.
support function like HR or finance, nor a traditional vertical like conservation or education.” Digital team structures Our survey revealed the different structures employed by GLAM organisations to manage their digital infrastructure and activity. Outsourced
“This an unanswerable question – it’s like asking where a sofa should go in a living room. Put it where it fits and works.” We would argue that where digital is located depends on how your organisation defines digital and what you want to achieve. The good news is that most of those we surveyed agree or slightly agree that they’re in the right location. Our respondents strongly believe that digital should ideally report directly to the top of the organisation. For digital transformation to succeed, the senior most leaders in the organisation need to own and help drive that change. More important than the job title, however, is the digital literacy and advocacy of the person that teams report into. Having a vision for digital and defined success metrics will help identify the right location for a digital team, or teams. As John Stack Digital Director at the Science Museum Group wisely observes: “There’s no right place in the org chart for digital as it operates both a vertical and as a horizontal and has blurred edges. It’s not a traditional horizontal
Lots of our survey respondents were from small organisations, many of which have therefore, small digital teams, sometimes just one person, and rely a lot on outsourcing to external freelancers and agencies. Commissioning digital development externally gives the organisation more choice in agencies or freelancers, without the overhead of permanent staff. The work is typically well documented and will draw on insights from outside the sector. However, more choice doesn’t necessarily mean better; you may be paying more for an agency that typically has a high turnover of staff and doesn’t understand the sector or its audiences as well. For this model to succeed, it requires a very strong individual or small team to commission and manage a portfolio of products across a variety of areas.
Some, we knew, would be less structured in how they approach their digital resourcing digital. The decentralised model sees Individuals or small groups of digital staff dispersed across different departments. In addition to this, functions could be devolved across the organisation. Decentralising the digital team helps to instil a sense of shared ownership over digital activity, potentially leading to a higher digital literacy across multiple departments. However, the lack of a single digital leader, vision and values may lead to disparate and uncoordinated activity. Centralised
We thought most respondents would have some sort of centralised team structure where staff are located in one department, with oversight and control of the digital activity in an organisation. Usually, this means a multidisciplinary department, which may consist of multiple sub-teams 55
depending on the size of the organisation. A centralised model delivers a more coordinated output, due to single management (and often location) of resources. The model leads to a strong vision, more editorial control and more accountability. But without proper communication and cooperation, this model risks a silo mentality and can hinder digital skills development elsewhere in the organisation. However, our research reveals there are nuances at play here. A centralised team can manifest itself in two ways: a top down centralised approach, with a digital leader running a digital team, and a hub and spoke model, a more networked approach where some functions and activity are devolved to other departments, with support and steer from the digital team at the core. Hub and spoke
This is usually a small central unit that coordinates individuals or small teams in the delivery of digital activity across other areas of the organisation. Staff in the non-digital departments may report to more than one department head in a matrix structure. This model allows for a central vision and strong editorial control while involving other departments in digital activity. It also helps to build a comprehensive digital literacy in the organisation. Because there are potential conflicting priorities between the hub and other departments, this model depends on good coordination and cooperation between many departments. 56
Some respondents stated their aspiration to devolve responsibility and capability for digital activity across the organisation. This led us to believe that there are two possible models for ‘fully devolved’ digital governance: the more chaotic decentralised approach outlined earlier, where digital resourcing has emerged quite organically, to a much more structured holistic approach, which has digital activity truly devolved across the organisation, in a highly coordinated way. The holistic model would rely on a mature approach that sees digital activity distributed organisation-wide. A digital leader should have a cross-departmental view of digital activity and a means for coordinating and delivering across a number of departments. Digital teams as part of a shifting culture What became clear from the people that we interviewed and surveyed is that many of us are well on our way to devolving some digital responsibility. We began to sense that the way organisations govern digital activity was based on their digital maturity: Digital teams are part of a shifting culture, rather than a permanent structural fixture.
We believe that as part of the journey towards digital maturity, team structures will move through different structural incarnations. This can happen by design or by default. But we believe, as a sector, organisations must consider each stage carefully, and understand what is needed – skills and resource-wise – to enable us to move to the next step towards digital maturity. Most organisations in our survey (74%) centralise digital resource in one location or are shifting to a hub and spoke model - and therefore at the beginning of their journey towards digital maturity. Gathering digital resource in one location is probably the right business decision at a given moment in time. There are merits in having a highly centralised team: centralising digital provision will ensure that the organisation has a focused digital vision, it gives leadership a point of accountability and enables the team to develop a new culture within a traditional organisation. The core functions for digital teams now are most likely content, social media and digital infrastructure. However, digital teams are evolving as they draw in other functions, such as marketing, visitor experience and publishing. Some specialist functions, such as product development, are likely to exist in small central teams in the future. In this sense digital will never be purely horizontally dispersed but, even in the most mature segments, digital expertise will also continue to exist in vertical teams. Aligning for digital success So what does digital success look like for the different institutions in our research? Regrettably, the answer to this question revealed a lack of well-defined visions for success among the organisations we surveyed. And, where they do exist, these visions are not necessarily well
Image © Jody Kingzett courtesy of the Science Museum Group
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“What will be key to our success in our journey towards digital maturity is for us to share both our successes and our failures”
Positive Future Responses to the statement: ‘I am feeling positive about the digital future of my organisation’
communicated or understood by the whole team. However, many of our respondents cited audience engagement and increasing digital reach as key goals for digital. Some were also driving organisational change through digital transformation, improving business processes and infrastructure. Digital was, for many, a powerful tool in distributing knowledge and research, and in building brand awareness. And some – surprisingly few – had commercial goals for digital. For some, success was defined as getting a project completed, rather than involving ongoing measurement to understand how products are delivering against business and user goals. Planning for products beyond the delivery phase will help organisations move beyond project measures (which, too often, focus on vanity metrics). Digital leaders must understand and communicate how digital products are supporting the wider organisational mission and how to measure broader digital impact. Digital maturity can only be achieved when the digital vision is aligned with the business. Those with the clearest definitions of success had aligned their digital objectives around those of the
organisation, and were focussed on outcome with measurable, well-defined goals. “The [digital] vision should ultimately support the vision or mission for the organisation. A digital strategy should never be separate from the overall strategy, but a means to achieving.” - Ros Lawler, Digital Director, Tate Future of digital teams Our respondents are feeling positive about the digital future of their organisations. The Brits, perhaps more so than our North American counterparts. We too see a very positive digital future for museums and other GLAMs. What other organisations are able to draw from such a rich source of content? What other sector is so well placed to use technology to unlock the stories within our institutions and collections, reaching new audiences as we do so? But our findings suggest that none of us have genuinely reached the final segment of digital maturity. We believe that this will not happen until we begin to align digital with our organisational ambitions. We need to be better at defining and communicating our visions for digital
success. We must also look inwards, to ensure organisation-wide digital literacy by investing in core skills, particularly in developing technical leadership and data analysis skills. This will lead to greater technical rigour around how we develop our digital infrastructures and better enable us to use data and insights to inform strategy. And none of this can be done unless we are able to remunerate our digital staff properly to attract and retain a talented digital workforce. What will be key to our success in our journey towards digital maturity is for us to share both our successes and our failures. As Zak Mensah concludes: “Digital teams are still in their infancy in the sector. We’re building the future digital teams right now and should share, share and share some more.” Kati Price Head of Digital Media and Publishing, Victoria & Albert Museum Dafydd James Head of Digital Media, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales 59
Collections & Communities Rather than be defined by outcomes, Royal Museums Greenwich wanted their £25m Endeavour Project to be shaped by the journey – by Mike Sarna, Gail Symington, Sarah Lockwood, Birthe Christensen, and Philippa Mackenzie
oyages of exploration – historical, cultural and personal – lie at the heart of Royal Museums Greenwich’s Endeavour Project. This £25 million venture, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, includes the opening of a new purpose-built collections and conservation centre and four permanent galleries at the National Maritime Museum. The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre at Kidbrooke in southeast London includes storage for many of our most precious objects, state-ofthe-art conservation studios and most 60
importantly, improved public access. The Endeavour Galleries are four permanent spaces – Tudor and Stuart Seafarers, Pacific Encounters, Polar Worlds and Sea Things – which together nearly double the Museum’s display capacity. In different ways, these galleries examine how men and women ventured beyond Britain’s shores to explore the ends of the Earth in their quest for knowledge, riches and adventure. We are also revealing how contact between different peoples and European explorers irrevocably changed lives, and how Britain was, and continues to be, transformed by these encounters.
New Galleries: Visitors wanted more than a traditional gallery approach. They wanted to experience a ‘sense of place’; things that would help them connect emotionally to the locations and stories within each gallery, elements of surprise and opportunities to participate. Left: Polar Worlds; Right: Tudor and Stuart Seafarers. Images courtesy of the National Maritime Museum and Casson Mann © Hufton+Crow
Yet this project is much more than a new store and a display of objects: it is a chance for the Museum to reflect on who it is and its purpose; it is about being brave and thinking outside of the traditional museum ideology; it is about embracing the opportunity to extend our reach beyond the Museum’s walls, and it has meant careful future-proofing for sustainable change. A museum for everyone To truly transform the Museum and the way it works we needed to listen and to learn from others. We needed to be open to change and to acknowledge that the best way to grow was to collaborate. We did not want to be defined by our outcomes, but to be shaped by our journey. From an early stage we identified the following four-point framework for our activities: • Remove barriers to make the museum more accessible • Create community ownership; become a useful space • Represent invisible histories; explore our identities • Collaborate to create a social and inspiring place The Endeavour Project is about ensuring we are a museum for everyone, overcoming our shortcomings and obstacles, to offer new ways into our amazing collection and be a meaningful part of people’s lives. We hope to challenge, engage and inspire new generations as they set sail on their own voyages of imagination, discovery and understanding.
Removing barriers Removing intellectual, physical and cultural barriers and facilitating access were fundamental to the Endeavour Galleries’ design brief and execution. Early consultation with our current and potential audiences told us that visitors wanted more than a traditional gallery approach. They wanted to experience a ‘sense of place’; things that would help them connect emotionally to the locations and stories within each gallery, elements of surprise and opportunities to participate throughout. They also wanted points of access and engagement that related to their own lives, as well as spaces to interact socially with friends and family. The galleries have been designed with the users at their heart.
In Tudor and Stuart Seafarers the overall design approach is both dramatic (dark woods and moody lighting) and rich (panels of gold and coloured silks on the walls) with intriguing juxtapositions of objects, audio-visual interventions and graphics. These encourage engagement and ensure an experience different from the other galleries. Taking inspiration from the tantalizing movie trailer, three large interactive touch tables sit at the centre of the space which draw the gallery’s major themes together in an understandable way and inspire visitors to interact with, and participate in, stories of adventure, wealth, power and conflict. In stark contrast, the Polar Worlds gallery evokes a place that is harsh and cold with blurred edges and vanishing 61
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Sea Things: The design accommodates as many objects as possible and allows visitors to get up close. Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum and Casson Mann © Hufton+Crow
points where huge ice blocks (display cases) frame and control the view. Visitors are encouraged to explore the terrain and are rewarded with familiar features, such as evocations of the Northern and Southern Lights, and unfamiliar encounters including contemporary performances by Tanya Tagaq, an Inuit artist and singer. Surprising and playful elements include a huge ice saw which appears to be cutting through the gallery itself and the visitor’s first meeting being with a contemporary female polar scientist or an Inuit storyteller, rather than the predictable European male explorers from the past. There are also places to rest, gather and discuss the issues facing the polar regions today which is brought together in a large interactive digital table at the centre of the gallery. In Pacific Encounters a sense of place is created by metaphorically ‘flooding’ the gallery. Visitors are greeted by a vast ocean lapping the shore at both ends: there is an animated, sculptural wave at one end and a contemporary Drua (Fijian canoe) at the other. Across the gallery a waterline supports objects, collections and stories which sit on, and below, the ocean’s surface and emphasize the cultural importance of the seas to the peoples of the Pacific. Accessible seating has also been strategically placed to enhance the experience, whether viewing an important painting or simply needing a point to rest along the way. The design of Sea Things works hard to accommodate as many objects as possible and to allow visitors to get up close, and in many cases, touch the real things on display. The oceans are never far away in any of the galleries, and the large digital seashore which washes across and between the objects in Sea Things makes an effective connection between visitors, objects and the sea. Interactive and participatory points encourage visitors to reflect on their relationship
“The design works hard to accommodate as many objects as possible and to allow visitors to get up close, and in many cases, touch the real things on display” with the sea: ‘Memories of the Sea’ asks visitors to share their maritime reminiscences, ‘Ship’s Badges’ explores identity and belonging, while ‘Sea People’, a co-curation project working with underrepresented communities, questions what is missing from our collection through a playful display of busts and figurines. Collections access beyond display Overcoming barriers to access extends beyond these four new galleries, and with over 1.5 million objects in the collection, providing full and unfettered contact with all of the Museum’s objects is a challenge. The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre is a new and exciting way for us to meet this challenge and make our reserve
collections supremely accessible to the public for whom they are cared for. This new facility will balance increased access with the needs of care, preservation and security to deliver a range of engaging programmes – ‘behind-the-scenes’ tours, handling sessions, seminars and workshops – for those warmly welcomed to the Centre. Each of the five conservation studios (frames, objects, paintings, paper and textiles) has been designed to accommodate a large group of visitors who can see conservation up close without impeding on the work programme. The intention is to have different types of tours ranging from an introduction to conservation to a more detailed in-depth study visit about a specific conservation 63
Polar Worlds: The Polar Worlds gallery evokes a place that is harsh and cold with blurred edges and vanishing points where huge ice blocks (display cases) frame and control the view. Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum and Casson Mann © Hufton+Crow
“Collaborative projects are at the very heart of the new galleries. We have actively encouraged and welcomed debate about our collections, stories and subjects, creating a space for often difficult conversations” discipline or object. We will also run a series of care-of-collections sessions where it will be possible to gain a better understanding of our objects and how we care for them. Yet conservation is not just about ensuring objects are preserved for the future, it also aids the interpretation of objects, provides understanding of their construction and manufacture and helps unlock the stories hidden within them which give resonance and meaning. While some objects retain an instant aesthetic or evidentiary value to a contemporary audience, others can become less easy to decipher as time goes by. Conservation can be used to mentally deconstruct these objects and encourage engagement that is different, yet complementary to, that at the main museum site in Greenwich. Community consultation / ownership In the development of the new galleries we consulted over 28,000 individuals from local, national and international communities, to unlock the potential of the Museum’s rich collections. We 64
have actively encouraged and welcomed debate about our collections, stories and subjects, creating a space for often difficult conversations between communities and specialists. Consultation and collaborative projects are at the very heart of the new galleries and have helped visitors negotiate complex and challenging themes, like Britain’s role in empire. These have also created familiar entry points for audiences to engage in the debate. Our goal with Endeavour was to help communities make connections and become active participants in ‘their museum’. We have collaborated on several cocuration projects working with local schools (St Stephens Primary School in Deptford, Linton Mead Primary School in Greenwich), colleges (Southend Adult Community College, Newham College of Fashion), community groups (the Caribbean Social Forum, Mermaids UK) and societies (Girlguiding, Action for Refugees in Lewisham) to inform the content of the galleries. These have shed new light on familiar stories,
created artistic interventions, alternative interpretations and challenged some of our own ideas about objects, galleries and museums. Pacific communities in Britain have helped us understand, display and interpret their Taonga (treasures) in the Pacific Encounters gallery and inspired us to reconsider the impact and legacies of contact with European explorers. We have reached out across oceans, making fruitful relationships with Pacific Islanders, and have sought help from the Inuit and Wampanoag peoples of the Americas to help us tell important stories of exploration in the Polar Worlds and Tudor and Stuart Seafarers galleries. Community consultation has also been a focus for testing and reviewing all aspects of design and content. Our audiences have ensured that we have stayed on track and have not got carried away with inaccessible design solutions. From font sizes, illustrative approaches and audio visual design to the overall look and feel of each gallery, we have paused along the way to reflect with our partners
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Pacific Encounters: The scale of the Endeavour Project has provided an opportunity for meaningful change. Pacific communities in Britain have helped the Museum understand, display and interpret their Taonga (treasures). Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum and Casson Mann © Hufton+Crow
and co-curators to make sure the galleries are the very best they can be. The scale of the Endeavour Project has provided an opportunity for meaningful, transformational change in the Museum. It has necessitated cross-museum involvement in its delivery, prompting a revision of our own policy as we increase the quality of the dialogue undertaken with our community stakeholders. We have used a layered approach to the project’s development: one-to-one discussions, group consultations and collaborative workshops which have informed the design and content of the galleries and associated programming. Overall we have aimed to alter people’s perception of the Museum, deepen understanding of our collections and ultimately become a more welcoming, inspiring and useful place for our communities. This project marks a ‘step change’ by creating a catalyst for long term impact in the way we connect with our communities and how we embed an audience-led focus into all that we do. Representing invisible histories Community collaboration and consultation has uncovered unknown or invisible histories which we have sought to represent in the new galleries – the experiences of women, BAME, LGBT, disabled people for instance – which provide fascinating and inclusive new perspectives on familiar narratives. The practical realisation of these has probably been the biggest challenge for us. The outcomes by their very nature are unknown, thus difficult to design into the overall scheme. We have adopted a flexible approach, which allows elements of displays to be accommodated later by creating frameworks, and agreed constraints, which all teams can work with. This has been particularly effective
“This project marks a ‘step change’ by creating a catalyst for long term impact in the way we connect with our communities and how we embed an audience-led focus into all that we do” in the Pacific Encounters gallery where artist commissions were given spaces to develop within an agreed brief while the rest of the gallery was designed and built around them. Of course, our new approach is not just about the collections we already have. It is about making sure our collections remain relevant and representative in the future. In a new Collections Development Policy, we have identified collecting areas of particular interest and, in consultation with other collecting institutions and key stakeholders, will identify material that has stronger contemporary links. We are working to be more mindful of emerging events and underrepresented communities and target our collecting around these. For example, the Museum
has recently acquired a painting by contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley whose work is primarily composed of heroic portraits of people of African descent that appropriate and reclaim the settings and postures of old master paintings. Entitled Ship of Fools, the work explores themes of migration and isolation. Royal Museums Greenwich have also recently been selected for one of the UK’s Art Fund New Collecting Awards for a project to collect contemporary cartography relating to forced migration. Changing the way we work Our Endeavour Project is not just about new buildings and galleries but is a fundamental shift in how we operate as a museum. While we have a long history 67
Sea Things In the Sea Things gallery interactive and participatory points encourage visitors to reflect on their relationship with the sea. Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum and Casson Mann © Hufton+Crow
“Our Endeavour Project is not just about new galleries but is a fundamental shift in how we operate as a museum”
of working with underrepresented communities in the development of galleries and public programmes, we are now embarking on a new voyage collaborating much closer with our communities to better refine and shape the whole visitor experience. The stories we tell have a powerful impact on people’s lives and it is hoped that the galleries and programmes consciously create a transformative and meaningful experience that is shaped by our audiences and communities and brings together people and ideas in unexpected and exciting ways. With the completion of the Endeavour Project, it is hoped that visitors will experience a museum that is inspiring, engaging and relevant, truly reflective of modern Britain, and somewhere they feel they belong. Mike Sarna - Director, Collections & Public Engagement (former) Gail Symington - Director, Collections & Public Engagement Sarah Lockwood - Head of Learning & Interpretation 68
Birthe Christensen - Head of Conservation & Preservation (former) Philippa Mackenzie - Head of Collections Management (former) Location: National Maritime Museum Budget: £25m (galleries and stores) Designers: Casson Mann Architects: Purcell Basebuild: Concept Building Services Fit-Out: Realm Projects Display Cases: REIER GmbH Media Producer: Squint/Opera AV Integrator: Sysco Productions Interactive Producer: Clay Interactive Storage (stores): Rackline Main funders: Heritage Lottery Fund Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport The Sackler Trust Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation Mark Pigott KBE KStJ The Chancellor using LIBOR funds The Wolfson Foundation The Foyle Foundation & others
Casson Mann’s experience working on the Endeavour Galleries From the moment Casson Mann first read the brief for the Endeavour Galleries, it was clear that this was an ambitious project. The client invited us to take part in a “cooperative, inclusive process … informed by the involvement of target audiences and community groups.” We saw this as a great opportunity to test ourselves as designers. How could we create high quality, authoritative galleries, worthy of a national museum, and yet truly include audiences in the process? We knew we couldn’t compromise on design. Museum visitors want immersive, sensory, engaging galleries and so we needed a strong design vision that could unite potentially disparate elements. Creating a ‘sense of place’ became our overarching vision: each gallery environmentally different to the next. Polar Worlds is icy-blue, with blurred outlines of visibility. Pacific Encounters suggests the vast ocean, led by a wave cresting over the visitors’ heads as they enter. Within these environments, many different elements can come together: different voices can be heard and visitors have the magical possibility of stepping into other worlds. The collaborative process was not new to Casson Mann. On our projects we relish creative dialogue with writers, academics, theatre directors, and, recently, comedians. One small spark can ignite a whole new direction. This project has shown us that, when it comes to generating content, there are different types of ‘expertise’. Often the most illuminating insight into an object can come from a visitor. Objects evoke personal memories, thoughts and feelings, which resonate powerfully with other visitors. Casson Mann is now working to embed this knowledge into our design process. On this project, we created a flexible design, which allowed cocurated elements to be incorporated, sometimes late in the process. Capturing visitors’ and users’ insights earlier in the design process will have a profound effect on exhibition design.
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Invisible Insights Coline Cuau and Harrison Pim on using data from TripAdvisor reviews to gain valuable insights into the visitor experience at the British Museum
5.9 million people visited the British Museum in 2017. The Visitor Insights team was created in 2016 to handle customer service and extract actionable insights from the feedback received by the Museum © The British Museum
f you are a brand or an institution, people talk about you. That’s a fact. If you happen to be a museum which welcomes around 17,000 visitors per day then lots of people talk about you. They talk about you all the time, in all languages, in ways you can’t control. They’ll talk about your new exhibition, your audio guides, your security procedures and the coffee you serve in your restaurants. Some of these people will talk to you directly – they’ll send emails and write letters and leave comment cards, which you can neatly log. However, most of the people talking about you will do so behind your back, using channels which you have no control over and can’t easily access. Despite being difficult to track and to measure, these conversations are incredibly valuable for institutions. They are a rich mine of detailed, qualitative and honest feedback in all languages across long periods of time, and hold extremely valuable insights. Origins of the project Listening to visitors isn’t a new thing for the British Museum. It has been the focus of many teams and research projects over the years, though usually from a quantitative and marketing perspective
– who are our visitors? How happy are they? Where did they come from? Things went a step further in 2016, when the Visitor Insights team was created to handle customer service and extract actionable insights from the feedback and enquiries received by the Museum. The team’s goal is to identify conversation topics, measure trends over time and report on the learnings to other teams around the Museum, informing decisions with real-time data about what visitors think. The system we have set up helps us precisely catalogue every message, from enquiries about tours to positive feedback about family activities. It was initially set up to log emails and comment cards, but has since evolved to include digital feedback from tweets and Facebook direct messages.
giving them numbers and ammunition to prove the value of their work and its importance to visitors. Now, this is where the story gets interesting. While analysing direct messages has been useful, it has also been quite limited. Emails and tweets are valuable pieces of feedback, but they tend to be a the extreme ends of the sentiment scales – someone who writes to you is usually either very happy or very dissatisfied. Moreover, there is a strong language bias in these messages since most of those are sent by native or confident English speakers. By looking at direct messages only, we were missing out on a huge part of the average visitor’s experience. Here’s the plot twist. If you can tag emails, letters, comment cards and tweets, then why not tag TripAdvisor reviews?
“If you are a brand or an institution, people talk about you. If you happen to be a museum which welcomes around 17,000 visitors per day then lots of people talk about you. They talk about you all the time, in all languages, in ways you can’t control”
The insights we have collected from this data have helped us start to make some tangible improvements around the Museum. We have managed to reduce complaints about our luggage policy by making the information more prominent on our website. We have updated the previsit emails we send out to exhibition visitors to help them navigate queues. We have helped bring about small but significant improvements to our facilities such as replacing hand dryers and babychanging mats. More importantly, we have been able to effectively measure what visitors like and dislike using tangible data rather than what we thought visitors liked. We have also helped colleagues across the Museum make their case for change,
Data, data, data and more data The British Museum gets on average 1,000 TripAdvisor reviews a month, with an average rating of just over 4.6 out of five. These come in multiple languages, describing visits in great detail and giving unprecedented insight into the visitor experience. The comments include things that emails to the Museum rarely, or never mention: the temperature in the galleries, the size of the crowds on specific days, language and wayfinding issues, how overwhelming the Museum can seem, who they visited with and how amazing it is that it’s all on display for free. Each of these thousands of reviews holds an indication of what visitors like and what we can improve - having scores with the 71
Clusters: Similar groups of words are clustered together, providing topics to investigate. That knowledge can also be abstracted to a higher level, showing the similarity of entire reviews to one another
reviews means that we can also figure out which topics have the strongest impact on satisfaction. This dataset is not only much larger in size than the one we previously built using direct messages. It is also more representative of our international audience, and features a much broader range of conversation topics. We could go on for ages about how useful this data is to us, but you probably get it by now. However, we were faced with one major issue – analysing 1,000 reviews every month takes up a crazy amount of time and resources, and anyone who works in a museum knows this is not something we have plenty of. At the start, our exploration of TripAdvisor reviews was extremely manual: we looked for specific topics within short timeframes, and logged these reviews by hand. It was a slow process, but yielded some interesting results. The project could have stopped here, but we felt it was too interesting to give up. We were in love with the data, some people in the Museum were showing an interest, and, most importantly, such research had never been done. In order to take things to the next level, we needed two main things: more data, and more manpower. The data came from TripAdvisor themselves. We reached out to them and explained our research, and the positive impact it had been having around the Museum. After some back and forth they agreed to give us two years of data featuring the complete review text, titles, date, language they were written in and group type of the reviewer. The fun could start.
Intersections: Chart of topical intersections to see which topics were most related to one another, and whether any of those relationships might be causal
By writing a few lines of code to automatically tag our new and complete reviews, we very quickly had a much larger usable dataset to play with. We could immediately see which topics had the greatest impact on satisfaction. Additionally, topical intersections let us see which topics were most related to one another, and whether any of those relationships might be causal. We
top by themselves – emergent from the data rather than the analyst’s domain knowledge. This kind of approach is much more in line with the idea of ‘letting our audience speak to us’, instead of the selective hearing that it’s so easy to fall into. For example, by using a few modern natural language processing techniques we can enumerate the semantic similarity of individual words in our reviews, as
“This dataset is not only much larger in size than the one we previously built, it is also more representative of our international audience, and features a much broader range of conversation topics”
could then advise the Museum more pragmatically, by going after the root of a problem rather than its symptoms. This kind of traditional, manual approach to topic identification was fine, and it gave us some great initial results. However, we’ve found that it’s often too easy for people to subtly impose their own biases in analysis, and that this can contribute to a gap between our visitors’ understanding of the Museum and our own. Fortunately, this dataset is massive. If the data is massaged correctly and we use a few careful modern data science techniques, themes begin to rise to the
illustrated above. Similar groups of words are clustered together, giving us topics to investigate. That knowledge can also be abstracted to a higher level, showing us the similarity of entire reviews to one another. Using a bit more machine learning, we can also make probabilistic guesses about whether new reviews contain positive or negative sentiment, or how many bubbles (the TripAdvisor term for stars) they’re likely to give us based on the sequences of words within them. Assigning bubble ratings to TripAdvisor reviews is fun but useless – every review has already been given 73
Language: Trip Advisor - most frequent topics by language (all rating)* © British Museum
a number of bubbles by the reviewer. The system becomes useful when it’s transferred to new platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and email, where the sentiment or theme of a comment or review is unknown before it’s read. By developing a numerical understanding of the way that we’re talked about, a significant part of the process for producing deep, meaningful visitor insights can be sped up and simplified. This could help us expand this process
analysis to these new platforms if we were to get the data. Now for the impacts. We’ve made some interesting discoveries throughout this project. For example: visitors care more about temperatures than crowds. Toilets have a bigger impact on satisfaction rating than object labels. Spanish-speaking visitors are more likely to mention tours and audio guides than any other nationality (even though there are currently no tours in Spanish on offer).
“We’ve made some interesting discoveries throughout this project. For example, visitors care more about temperatures than crowds and toilets have a bigger impact on satisfaction rating than object labels”
to new channels very efficiently, and come up with an overall cross-platform satisfaction score which we could track over time. The approach has a few more benefits. For example, everything we’ve described is language-agnostic: the algorithms we’ve used don’t rely on the text being written in english, so transferring them to spanish, italian, french, or chinese is trivial (as long as you have a native speaker nearby to contextualise the results). We know a lot of our visitors prefer to use local, language specific platforms rather than TripAdvisor (such as Mafwengo ot Qyer in China), which means we could easily extend our 74
French visitors talk a lot about family activities. Non-English speakers are more reliant on the audio guide and therefore have higher expectations for it, so they give more critical feedback. These insights have been shared with teams around the Museum, and are currently being used to inform long-term strategy decisions. These are insights which would otherwise go unseen, from voices that would otherwise be unheard. The blend of automation and human supervision allows us to do research at a large scale, and to listen to the distinct conversations our visitors are having instead of being drowned by the overall noise. This has
Groups: Group types by lanuage © British Museum
helped us learn from our audience and make the case for change across the institution. What’s next? We have come a long way since we first started working on this project, but there is still a lot to do. Fortunately we have people willing to help us – we have recently set up a partnership with The Alan Turing Institute, and two data science PhD interns will be joining the project over the summer to analyse the reviews using natural language processing and machine learning techniques. With their help, we should be able to uncover more insights and gain a deeper understanding of how we can improve visitor experience. Finally, we aim to inspire other institutions to use their data in a similar way. We’ve been using free tools along the way, and Harrison Pim (the brains behind the code) has made part of his work public. Though we haven’t (yet) opensourced the code used to generate these results, similar work can be seen at github.com/harrisonpim. Feel free to clone the code and adapt it to your own use-case! We might be the first to use TripAdvisor data this way, but we certainly hope we won’t be the last. Coline Cuau Visitor Insights Manager, The British Museum Harrison Pim Data Scientist, Wellcome Trust © Trip Advisor LLC was used for analysis and visualisation
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The Museum of Rapid Transition Memory, museums and rapid transition: Andrew Simms asks what is the public role for museums in a world where civilisation faces an existential crisis and the need to make a rapid transition?
change how we live and work on our istory teaches us nothing,’ comment at that, whereas in fact Gramsci’s wrote the Russian medievalist text concludes by saying, ‘therefore it is planet, in order to prevent the loss of Vasily Klyuchesvsky, ‘but imperative at the outset to compile such the climate and biosphere which give an inventory.’” civilisation a home. only punishes [us] for not learning its So, to understand what we are, and An inventory of how societies have lessons’. Somewhere in this paradox what we are capable of, and to avoid the achieved rapid transitions in the past may lies an important truth about the point punishment of history for not learning begin to codify for us the ingredients, or of struggling to understand what has its lessons we need, as a starting point, broad design criteria, for successful future come before us and what it can teach us about how to live, rapid transitions. whilst knowing at the Yet, to many, same time that the we appear to live past is never simply in a time in which “Museums matter because they replayed. fundamental change In his work seems impossible. challenge our lack of belief in the Orientalism, which Many commentators possibility of change. In fact, has had a profound have said that it is impact on our reading easier to imagine they graphically demonstrate of history, including the end of the world its inevitability” especially the than a change to our medieval period, the current economic intellectual, Edward system. Said, quotes Antonio Museums matter Gramsci’s Prison because they challenge to compile an inventory of its traces left our lack of belief in the possibility Notebooks, to elaborate why a study of history is a necessary precondition within us. of change. In fact, they graphically to understanding the present and our Museums are many things: important demonstrate its inevitability. Museums potential for action within it. public spaces, focal points for community, give the lie to the myth of permanence. ‘The starting-point of critical some at least are purveyors of fine tea They are filled with objects and documents elaboration is the consciousness of what and cake and last minute gifts. But, that show how change happens, including one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself ’ as vitally, they are physical manifestations the possibility of rapid transitions, a product of the historical processes to of civilisations’ collective memories, whether in response to cultural, political date, that has deposited in you an infinity inventories of the traces left in us by the or environmental factors, or war, of traces, without leaving an inventory.’ past. technology or demography. Said then makes this critical These are more important than One hope as a result of this discussion observation: “The only available ever now that we face a challenge is that we might somehow establish a translation inexplicably leaves Gramsci’s unprecedented in scale and speed to Museum of Rapid Transition. 77
Institutions may have roles thrust Siberia were both sponsored by the oil carbon intensive age. upon them by circumstances or may company BP. The latter exhibition was Perhaps another curious exhibit consciously design their own. What made possible because of new finds would be the Bank of Scotland’s Oil & should be the public role for museums in emerging in Siberia discovered due Gas Report which was produced in both a world where civilisation faces existential to melting permafrost. Sunken Cities large print and braille versions so that environmental crisis, corrosive inequality describes not just the past for some major it could be read by the physically blind, and flux following the evacuation of human settlements, but the future for but in no version that mentioned climate confidence in a dominant economic many of the world’s coastal mega centres change – an artefact of a culture that was philosophy? The very existence of of population. tenaciously in denial and climate blind. museums, how they are owned and run, Perhaps, rather than the sponsors of What else might we curate to enlighten what they do and don’t exhibit is entwined exhibitions, it is time for industries such and inform our era of necessary, rapid in this debate. They are not objective as the fossil energy companies, who have transition? observers and passive victims of their done so much in the recent past to shape In February 2017, the UK received times, but active agents in them. Even the modern world, to become the subject a ‘final warning’ to comply with EU air to appear to avoid quality regulations or taking a stance, often, face being taken to the in practice, means European Court of taking sides. Justice and face fines Tate Modern, in of up to £300 million. “Museums are not objective observers London, for example, Most surprising is is itself an example and passive victims of their times, that the problem still of transition. Once a persists, because as but active agents in them. Even to power station burning countries get richer fossil fuels, it has appear to avoid taking a stance, environmental been reimagined as a problems are often, in practice, means taking sides” museum of modern supposed almost to art. But its choice to solve themselves. accept sponsorship London’s fight from controversial oil against pollution companies, providing began as early as the 13th century when laws were passed to those companies with, argue campaigners, of exhibitions, examples of things which protect citizens. It reached a climax with a cultural licence to operate, turned the have served their time, left their traces, Tate inadvertently into a site of protest. and whose time now has passed. the smogs of the 1950s and the passage of The arts and activist collective, The Museum of London caused a stir the 1956 Clean Air Act. Now dirty diesel Liberate Tate, turned the public when it announced it would be making is the problem, contributing to nearly institution into a platform to challenge the part of giant ‘fatberg’ from London’s 10,000 premature deaths a year, more than incumbent energy giants whose products sewers into an exhibit – the consequence one person per hour in the capital city fuel climatic upheaval. It isn’t an isolated of by-products from fast food culture and alone. What has and hasn’t been achieved example. disposable products poured and flushed in terms of great leaps forward in public As a child I wrote a story in my English into the city’s sanitation system. The oil health is our common story. class about visiting museum far into the Shifting to 100% renewable energy by and gas company Shell has built a giant future (in the year 2000). The one exhibit 2050 would prevent 90 million premature drill ship called Prelude. Reportedly it is I remember writing most about, was a car made of enough steel for 36 Eiffel Towers, deaths between now and then according in a glass case, the internal combustion is 488m long and set to extract millions to work by Mark Jacobson at Stanford engine had passed into the past. of tonnes of fossil fuels from the sea floor University. So, let us look at the history History, an infinity of traces and off Australia. Now that London’s Science of great shifts in energy systems and ironies, how should museums configure Museum has ended its sponsorship from infrastructure and remind ourselves of and display its inventory of civilisation, Shell following public pressure, it could our powers for innovation, adaptation in a moment when civilisation is burning instead exhibit part of the ship, Prelude, and rapid deployment, problems away the oddly conducive climate and as an example of a once popular form of encountered and overcome. These may bankrupting the biosphere it emerged in? energy exploration and production which help melt excuses for inaction and realise The British Museum staged at least we now understand to be incompatible our potential in collective action. two major exhibitions recently, which I with the need for humanity to live within Much of human society is locked into suspect will be viewed in the near future planetary ecological boundaries. It could a high-consumption culture, energywith open mouthed astonishment at be joined by examples of short haul intensive infrastructure, unequal power the irony of their sponsorship. Sunken aircraft, outdoor restaurant gas heaters relations, and an economic system Cities, and Scythians - Warriors of Ancient and other examples of societies’ brief dominated by finance that fails the 78
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poorest and takes infinite growth for • Dependence on food imports halved react effectively against those dangers… granted. between 1939 and 1945 unless the House resolves to find out the Other barriers are more in the • By 1943 there were 3000 rabbit clubs truth for itself it will have committed an mind-sets and attitudes towards change. act of abdication of duty without parallel” and 4000 pig clubs, the latter producing Opponents of radical change argue that In How to Pay for the War, Keynes enough bacon for 150 million breakfasts. it is impossible because of powerful set out to ‘bring home the true nature of • Consumption down 11% by 1944 incumbent interests, high costs, the lack of the war-time problems’ and pointed out • By 1944 10% of all food was being eaten a detailed blueprint, or the unwillingness that even a ‘moderate development of the in works and school canteens, cafes, and of governments or citizens to act. Others war effort necessitated a very large cut restaurants pin their hopes on a smart, technological in general consumption’, and proposed fix to environmental problems. a plan of compulsory saving, because Health: History is full of examples of rapid taxes rationing and mere scarcity were • Rationing came in under a ‘scientific diet’ transition in the face of new challenges. inadequate, backed with the promise with positive consequences for the nation’s Society shows a brilliantly adaptive of a payback at the end of the war. Yet, health as well as significant resource ability to change and conservation. still meet its needs, • As a strong indicator yet we’re constantly of broader health told that we have improvements, no alternative to between 1937 and “History is full of examples of rapid transition 1944 infant mortality a failed economic (up to age one) fell system. In fact, the in the face of new challenges. Society shows a from 58 per 1000, past suggests we brilliantly adaptive ability to change yet have an opportunity to 45 per 1000. After to innovate and being relatively high we’re constantly told that we have no reveal our inner during the 1930s, alternative to a failed economic system” climate chameleons, suicide rates also fell changing our during the war. economy and habits to halt environmental Household/ Energy: collapse and thrive • Domestic coal use differently. even with the spectre of Nazism looming, was cut by 25% between 1938 and 1944 Examples suggest that these barriers Keynes’s medicine was thought too strong. • Electrical appliance use cut 82% between can be, and have been, overcome in the Opinion was not ready. Keynes lamented: 1938 and 1944 past through the action of grassroots ‘My discomfort comes from the fact, now • There was a 95% cut in private vehicle movements, community mobilisation, made obvious, that the general public are use – petrol for private cars withdrawn charismatic leadership, state action and not in favour of any plan.’ in 1942 combinations of them all. Often though, The Economist wrote in 1939, • Public transport rose 13% even in the face of threats which seem ‘(Keynes) great service has been to impel • Spending on amusements rose 10% obvious when viewed with the benefit of the so-called “leaders of opinion” to reveal hindsight, mobilisation to achieve change the state of their ignorance on the central Resources: has required extraordinary agitation. economic problem of the war.’ • Scrap metal was being saved at the rate “The era of procrastination, of halfof 110,000 tonnes per week. measures, of soothing and baffling But then, extraordinary things were • 31,000 tonnes of kitchen waste saved expedients, of delays, is coming to its achieved. weekly by 1943 – enough to feed 210,000 close. In its place we are entering a period pigs of consequences,” said Winston Churchill The Shadow Factory Plan: in the House of Commons in 1936 as • Nine new, covert factories commissioned Taxation and rationing: he struggled to shake the complacency in 1936, with other factories especially for • Where changing behaviour with of the British establishment in the face vehicle manufacture repurposed regard to consumption was concerned, of the threat he saw from a re-arming generally, the government deliberately Germany, “Two things, have staggered Land use: chose rationing over taxation for reasons me…The first has been the dangers that • Allotment numbers grew from 850,000 that were rational and progressive. have so swiftly come upon us in a few in 1939 to 1,750,000 in 1943 Taxation alone, it concluded, apart from years, and have been transforming our • More land was brought into production disproportionately and unfairly placing position and the whole outlook of the - 10,000 sq miles a burden on the poor, would be too slow world. Secondly, I have been staggered by to change behaviour. Rationing was the failure of the House of Commons to Food: considered quicker and more equitable. 81
Tradable rations were rejected through fear of encouraging fraud and inflation and ‘undermining the moral basis of rationing’. • Taxes on luxury goods were phased in and the allocation of other goods was done on the basis of professional need, for example alarm clocks were made available for people whose jobs required early rising
a few historically isolated and very specific cases? Is such resource mobilisation on this scale only possible during war time and to clear up from its damage? ‘The amount of state intervention (in the banking system) in the US and UK at this moment is at a level comparable to that of wartime,’ wrote John Lanchester in his book, Whoops! (2010), “We have in effect had to declare war to get us out of the hole created by our economic system.” And indeed our very recent history shows just how quickly and dramatically normal behaviour and expectations can
experience of the many periods of rapid change in response to sudden technological, demographic or cultural shifts? • How do museums communicate an inventory of the traces these events leave within us?
Once you begin to look for circumstances of flux which might instruct our understanding of how to The historian Mark Roodhouse manage and create transitions they begin derives specific lessons for modern appearing all over. The Eyjafjallajökull policy-makers. If transferred to now, volcano eruption in Iceland in 2010, government, he halting northern writes, would need European air travel to: . . . ‘convince the overnight. Despite public that rationing losing a transport levels are fair; that the link thought system is administered “How might museums illuminate the indispensable, transparently and business es and experience of the many periods of rapid fairly; and that individuals adapted evaders are few in change in response to sudden almost immediately. number, likely to be People travelled technological, demographic detected and liable to differently, sharing stiff penalties if found or cultural shifts?” vehicles, using guilty’. social media which People weren’t came into its own motivated by Britain’s as an organiser. The interests alone, but: Norwegian head change when circumstances demand it. of state, stuck at the UN in New York, ‘for a community of interest for the As a result of poorly regulated financial people of Europe’. The effect of ‘national ran the country from his ipad. There unity’ was to open up the political agenda markets, in response to the financial were overnight shifts from face-to-face through the experience of collective crisis of 2007-08, banks were nationalised business meetings to video conferencing endeavour. in an ideological back flip, and huge In response to an earlier failure of In terms of social change, the sums of public money were created by private banks, the New Deal in 1930s experience of collective action laid government to inject into the economy America, invested an amount similar foundations for the post war social and quell turbulent financial markets to that thought needed for low carbon contract of the creation of the NHS under so-called quantitative easing. transition today to public relief and and the widespread provision of social In the UK it was £375 billion, plus £75 federal works programmes. The New Deal housing. There were public housebuilding billion post Brexit (coupled with bank saw a general drop in income inequality, programmes under both Labour and nationalisations). In the US between an improvement in gender equality, a Conservative governments which saw 2008-2015 it amounted to $3.7 trillion. major programme of new public housing between 200-250,000 homes built each The European Central Bank has injected and significant environmental works. year at times during the 1950s and 1960s. $90 (€80) billion per month, dipping to Interestingly these figures are close to Strikingly, at a time of national housing €60 in 2017, and still tens of billions in what was spent by Roosevelt’s New Deal. It crisis once again, that had dropped to just 2018. has been estimated that between January over 1,000 homes built by local authorities 1933 and December 1940 $21.1 billion in 2014-15. From the perspective of In this light, we can ask interesting was spent on public relief and federal museum curation, comparisons such as questions such as. works programmes. This amounted to this represent a different kind of buried, or about 3.5% of total GDP over the same forgotten, treasure comparable to a Saxon • How might museums curate the period, and today would be equivalent gold hoard, and one with the potential to experience of rapid transitions during to £50 billion a year in the UK (roughly raise important, relevant contemporary and after the great wars? $500 billion in the USA). questions whose answers will directly • How might they curate the experience Taking a lesson from the carbon touch many lives. of the 2007-08 financial crisis dark side, creating our initial systemBut do examples like this just represent • How might they illuminate the wide addiction to fossil fuels was a rapid 82
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affair. Starting in 1956 the US Interstate fifth. A Revolución Energética moved the of how we have found and made a home Highway System, for example, managed country to a more efficient, decentralised in our world. Now that we are wrecking to build 47,000 miles of highway in just system with smaller generator stations that home, all museums have a unique over three decades, ‘changing commerce and shorter distances to transmit energy. role to play in helping us understand the and society.’ Old, inefficient incandescent light dynamics of change and, I believe, there A century earlier Britain demonstrated bulbs were removed almost entirely, by is a case that we should create a dedicated the capacity for the rapid roll-out of a mandate, in just six months. Museum of Rapid Transition. more benign transport system when just Exhibitions could look at the between the years of 1845 and 1852 there comparative international experience Andrew Simms were 4,400 miles of railway track laid. A of different rapid phases of change and single weekend in 1892 saw the upgrading adaptation in everything from urban This is an edited version of a talk Andrew of 177 miles of track on the Great Western and garden farming to shifting energy gave at a Happy Museum Project event route by 4,200 well-coordinated workers. generation and use, and at how different (happymuseumproject.org). Happy Or, we could look to rapid changes societies respond and adapt to a wide Museum asks how the museum sector at the end of the Cold can respond to War such as industrial the challenge of conversion. From creating a more 1985 the number sustainable future, by of jobs in the UK’s supporting museum “Museums hold civilisation’s stories of how we military and defence practice that places sector fell from wellbeing within an have found and made a home in our world. Now around 625,000 to environmental and that we are wrecking that home, all museums 410,000, workers future-facing frame. who were generally Andrew is an have a unique role to play in helping us reabsorbed into the author, analyst and understand the dynamics of change” wider economy. campaigner. His Shockwaves from books include The that geopolitical event New Economics, went much wider. Ecological Debt: Cuba’s economy, Global Warming & range of shocks whether financial, transport system and agriculture was the Wealth of Nations; Do Good Lives hooked on cheap Soviet oil. But oil imports environmental or geopolitical. Have to Cost the Earth? and most recently dropped by around half at the Cold War’s If society is to survive and move to Cancel the Apocalypse: The New Path to end. The average Cuban’s calorie intake operate within planetary boundaries the Prosperity. fell by over one third in the course of greatest shift, apart from attitudes will be Andrew is coordinator of the Rapid around five years. People took to walking in the very ‘stuff ’ of life. It is our overTransition Alliance, contributes regularly and cycling, consumption fell and there stressing of ecosystems and consumption to The Guardian and BBC, and cowas a rapid increase in urban organic of non-renewable resources in our homes founded the New Weather Institute. He agriculture. Half the food consumed in and wider economies which threatens is a research associate at the Centre for the capital, Havana, is grown in the city’s our natural life support systems. Our Global Political Economy, University own gardens and, overall, urban gardens relationship to the world of materials – of Sussex, and a Fellow of the New provide 60% of the salad vegetables eaten stuff – is fundamental and set to change. Economics Foundation, where he was in Cuba. Havana alone ended up with Museums are already custodians of also Policy Director for 10 years and more than 26,000 food gardens. The our past relationship to the material world established its Climate Change, Energy Cuban experience both echoes and – and how it has changed. They hold vital and Interdependence Programme. He costatistically at least – surpasses what knowledge about how our interaction founded the Green New Deal group, the America achieved in its lauded push for with the world has evolved and, as such, climate campaign onehundredmonths. ‘Victory Gardening’ during the Second can change again. But given our current org and devised Earth Overshoot Day. World War. As calorie intake fell by over ecological predicament the vital focus is Andrew studied at the London one third, the share of physically active not just about the inevitability of change School of Economics and has written adults more than doubled while obesity - what we are charged to understand and widely on the political economy of both halved. In just five years between 1997 encourage is rapid change, or transition, global and local economies. He is on the and 2002, according to the American in the direction of dramatically reducing board of the Transition Network and was Journal of Epidemiology, deaths due our ecological footprints, in order to avoid the originator of the influential Clone to diabetes fell by half, coronary heart triggering irreversible and worsening Town Britain campaign. New Scientist disease by over one third, stroke by one damage. magazine called him a ‘master at joinedin five, and all causes by just under one Museums hold civilisation’s stories up progressive thinking.’ 85
Kevin Laden, and his daughter, Ruby, 4, enjoy a canoe ride as part of programming provided by the Anacostia Watershed Society during the Anacostia River and Jazz Festival held on April 28, 2012. Image credit: Susana Raab © Anacostia Community Museum. Smithsonian Institution
“Better than any other institution, a museum can inform, inspire and invoke responses from people that can enhance their existence, challenge their intellect, and give direction to their creative energies” 1 - John Kinard, Anacostia Community Museum Founding Director
Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement Katrina Lashley on a project that both enables communities to challenge the accepted and often stigmatizing narratives around their connections to the natural world and challenges established norms of the civic obligations of cultural institutions
or the past eight years, Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) has led the Urban Waterways Project, a research and educational initiative which explores the myriad relationships between urban communities and their waterways. The museum has approached its work through a variety of lenses, including: science, history, faith, art, race, class, justice, power, equitable development, and activism. The project’s goals are: to create cross-disciplinary dialogue among scholars, government officials, organizers, activists and scientists; elicit and document first-hand information from residents, including elders, community leaders, and activists in local communities and engage with local residents and other
1. For fifty years, the Anacostia Community Museum has expanded the boundaries of what “museum” means. The Museum has convened conversations among a diversity of people, enhanced understanding of lived experiences, and strengthened community bonds. 86
interested parties with ongoing activities that will enable their participation in reclamation, restoration and appropriate redevelopment of their urban waterways and surrounding communities. While the focus of the project is the Anacostia River and its communities in Washington, D.C., the project has documented the efforts of communities in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, the Gulf Coast, Louisville, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and London. ACM’s role as a convener, clearing house of information, and an equal partner with the project’s collaborating communities, aligns with its mission to explore contemporary themes impacting the diverse peoples and communities that make up the DC metropolitan area. Informed by the museum’s 50-year
practice of active citizen participation in the recovery and use of the cultural and historical past, which is a powerful instrument in creating and maintaining a sense of community and civic ownership, Urban Waterways allows communities to challenge the accepted and too often stigmatizing narratives about their connections to the natural world. The project also challenges established norms of the civic obligations of cultural institutions whose constituents confront a range of urgent social issues. To fully comprehend the methodology that drives the Urban Waterways Project, one must be familiar with the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum (ANM). In 1966, at a meeting of museum directors held in Aspen, Colorado, then Smithsonian
Secretary S. Dillon Ripley III proposed the Institution establish a neighborhood museum in Washington, DC. The “experiment” would introduce AfricanAmerican residents to the Smithsonian within the familiar boundaries of their community and encourage them to visit the other museums located on the National Mall. After a series of informal discussions in the winter and spring of 1967 between Smithsonian representatives and interested communities, Anacostia was chosen, and John R. Kinard, a community activist and pastor, was named its founding director2. On the 15th of September 1967, the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum (ANM) opened in the former Carver Theater on Nichols Ave. in Historic
2. Born in D.C., Kinard was the first African-American director of a Smithsonian museum. See “African American Contributions to the Smithsonian: Challenges and Achievements-John Kinard”, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Smithsonian Institute, https://siarchives.si.edu/history/featured-topics/African-Americans/john-kinard 87
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Anacostia. At the ceremony to mark the occasion, speeches reflected the hope and excitement at the impact the new museum would have on its community. Then Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley III stressed “For this is no ordinary museum; indeed, it is an extra-ordinary museum…and I say this with pride that I hope you will pardon, of the ability of a large and venerable institution to respond enthusiastically and sensitively to the needs and concerns of a rapidly changing world.”3 Robert Hooks, co-founder of the Negro Ensemble Company, urged residents to recognize the resource that was now available to them - “It is going to be one of the most fantastic places in the Washington, D.C. area - and it is for you. It’s free, and you have an opportunity to do a heck of a lot with it.”4 These excerpts of residents and officials gathered to celebrate the culmination of community efforts are striking in that they seemingly point to a purpose that goes far beyond serving as an outpost for the larger Smithsonian Institution. The contention by Ripley that the lack of diversity in attendance at the Institution was due to feelings of awkwardness, loss, or unfamiliarity, fails to acknowledge what many museum/ cultural workers at the neighborhood level intimately understood. Reluctance to explore and have a relationship with many mainstream institutions was due to a lack of recognition of themselves and their experiences. In 1969, directors and representatives from mainstream museums, art councils, neighborhood museums, social agencies, foundations,
An artist at work on a mural dedicated to the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum © Anacostia Community Museum. Smithsonian Institution
school boards, and community centers from nineteen states across the U.S. gathered for a three-day conference Brooklyn MUSE seminar.5 As attendees explored the topics, it became abundantly clear for many gathered, traditional museums were failing in their obligation to their surrounding communities, and some present challenged their social relevance.6 As one of the speakers on the panel, Community Participation in the Planning and Operation of Museum Services in Local Communities,7 Kinard was well versed in the importance of the organic development of programming described by then director Edward Spriggs of the Studio Museum in Harlem.8 While ANM initially struggled to move beyond a role of Smithsonian “outpost,” its staff soon turned their focus to providing residents
with reflections of themselves-their shared histories, present concerns, and hopes for the future. It was the obligation of museums, Kinard contended, to know the very people they should be serving. Who were they? Where did they live? What was their definition of life? What were their essential difficulties? What were their aspirations?9 This understanding of the civic obligations of the museum placed the ANM into the larger context of neighborhood museums established and rooted in urban communities in the Post World War II era. Founded and staffed predominately by black community leaders and professionals, these institutions sought to challenge accepted narratives of invisibility, participation, and agency by cultivating a sense of identity and pride not only through exhibitions but also educational programming and
3. Balcha G. Fellows, The Making of a Museum. (Washington, D.C.: Anacostia Neighborhood Museum Washington, 1967), 4 4. S. Dillon Ripley, The Sacred Grove: Essays on Museums, 202 from Andrea A. Burns, From Storefront to Monument: Tracing the Public History of the Black Museum Movement (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013), 38 5. The agenda for the seminar included: reasons for having a neighborhood museum; the problem of defining its nature and function in relation to the community it is to serve; the role of the community in all decisions concerning both establishment and operation; See Emily Dennis Harvey and Bernard Friedberg, ed. A Museum for the People: A Report of the Brooklyn Muse Seminar, Held Nov 21-23, 1968 (Cambridge, Mass. Acanthus Press Inc., 1971): VIII 6. During the opening session, A Museum for the People, Allon Schoener, director of the visual arts program of the New York State Council on the Arts took his profession to task. “If we don’t know what’s going on because we don’t know the social dynamics of our society, then we’re not going to stay in business…How can major cultural institutions in our society today be so oblivious? Ibid., 3-4 7. Friday, November 21st Afternoon session. Panel Roger Katan, architect, Planning Advocate, East Harlem; John Kinard, director, The Anacostia 8. Neighborhood Museum Panel Chairman: Lloyd Hezekiah, director MUSE, and The Brooklyn Children’s Museum Ibid., Ibid., xv 8. “Our interest does not lie in the traditional concept of what we call museums. How programs have grown organically out of the needs and desires of the people we serve. Since we are in Harlem, Harlem has given us a cultural mandate, has determined what shape and form the cultural apparatus of its community should be” Ibid., 5. 9. John R. Kinard. “The Visitor Versus the Museum” in the Visitor and the Museum, ed. Linda Draper Seattle: Museum Educators of the American Associations of Museums, 1977). “I think our topic ought to be ‘The Visitor Versus the Museum’. This might describe the situation more aptly. More than likely we are in a state of war. It is a war of the spirit, wherein each side is seeking to define and redefine who they are and what they are in relation to each other.”, 43 89
Brochure Cover for The Rat: Man’s Invited Affliction November 16, 1969 - January 25, 1970 © Anacostia Community Museum. Smithsonian Institution
outreach.10 Viewing the work of the ANM from this perspective of civic obligation, Kinard’s admonishment to those in the museum field serves as a reminder of what is under threat should cultural organizations fail in their duties. “Much of the spiritual suffering of contemporaries can be healed through interpersonal relationships. People have a driving desire to know more about themselves, their history, and their environment as well as of others…they hunger and thirst for knowledge upon which to build a better society today…”11 The exhibition, The Rat: Man’s Invited Affliction, which ran from November 16, 1969 - January 25, 1970, was the museum’s first exploration of an ecological problem in an urban setting12 and highlighted the importance of addressing issues of present-day concern for the surrounding community. The idea for the exhibition came out of the fear and dislike of rodents on the part of their youngest visitors, a consequence of the rodent infestation which was a daily reality of many people’s lives.13 After proposing an exhibition exploring the community’s rat infestation, staff turned to a panel of experts to determine the shape the new exhibition should take: the children. They were well versed in rat infestation: “Rats can give you rabies. Rats tear things up at night. They bite you.” The children also had a clear idea of what information should go into the exhibition: “Tell what rats like to eat. Show how to get rid of them. Have books about rats.”14 The willingness to be led by community residents, whose concerns and opinions could often be overlooked 90
or ignored due to their young age, points to the ongoing fulfillment of the museum’s mission to focus attention on those things relevant to life in the community.15 Conversations helped to inform the development of an exhibition which included a simulation of a back yard with live rats, and an exploration of the history of plagues, the role of laboratory rats in scientific advancements, the city’s attempts to address the issue, and possible solutions to the problem.16 Additionally, the museum offered programming which included films, lectures, and a studentcreated skit. Public outreach also included tours of the surrounding neighborhoods by officials from the city and the National Park Service.17 The exhibition caused controversy, yet Kinard insisted the museum’s work acknowledged social and environmental problems and offered
information useful to the very people it served.18 The Rat was by no means the last exploration of urban ecology. Throughout the years, the museum organized a garden club, the education department created water-testing kits, and youth conducted studies on environmental issues facing the community. In 1994, community residents, historians, Federal and city officials gathered for a daylong conference, Environmental Issues and Concerns East of the Anacostia River: Justice or Just Us? organized by director of educator Zora Martin-Felton. In 2010, against the backdrop of ongoing discussion around the restoration and redevelopment of the Anacostia River, senior historian Dr. Gail S. Lowe, decided to more thoroughly explore the body of water which not only lent its name to
Students and museum education specialist, Zora Martin Felton, examine the results of their efforts in the museum’s garden © Anacostia Community Museum
10. Burns, 3-5 11. Kinard, The Neighborhood Museum as a Catalyst for Social Change, 221 12. Ibid., 220. 13. July 1969 survey of the D.C. Public Health Department, 67% of the Anacostia area was infested by rats. See Zora B. Martin, “Anatomy of an Inner-City Museum,” Alma Mater, Moravian College (Bethlehem, Pa.: 1970) 11 14. The Rat: Man’s Invited Affliction…, Exhibition Brochure (Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, 1967) 3-5 15. Ibid., 1. 16. Ibid., 2. 17. Burns, 95. 18. Kinard, The Neighborhood Museum as a Catalyst for Change, 220.
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hen The Rochester Bridge Trust wanted to display documents from its archives it appointed H&H Sculpture and Design to bring them to life. H&H took on the task of creating the whole exhibition from the design concept through to final installation in Rochester Cathedral’s crypt. This included the graphic design; showcase layouts; bespoke acrylic supports; low-tech interactives; tactile models; and five iconic, life-sized figures from key stages in the history of Rochester’s bridges. To discover more about what we do, visit our website at www.handhsculptors.com - or contact us on: T: +44 (0)1322 225 248 E: hh.sculptorsltd@gmail 92
the surrounding area but has shaped life along its banks for thousands of years and has been, for many, “a psychological as well as a physical barrier.”19 In the narratives of East of the River’s isolation, the Anacostia is often mentioned as the cause, but few have explored the history and the life of the river itself. How had the Anacostia become “The Forgotten River?” What had this invisibility meant for the communities, the people living along its banks? What were the human, psychological, social, economic, and political costs of such invisibility? In his environmental history of the Anacostia, historian Jack Wennersten points to the development of a twotiered social and environmental system in which the powerful controlled the river and its landscape, while the dispossessed lived and worked there.20 This hierarchy driven by power and dispossession has continued to shape life along the river through the present. The inequalities and challenges which have colored the history of Anacostia and its communities points to an essential fact easily overlooked in the narrative of the river. Despite centuries of neglect and mismanagement, the Anacostia has played an essential role in the lives and memories of those living to its east. The complexity of the ongoing relationships between the Anacostia and its residents determined the project’s founding principles: • Urban waterways and their communities share not only space but histories • The impacts of waterways extend far beyond their banks • A true exploration of the relationship between communities and their waterways must take place from a multitude of perspectives • Residents are impacted by the health of their waterways on a variety of levels and are willing to be engaged with and advocate for themselves, their communities, and their waterways for various reasons
Senior historian, Dr. Gail S. Lowe and former Washington, DC mayor Anthony Williams discuss his vision for the role of the Anacostia River in the social fabric of the city. Image credit: Susana Raab © Anacostia Community Museum
Acknowledging the breadth of knowledge, perspective, and experience of its residents is integral to documenting the ongoing history of Anacostia, project staff reached out to the “experts”: the individuals (residents, community advocates, historians, and scientists), non-profits, City and Federal agencies who have been impacted by and have advocated for the river and its people. Through a series of oral histories, the project documents the experiences, knowledge, and best practices of those stakeholders who have been central to efforts along the Anacostia. Among the various efforts documented by the project are those of The Seafarers Yacht Club, considered by some to be the oldest African-American yacht club on the U.S. eastern seaboard, a group of boating enthusiasts who have dedicated their efforts to providing people access to the Anacostia through boat trips and community gatherings. The project has also documented the work of the Anacostia Watershed Society, one of the earliest groups engaged in efforts to advocate for the river and its people through clean-ups, legal action,
education, training, and recreation, and the Earth Conservation Corps who in the early nineties engaged a group of at-risk youth in river clean-up, stewardship, and neighborhood outreach. While documentation and engagement were centered on the Anacostia River, the project recognized urban communities do not exist in isolation and are reflections of national and international trends. What types of relationships existed between other urban waterways and their residents? How did other communities define themselves in relation to their natural resources? What debates were taking place in other cities? Had other waterways been reclaimed? If so, how? With whose input? Were there examples of equitable restoration and development that DC stakeholders should be looking to? What lessons could the Anacostia offer? In building the Urban Waterways network, ACM looked to communities which have similar histories to those of East of the River DC - communities which had been: central to the development of their cities, regions, and nations but with the passage of time had been cut off from the economic prosperity enjoyed by
19. Zora Martin Felton, A Walk Through ‘Old’ Anacostia, (Washington, DC. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1975) 43. 20. John R. Wennersten, Anacostia: The Death & Life of An American River (Baltimore, Md.: The Chesapeake Book Company, 2008) 34-35. Wennersten points to the concentration of landownership and limited opportunity for whites and free blacks at the heart of the reliance on tobacco and slavery. The plantocracy along the Anacostia created an imbalance of power that would that connected and dictated social processes and environmental transformation. See Brett Williams, “A River Runs Through Us”, American Anthropologist, 103 no.2 (June 2001): 409-411 93
Community advocate and resident Mickey Sou takes project researcher Katrina Lashley on a tour of Biloxi’s Vietnamese community in December of 2015. Image credit: Susana Raab © Anacostia Community Museum. Smithsonian Institution
neighboring communities; historically lacked resources but were the first to feel the impacts of the mismanagement of natural resources and inequitable development; suffered under a continuing legacy of pollution and dumping; and were viewed as places of the “Other.” Pittsburgh, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky were chosen as examples of reclaimed waterfronts on the Ohio River and provided models of the processes of reclamation driven by political will (Pittsburgh) and independent of the vagaries of political change (Louisville). The reclaiming of the Los Angeles River provides examples of the power of community will, as a broad coalition of community-based groups work to ensure access to green space and reclaimed riverfront. Along the Gulf Coast, communities in Gulfport and Biloxi have shared their efforts to reclaim their ecological and cultural heritages as a means of self-preservation and protection from inequitable development. Once again, the power of coalition building proved essential in community-led efforts during the recovery and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Spill. On the island of O’ahu, efforts to physically restore the land and reengage residents to their waterways and other natural resources through the reconnection of kinship ties to the natural world, have led to the reclaiming 94
and protection of sites of cultural and ecological value and innovative systems approach to education. London’s 2012 Olympic Games and the remembering of the River Lea as central figures in the regeneration of East London, serve as examples of the challenges facing many cities and urbanizing areas. The power of the collected oral histories lies not only in their ability to provide a more nuanced view of the relationships between urban waterways and their cities but also their broadening of the historical record. The stories of these waterways and their communities can be traced, as they have evolved over time, allowing the voices of those who are intimately connected to and engaged in advocacy for the health of their communities to speak for themselves. They also serve as an act of shared authority. Through their testimonies, project collaborators challenge accepted narratives of environmentalism, how is it enacted? Who are its agents? What are “acceptable” ways of engaging with the natural world? Who has access to the natural resources which are central to the revisioning of sustainable, equitable urban centers? These histories reveal that
for many at the community level, these inquiries are part of a larger movement of civic obligation framed in the context of (in)justice. In addition to efforts to secure the health and well-being of the places which have helped to define their visions of themselves, the larger world, and their place within it, advocates are keen to share what they have experienced and learned for those facing similar battles. The placement of these various perspectives within the frame of the larger Urban Waterways network allows communities to situate themselves within
Award-winning poem written by then 8-year old El’Jay Johnson as part of the 2000 River of Words competition - Reclaiming the Edge, Oct 14, 2012- Nov 3, 2013. Image credit: Katrina Lashley © Anacostia Community Museum
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a broader context of fellow communities, recognize their own realities reflected in the experiences of others, and exchange possible solutions to the issues which are linked to the health and futures of the cities in which they live. The first major engagement to come out of the first two years of project research and documentation was the exhibition, Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways & Civic Engagement (October 2012 - November 2013). Featuring 75 objects, 16 artworks, 170 images, and five video stations, the exhibition looked at densely populated watersheds and rivers as barriers to racial and ethnic integration and examined civic attempts to recover, clean up, re-imagine, or engineer urban rivers for community access and use. Moving through the exhibition’s six sections, visitors were (re)introduced to the flora and fauna found in their watershed, reminded of the resources, both tangible and intangible, taken from the river over time, explored a timeline of the Anacostia River Basin timeline, asked to weigh the decisions that must be made in order to reimagine Anacostia, reminded of the specific daily impacts they have on the river, and introduced to communities in Pittsburgh, Louisville, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and London that had tackled the challenges of waterfront development, the promotion of recreation and access, and the restoration and preservation of natural resources and cultural traditions. Throughout the exhibition, visitors encountered their community through images, interviews with residents, and heroes of ages and backgrounds who live along, engage with, and advocate for the Anacostia. The exhibition served as a platform for advocacy organizations to engage policy makers and physicalized the complex issues that river communities must contend with as they engage in decision making pertaining the futures of their communities and the Anacostia. In addition to the exhibition, the project engaged the community through river tours, photographic and poetry workshops, films, and lectures. Students taking part in the Museum Academy Program explored the Washington Channel, took part in workshops aboard the Chesapeake Bay Foundations’ boat,
The Susquehanna, visited the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) and created aquariums and artwork for their classrooms. In collaboration with the United Planning Organization, a local non-profit, and SERC, the project engaged two cohorts of students in the Urban Ecology Engagement Initiative
an integral part of the project, as the museum continues to serve as a space and a platform for the exchange of perspectives and knowledge necessary for the formulation of next steps forward in the face of challenges to the health of the Anacostia and its communities. In a focus group held at a local church, Above: Students in ACM’s Museum Academy Program (MAP) gather clues as part of a scavenger hunt. Left: MAP students attend class aboard the Chesapeake Bay Foundations’ boat as part of exhibition related programming. Image credit: Susana Raab © Anacostia Community Museum
which introduced them to the Anacostia Watershed though river tours, water testing, field trips, and research projects on the health of the river. Students prepared yearly presentations of their findings to political bodies, local congregations, and a community group of their choice. Such activities not only introduced students to a range of STEM educational and career opportunities, it also engaged them in the importance of being civically engaged in their communities. Convening conversations has been
congregation members were invited to share their memories of the Anacostia, its importance to their lives and the larger community. Over the course of three weekends, project interns surveyed three congregations to capture their thoughts on the importance of the Anacostia to the larger community, their concerns about its health, their thoughts on who held responsibility for the river, and their trust in various agencies to address issues pertaining to the river. Additionally, the museum has hosted thirty-four 97
community forums which explored issues dictated by project research and ongoing conversations with collaborators. Forums bring together a diverse group of panelists in moderated discussion followed by community Q&A. Topics over the past eight years have included: Citizen Scientists, Youth Engagement Along the Anacostia, Diversifying the Green Movement, Women of Color and Environmental Justice, Documenting the Anacostia, and Anacostia and the National Park Service. These conversations allow residents to gather in a space where their views and concerns are heard, challenged, and respected. Gatherings serve as opportunities to reconnect to fellow neighbors and advocates, broaden networks, and plan next steps. While community forums are predominately local in scope, the project also seeks to engage its national network. In 2015, the museum hosted panelists from our national network and local activists at a day-long symposium which explored issues of Education & Practice; Recreation & Environmentalism; Models in Grassroots Leadership; Collaboration Techniques; Waterfront Development; and New Urbanism and Gentrification. Representatives from communities in Louisville, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Gulfport, Chicago, Baltimore and the Washington, D.C. representing various institutions of learning, environmental non-profits, faith communities, the museum field, development, and city agencies gathered to share issues of concern, best practices, definitions of community engagement, and collaborative initiatives. The day’s discussions allowed for the connection of various advocates, the definition of shared concerns, and the sharing of strategies. In March of 2018, the museum convened a national network of women environmental leaders and local nextgeneration leaders to take part in face-toface discussions focused on mentorship, educational and career opportunities, and the multitude of ways in which leadership can be enacted. Panels were moderated by women who have led environmental efforts in their communities, organizations, and governmental agencies at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Conversations explored personal and 98
An attendee speaks at the Urban Waterways March 2015 Symposium. Image credit: Susana Raab © Anacostia Community Museum
professional journeys, best practices for galvanizing community, organizational, and governmental efforts, reflections on the impacts of community efforts, and next steps in confronting present and future environmental challenges. Workshops addressed issues identified by attendees as areas of concern: gentrification along the Anacostia and the development of an equitable Anacostia Watershed engagement plan. The day’s discussions helped to inform the foundations of the Urban Waterways Women’s Environmental Leadership Initiative which will build the capacity for future environmental leadership through the convening of a national network of established women environmental leaders with emerging and aspiring leaders. More importantly, they served to establish mentorship networks and facilitated problem-solving around emerging environmental and sustainability issues. In addition to in-person gatherings, the project engages it larger network through its quarterly newsletter. Over the course of nine issues, collaborators in partnering communities have addressed such issues as: Water and Faith, Green Economies Along Urban Waterfronts, Urban Waterways and the Impact of History, and Urban Waterways and Education. The aims of the Urban Waterways Project reflect the 50-year mission of Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum to engage its public in issues of greatest concern to their everyday realities through an exploration of the historical
roots which continue to impact the present. If one accepts urban waterways and their communities are reflections of each other, then it is essential the realties and concerns of all impacted by the debates surrounding access, justice, and responsibility are at the foundations of efforts to reclaim not only urban waterways but the neighborhoods and lives with which they are intertwined. The project’s collaborators are intimately aware of the futility of trying to silo or fragment any exploration of, or attempt to address, the well-being of these waterways without taking into account the totality of life in their cities. Every aspect of residents’ lives is impacted by the attitudes, narratives, and policies which determine the fate of their waterways and ultimately the cities in which they live. Through the project, the museum continues in its role as a gathering place of the multitude of perspectives and expertise needed to address the issues which shape their present lives and will determine their futures. These perspectives and expertise must take a variety of forms in a genuine effort to truly engage all stakeholders. If the destiny of a museum is the destiny of its community,21 the act of truly engaging visitors, allowing them to put their lives into context becomes an act of civic obligation in which both the museum and visitors must share. Katrina Lashley Program Coordinator, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, D.C.
21. Kinard, The Neighborhood Museum as a Catalyst for Social Change, 220
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Towards a definition of the “Activist Museum” Jennie Carvill Schellenbacher argues the more museums can inspire their visitors to become more active citizens and more informed about how their actions can affect real change, the more relevant they will become “In fact, helping people think about past, present and future could be the special contribution of museums. But not many museums do that. Their concern with other times can make them aloof from the day-to-day. Looked at positively, they can be a haven – an escape from the trouble of the world. Less kindly, they can be seen as an ivory tower, isolated from earthly concerns.” (Davies, 2012)
aurice Davies asked the museum world to consider the role of activism in their work in 2012, especially as regards their role in working towards a sustainable future. I hope to broaden the discussion, by offering a working definition of what might make a museum “activist”, in the hope that providing a framework for discussion will further enable the development of museum activism and its potential to transform the lives of visitors, having a positive effect of the societies in which they are embedded. I come to this subject somewhat as a case in point. Having always been an avid museum-goer it was whilst writing my BA dissertation about the representation of the Holocaust in British museums that I experienced the transformative power of the museum experience, not only to educate or change a person’s perspective, but to be moved to want to do something about it. The exhibitions I visited did offer an excellent overview of the events of the Holocaust and the ideas and events that led to such a devastating and unparalleled human catastrophe under a murderous regime. It was a visit to the National Holocaust Centre and Museum (then the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre) in Newark, UK, almost fifteen years ago, however, that opened my eyes to the potential of museums to engage in activism.
The visit consisted of the rather small exhibition followed by a talk with a Holocaust survivor and a question and answer session. Whilst other exhibitions had ended with a message of ‘Never Again’, Beth Shalom presented the work of their sister organisation, the Aegis Trust, in genocide prevention. They offered an update on what had occurred in the intervening years, including the escalating situation in Darfur, Sudan, a genocidal conflict that continues today. Crucially, the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre didn’t allow its visitors just to be shocked and appalled to discover a genocide most had never heard of – myself included – occurring as they sat there, they offered them something to do about it and at varying levels of engagement. I came away with a cause and a conviction that to know about something meant an obligation to do what was in my power to change it, and I had been offered the tools with which to do it. That visit not only transformed how I thought about museums and their role in society, but it had a profound effect on my personal life. In recent years, a new class of museum has emerged along these lines, the mission-driven museum that not only highlights injustice and challenging histories, but tries to equip its visitors to enact real change. These “activist museums” cover a range of issues and reach out to their audiences in diverse and
exciting ways. I’ll mostly be talking about the approach by history museums, but I believe any museum has the potential to be activist. Rather than presenting an argument for a concrete definition for museum activism, I would like to begin a discussion by suggesting four essential elements that might act as hallmarks for this kind of work and help shape best practice. A discussion about what we mean when we talk about museum activism, and at least a working definition, might help museums to frame their work within an activist context, and hopefully ensure that the work is transformative and positive, rather than performative and misleading. Museums use a range of methods to explicitly and implicitly construct meaning and communicate their attitudes – or society’s attitudes – to their audiences. Museums are able to not only reflect, but also influence and affect society (Sandell, 2007). In turn, audiences come to the museums with their own experiences, opinions and attitudes too. All the messages encoded into an exhibition by the exhibition team are then decoded by the visitors using different filters, according to myriad internal and external factors; external factors such as the context, location, lighting, the methods used, the length and language of the exhibition, and internal factors such as a visitor’s existing opinions on 101
a matter, their cultural background and life experience (see for example Dierking, 2000; Hein, 2000). This makes two things apparent: 1. Neutrality doesn’t exist in museums Museums as institutions, and exhibitions as a medium, are the result of choices and actions by the people who produce them. Museum professionals are not able to exist outside of the world they live in and are influenced by the education, knowledge and life experiences they bring to the role, as well as the history of the institution and the collections they hold. If the people who run museums aren’t neutral, then museums can’t be either. They exist to support or challenge the status quo, but either way they are taking a stance on a matter. Inaction is also a decision. 2. Museum visitors are not empty vessels to fill up with knowledge and will not automatically receive or support the intended message of an exhibition. Visitors will (hopefully) come from a broad spectrum of groups, backgrounds and in various constellations. They will bring their own attitudes and opinions with them when they visit. ‘New Museology’ has developed over time, from the initial disruption of the ‘post museum’ and the recognition that museums and collections were a product of the societies in which they were established and developed, often reflecting a minority, ruling-class perspective of history and culture embedded in colonialism. This led to the ‘inclusive museum’, telling a broader range of stories to include the history and experiences of groups and individuals who had been ignored or silenced to that point, for example, women, people of colour, the working-class, people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ people or migrants (by no means an exhaustive list). With each development in the way that museums were approaching and incorporating new narratives, the methods they use were critiqued and practice moulded. ‘Participatory museums’ didn’t only seek to include these stories, they also invited people to help shape which stories and the stories of their communities were 102
told and how. Museums were more conscious of the importance of not only telling stories, but how they were telling stories. Museums became responsible primarily to their audiences, rather than their collections (Kotler & Kotler, 2000, p. 273). Museums began producing mission statements that laid out the key principles of their work and what they hoped the outcomes would be. These mission statements talk both about methods and role of the museum, but also go beyond the traditional definition of collecting, preserving and education to include a commitment to proclaim their relevance and responsibilities to the communities they serve and the impact museums can and aim to have on the lives of their visitors. More recently, museums and museum-related organisations have begun producing documents more akin to manifestos (and in some cases even called such), going one step further, declaring confidently the power of museums to be the change they want to see in the world. These museums will no longer ‘try’ to affect change, it is integral to their selfidentity, work and their definition of the modern museum. Museums engaging in work of an activist nature can be seen as a confident extension of the social inclusion agenda and a full recognition of the social agency of museums. The Museums Association “Museums Change Lives” report, their vision for the potential impact of museums, begins with the statement: “Museums change people’s lives. They enrich the lives of individuals, contribute to strong and resilient communities, and help create a fair and just society. Museums are in turn immensely enriched by the skills and creativity of their public.” (Museums Association, 2013, p. 2) Several projects and initiatives by museums reflect this belief, both in the UK and further afield. In the US, since the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017, museums and museum professionals have shown open resistance to policies and executive orders that have followed. The Davis Museum at Wellesley
College, for example, removed art work that was created or donated by people from countries affected by the travel ban (around 20% of their collection) in an attempt to highlight the cultural contributions of people and cultures being viewed through a singular, skewed lens (Worley, 2017). Even before Trump’s election, museum professionals had been agitating for action and change in relation to current events: #MuseumsRespondToFerguson – a twitter-based conversation in response to the issues exemplified by the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police (Jennings, 2015); Museum Workers Speak, an initiative aimed at ‘turning the social justice lens inwards’ (Museum Workers Speak, n.d.) to address labour and employment practices in the museum sector; and the Museums Detox group which staged a flash mob at the Museum of London in 2016 and describes itself as “part professional networking group, part support system, and part pub club”(Kemp, 2017) for BAME1 museum professionals in the UK. Museum professionals have shown themselves ready and willing to discuss radical changes in the ways that museums are run and the topics they address. Activist museums don’t engage in propaganda, instead they address contentious issues in innovative ways, offering a space for both the museum and visitors to engage in informed debate without presenting their standpoint on the matter as neutral. The following criteria have been developed to sketch how activism in the museum is a distinct development beyond participatory practice - whilst also maintaining the same commitment to representation and collaboration it entails: 1. Activist museums have an explicit agenda. The museum’s standpoint on an issue should not be hidden or implicit, but is established for the visitor from the outset. If a museum is presenting an exhibition about the lives of transgender people, it should be clear about the intended aim of the exhibition, e.g. not only to inform audiences, but to support transgender people in their fight for equality and visibility.
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2. Their activism is reflected in all aspects of their work. If a museum is advocating for a more just and equitable society, it needs to make sure that those values are reflected within their own institution. A museum addressing migration histories needs to ensure that all levels of participation in the museum are open to people with a migration background: throughout their workforce, in the programming, their retail practices, collaboration with their audiences and reflected in their visitors. 3. An activist museum offers concrete actions for visitors who wish to be more active citizens. Museums should empower people by informing them of the various actions they can take to affect change in their societies, asking more from their visitors than understanding and empathy. Ideally, a range of activities at varying levels of engagement will be included. Protests and placards aren’t for everyone. They should offer visitors different ways to get involved at varying levels of involvement, be it in engaging in local politics, craftivism, and changes they can make to their everyday life, etc.
preaching to their visitors and give space to sometimes very unpalatable and harmful ideas? The museum must be a place for multiple perspectives, experiences and opinions. Not every opinion has a place in the museum, but acknowledging other views in context can give museums an opportunity to address them in more nuanced ways than by simple exclusion. Inclusion of oppositional opinions doesn’t mean giving them equal weight; rather than ignoring racist views, explain how racism is a system developed to serve an economic purpose and side-step moral arguments for the treatment of people according to arbitrary criteria and how that has real world effects right up until today. Telling people they are wrong is not creating dialogue. When the Tate Modern projected “Vote Remain” onto their façade in the run up to the Brexit referendum, they were telling people what to do. The People’s History Museum in Manchester gave space to both sides of the debate and avoided drawing two camps, both in their programming and exhibition, recognising that information and nuance was what was missing from the discourse in general.
4. Activist museums offer space to oppositional opinions. Probably the most difficult. How can museums avoid
The potential for activist museums lies in museums acknowledging and harnessing the role they play in
shaping society. If museums can inspire action in their visitors to become more active citizens, more engaged in their communities, more involved in democracy at the local, regional and national level, more informed about how their actions can affect real change and are empowered to make change happen, the more relevant museums will be. Museum practice will always have to develop and adapt to societal changes, new challenges and emerging topics, and that might mean revising this definition in the future. The question of museum relevance lies in how museums choose to use the trust placed in them as cultural institutions that play a vital role in defining what a society is and what it aspires to be. Museums can be a place to explore contentious and pressing ideas that affect the lives of the publics they serve. Jennie Carvill Schellenbacher Curatorial Assistant, House of Austrian History (hdgö), Vienna Jennie Carvill Schellenbacher studied Archaeology (BA, Durham), Museum Studies (MA, Leicester) and is now working on a PhD thesis at the University of Vienna exploring the ways museums are engaging in activist practice.
Bibliography Davies, M. (2012). The activist museum | Museums Association. from http://www.museumsassociation.org/ comment/13082012-the-activist-museum (Accessed 10 August 2017) Dierking, L. (2000). Contemporary Theories of Learning. In G. Durbin (Ed.), Developing Exhibitions for Lifelong Learning (pp. 25–29). London, UK: The Stationary Office. Hein, G. (2000). Constructivist Learning Theory. In G. Durbin (Ed.), Developing Exhibitions for Lifelong Learning (pp. 30–35). London, UK: The Stationary Office. Jennings, G. (2015). The #museumsrespondtoFerguson Initiative, a Necessary Conversation. Museums & Social Issues, 10(2), 97–105. https://doi.org/10.1179/1559689315Z.00000000036 Kemp, V. (2017). Introducing Museum Detox: being BAME in museums | Art UK. from https://artuk.org/about/blog/ introducing-museum-detox-being-bame-in-museums (Accessed 10 August 2017) Kotler, N., & Kotler, P. (2000). Can Museums be All Things to All People?: Missions, Goals, and Marketing’s Role. Museum Management and Curatorship, 18(3), 271–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/09647770000301803 Museum Workers Speak. (n.d.). Museum Workers Speak - Home. from http://museumworkersspeak.weebly.com/ (Accessed 19 April 2017) Museums Association. (2013). Museums Change Lives: The MA’s vision for the impact of museums. from http://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=1001738 (Accessed 1 September 2016) Sandell, R. (2007). Museums, prejudice, and the reframing of difference. Routledge. Worley, W. (2017). US art museum removes all works by immigrants to protest Donald Trump’s travel ban The Independent. from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-protest-artworks-davis-museum-works-immigration-ban-a7584861.html (Accessed 14 August 2017) 105
© Auckland Castle
© National Museums Northern Ireland
Tandem Design Dippy, the world famous Diplodocus from London’s Natural History Museum, is on tour and in autumn 2018 moved to the Ulster Museum. Tandem was appointed by National Museums Northern Ireland to develop an engaging and interactive exhibition that uses the dinosaur to highlight how Ireland’s landscapes has changed since the time of the dinosaurs. Working alongside the museum’s curatorial and audience engagement teams, Tandem designed a vibrant and fun exhibition that encourages visitors to eavesdrop on a conversation between Dippy and a little boy called Mike (actually the Ulster Museum’s own Dr Mike Simms, who was captivated by the Diplodocus during a childhood visit to London 50 years ago). For many visitors this was their first opportunity to meet Dippy, so Tandem exploited their feelings of anticipation. As visitors enter the gallery, a large screen, with peep-holes, shields them from the dinosaur until they reach an exciting ‘reveal’. The design scheme sensitively combines elements from the Ulster Museum’s brand identity with the Natural History Museum’s project identity. Interpretation incorporates a bold mix of large-scale illustrations, larger than life nature photography, items from the Ulster Museum’s collection and hands-on interactives. Not surprisingly, Dippy was a big draw to the museum. tandemdesign.co.uk
The Hub A pivotal landmark for Bishop Auckland in County Durham, the building of Auckland Tower created a welcoming gateway for visitors wishing to explore The Auckland Project. Working in partnership with Ingenious Creative, The Hub were tasked with the design, manufacture and installation of displays which reimagined the space to create a ticket office and information hub. A strong and inventive design concept for both graphics and 3D elements were inspired by the angular nature of the tower, and compliments its unique aesthetics. The Hub’s ability to collaborate with design teams and specialist sub-contractors exceeded expectations by utilising the spaces potential and maximising the building’s space. A stunning example of this is the specially commissioned illustration depicting the view of Bishop Auckland. This artistic interpretation of the view from the tower sits alongside a lockable display frame to enable staff to continually update the display with current events and news items. This bespoke viewing area is also equipped with a weather resistant panel designed by Ingenious Creative which was then manufactured and installed by The Hub. The outcome of this collaborative approach has created a beautiful first point of contact for visitors. The Hub’s ability to productively manage the project led to an enticing space for visitors that are of a superior standard both structurally and visually; remaining on budget and to time frame. Helen Fawbert, Head of Interpretation, commented: “We were really pleased with how everything went from initial design concept through to detailed design, build and install. I genuinely can’t think of anything to improve on. We would happily recommend The Hub as an ideal choice for large or small projects!” thehublimited.co.uk
Images © Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
Goppion Sweden’s Nationalmuseum recently reopened following an extensive five-year renovation. The project has created a more accessible museum whilst preserving the integrity of the architectural heritage. A new climate control system means the collections can now be displayed in an integrated manner so that paintings and other works more sensitive to environmental factors can be presented together. The fit-out was entrusted entirely to Goppion, who worked architect Koel Sanders (New York) and lighting designer Kardoff (Berlin) to develop a family of integrated exhibition elements including bases, platforms and walls, and 100 new display cases. The cases are characterized by a simple linear design, with interiors echoing the shades of the plaster in the different rooms. They provide high levels of security and are equipped with a passive system to control relative humidity by means of silica gel housed in a special compartment in the base that allows checks and replacement without the need to open the display compartment. One of the most challenging display cases was the imposing Royal Bed Case which is over 5 metres high and contains the royal canopy bed. 75 of the 100 display cases are equipped with an ‘intelligent’ system for the control and adjustment of the LED lights via Bluetooth, thanks to an app developed by Goppion. goppion.com 107
Designmap Designmap worked with the University of Cambridge to develop an exterior interpretation scheme for their famous Botanic Gardens. The Rising Path is part of the Garden’s Understanding Plant Diversity Project which aims to revitalise the contemporary relevance of the Garden’s Systematic Beds for researchers, teachers and visitors. The path winds up to a viewing platform from where visitors can see the full extent and layout of the Systematic Beds from a three-metre high vantage point. Interpretation on the deck and at ground level, beneath the path, expands on the twin educational purpose of the Systematic Beds: how to look at plants, and how to organise those plants for effective research and communication. The design of the interpretation elements is inspired by plant cell structures and invites visitors to explore family resemblances by identifying shared physical features the approach by which the Systematic Beds were laid out in 1846. The scheme draws widely from the collections of the University of Cambridge, including Charles Darwin’s pressed plant material from his voyage on HMS Beagle in the University Herbarium and Edward Lear’s Nonsense Botany in the University Library. Interactive elements including relief rubbings, stem-shape sorters, a plant building activity, a seed abacus, a nature table and a crawl-through of underground root shapes, encourage an active approach to observing plants for adults and children alike. Designmap worked closely with the Botanic Garden team leader, Juliet Day, to develop the interpretation and with architects Chadwickdryerclarke studio to create a design that is active and dynamic yet harmonious with their elegant structure. designmap.co.uk
© University of Cambridge
© Aerospace Bristol
BECK Leading international interiors fit out experts, BECK, has recently completed its project at Bristol’s iconic aerospace visitor centre, the new home of Concorde. The nine-acre site on Filton Airfield includes two First World War Grade II listed hangars, providing over 10,000m² of public exhibition space, learning spaces, workshops and, outdoor learning and testing space. The exhibition covers over 100 years of aviation history through two world wars, exploring the role of aircraft in these conflicts, through the drama and technological advances of the space race and on to the modern day. BECK was brought on board to fit out the two hangers that were divided into nine zones, narrating the remarkable story of Bristol’s world-class aviation heritage, featuring Concorde Alpha Foxtrot the last of the supersonic passenger jets to be built and to fly. The nine zones were broken down into a timeline of the prestigious centre starting with telling the story of the Box Kite in zone one right through to Concorde in zone nine. BECK’s works included design development, sampling, management, fabrication and installation involving large setwork and display walls, large object plinths, display desks, bespoke metalwork, glass barriers and gallery installations. beckinteriors.com
Images ÂŠ V&A
Squint/Opera Videogames at the V&A explores the transformation of the digital design world since the mid-2000s and investigates ground breaking design work from AAA studios, to independent artists and rebellious player communities. The exhibition features the design process of a curated selection of contemporary titles, examining their design inspirations and creative practices. Squint/ Opera collaborated with Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio to design the exhibition and considered the movement of visitors and how they would interact with the exhibits as a holistic experience. A largescale and immersive video installation showcases the breadth of work from the communities of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most popular videogames. Squint/Opera worked with the V&A and several game studios from all over the world to collect different kind of assets from 4K footage to low-res YouTube video captures. The biggest challenge was the Folk Design room where they installed a massive LED wall behind a curved projection to create a unique audio/visual spectacle. Working with digital content meant a strong focus on ensuring the visuals were presented as the developers and the curators intended them to be - in optimum resolution. Squint/Opera also created a film with key cultural commentators debating issues like politics, gender, sexuality, race and violence. squintopera.com 109
Meyvaert Located just outside Cardiff, St Fagans National History Museum is an open-air museum and the largest and most popular heritage attraction in Wales. It has recently undergone a £30m redevelopment. Meyvaert has been heavily involved in the formation of three new galleries combining social history and archaeology collections with the development of 38 new cases and the refurbishment of around 20 existing cases. The project was designed by Event Communications and Meyvaert worked closely with them to ensure that they achieved the best results for the clients whilst offering advice and guidance along the way. The prototype phase was useful to develop and demonstrate the proposed case types including lighting, opening methods and accessibility for object installation. The completed galleries are easily accessible and form part of the multi-layered visitor experience. meyvaertmuseum.com
Haley Sharpe Design Abu Dhabi’s most important historic and cultural landmark, Qasr Al Hosn, opened to the public in December 2018 with exhibits designed by Leicester-based Haley Sharpe Design (hsd). Celebrations throughout Abu Dhabi marked the opening of this much-anticipated cultural destination. Qasr Al Hosn, located in the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi, features the historic Qasr Al Hosn Fort, the Cultural Foundation, the National Consultative Council building, and the House of Artisans. hsd was appointed by the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) Abu Dhabi as the exhibition designers for the Qasr Al Hosn Fort and the National Council Chamber, located next to the Fort. The principal aim was to restore these two culturally important buildings back to their former glory while preserving their historic fabric. The new exhibitions have a mix of AV, artefacts and interactives telling the story of the city, its people, their history and its modern heritage. Working in close collaboration with the DCT, hsd has contributed to the transformation of the Qasr Al Hosn Fort into a new museum for the 21st century. haleysharpe.com
© Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi 110
© The D-Day Story, Portsmouth
Ay-Pe Re-opened in 2018 and ‘European Museum of the Year 2019’ nominee, The D-Day Story explores Operation Overlord’s eye witness accounts and integrates multimedia by ay-pe. Across three galleries ay-pe created contentdriven digital interactives, emotive soundscapes and large-scale AVs: authentically produced from archive, interviews and testimonies. The thoughts and emotions of D-Day’s contemporaries immerse visitors through several creative AV’s including the haunting sight of anxious soldiers crouched within a real Landing Craft exhibit (utilising a Peppers Ghost VFX), sharing their hopes and fears with the visitor as they prepare to land on one of the invasion beaches. By contrast, an integrated AV explores the landings of each invasion site (Omah, Utah, Gold etc) using testimony, archive imagery & VFX to deliver an unique learning experience. ay-pe’s wide-ranging multimedia complements the curation and Studio MB’s re-design, engaging all ages and giving visitors. “...a feeling you were there, going through it all…” (Tripadvisor). ay-pe.com
Armour Systems Armour Systems competitively tendered for and won the commission for the design, manufacture and installation of showcases in the flagship Open Gallery at the British Golf Museum at St Andrews in Scotland. This new gallery, exploring the rich history of golf ’s oldest Major, opened in spring 2018. The gallery was designed by Campbell & Co and Armour Systems worked closely with their design team and the museum curators to create four bespoke conservation grade showcases. Based on the brief and requirements, they considered the suitability of their range of tried and tested display case systems and proposed system Nova. This showcase system offered the conservation, security and accessibility required plus the option to suspend glass shelving to aid the object mounting. The objective of their display case solutions is that they are designed to be robust, yet unobtrusive, keeping the focus on the objects displayed within. armour-systems.com
© British Golf Museum, St Andrews
© Paleis Soestdijk
© The D-Day Story, Portsmouth
Studio MB Multi-award winning interpretive design consultancy Studio MB supplied a turn-key delivery for the exhibition fitout package as part of a £5m transformation of the D-Day Museum. Fresh perspectives on the D-Day story are presented in newly remodelled gallery spaces with never before seen exhibits. From both a military and a civilian viewpoint, the D-Day Story moves away from a typical ‘military museum’ towards an experience rich in the humanity of its stories. Studio MB completely reconfigured the gallery spaces into new zones that perform like the acts of a gripping and dramatic play. The narrative presented in the remodelled and rearranged gallery spaces tells both a human story and an analytical story using both large and small objects, audio visual technology, interactives and the perspective of the people who were there at the time. From the preparations and journey across the channel, to the beach landings and the battle of Normandy, the D-Day story, culminating in the liberation of Paris, makes the epic feel personal and the personal feel epic. The visitor experience contrasts the dangerous and dramatic events of D-Day with a stunning 83-metre-long artwork - The Overlord Embroidery - which commemorates and celebrates the service and sacrifice of the extraordinary people who took part in the historic event. This incredible artwork now has a zone dedicated to how it was achieved and the people who created it. studiomb.co.uk
Imagineear Paleis Soestdijk commissioned Imagineear to create two multimedia tours to guide visitors around this former Royal Palace. The 17th Century hunting lodge was significantly extended in the 19th Century and became the official residence and home of Prince Bernhard and Princess Juliana of the Netherlands for over 60 years before their deaths in 2004. The adult multimedia tour features many archive audio and footage as well as videos produced to provide a look behind the scenes through interviews with palace staff. The new owner of the palace, Mrs Maya Meijer of MeyerBergman Erfgoed, gives an insight into the process of how they acquired the estate and what the future will bring. The family multimedia tour contains content designed to appeal to young audiences and includes quizzes relating to the history of the palace and the objects on display. Children taking the tour are guided by the personas of Pjotr, the footman of the Russian princess Anna Pavlovna, and Johannes, a footman to Queen Juliana, who tell the story of the palace. At one stage, they introduce young visitors to the Dutch royal family interactively via image recognition of their portraits on the wall, enabled by Imagineear’s MPti™ touchscreen player camera. imagineear.com
Sysco Productions A new wing at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich presents four captivating galleries, which tell the epic true stories of pioneering global explorers and their encounters with people, places and environments across the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s oceans. The exhibition design by Casson Mann brings to life the vast collection of objects allowing visitors to uncover hidden histories, reimagine familiar stories, and reflect on their connection to the sea. These impressive galleries are interspersed with audio narratives and authentic soundscapes that recreate seascapes to engage visitors and enhance the senses. Interactive touchscreens tailor the experience for each and every visitor, and additional layers of film, photography and projection accentuate the visual history. Sysco Productions supported the integration of these audio and visual elements throughout the showcase of exhibits, collaborating with key partners including Flemming Associates, fit-out contractor Realm Projects and media software designers Clay Interactive and Squint / Opera. syscoproductions.com
ÂŠ Royal Museums Greenwich 113
Reimagining Museum Visits of the Future
newly created consortium is working to create immersive experiences in which museum exhibits come to life. The consortium is being led by creative content studio Factory 42 and includes the Almeida Theatre, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the University of Exeter. The two-year development project is being funded by a £4m grant from Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), as part of the wider Audiences of the Future initiative to maintain the leading position of the UK’s cultural sector. Factory 42 and the museums are also backing the project with their own match funding and further financial investment has been made by UK entertainment group Sky plc and Magic Leap, the US spatial computing company. Digital education company Pearson and shopping centres group intu plc are providing strategic support. The project, under the co-creative direction of The Almeida and Factory 42, will combine mixed-reality technology from Magic Leap with immersive theatre to create two separate adventure game visitor experiences exploring multisensory and interactive worlds. At the Natural History Museum dinosaurs from their collection will be brought to life and visitors will experience the detective work of palaeontologists and share the thrill of scientific discovery. At the Science Museum visitors will encounter a mixed-reality detective experience featuring high-resolution 3D scans of robots and other iconic objects from its collection, to bring the latest in robotics and artificial intelligence to life.
© Natural History Museum, London
Seven leading British organisations from the fields of culture, entertainment and education have announced a pioneering collaboration which plans to reimagine the museum visits of the future using storytelling and virtual technology
Both worlds will mix real-life physical environments where visitors can touch, smell and hear things with captivating digital technologies and creatures that will enable audiences to interact in ways not normally possible. It is expected that the visitor experiences will open to the public in the middle of 2020. Sampler versions of the experiences will also be made available to visitors to a number of intu shopping centres around the UK. The project aims to better understand how cultural experiences can be reimagined for audiences of the future in order to boost understanding and enjoyment of the natural world and science, while at the same time providing commercial touring and export opportunities. These experiences will help the interpretation of collections that address complex themes
and ideas, helping shape the cultural heritage sector for the 21st Century. The project will be supported at all stages by a multi-disciplinary research team from the University of Exeter Business School and the Centre for Intermedia and Creative Technology. The research aims to understand how individual and group visitor experiences in mixed-reality can be designed, evaluated and described to benefit the creative industries sector. The world-class creative team will include some of the UK’s leading theatre directors, computer game designers and developers, 3D audio, multi-sensory technologists, animators, graphic designers, writers, actors, artists and researchers collaborating with museum curators and academics.
................................................................................................................. With a progressive attitude and international approach to professional inquiry, MuseumiD magazine couples contemporary design with a stimulating mix of ideas from leading museum innovators
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