Innovation in Museums

Mark Walhimer Exhibition Design Leave a Comment


Was at a meeting today and the conversation turned to museum design firms.  The typical museum design firm is 6-8 people with a small office in New York City, San Francisco or Washington, D.C.  As projects come in, the same group tries to “figure out” solutions for the the new exhibition.  The problem; the same 6-8 people are not as good at designing a science center exhibition as an Art museum exhibition, causing a “force fit”, trying to make the same staff “experts” in different disciplines.

Got me thinking about Procter and Gamble and their recent sale of  the Pringles brand.  Procter and Gambel is betting that it can use the $1.5 billion dollars from the sale of Pringles for the development of new brands.   Proctor and Gambel’s staretegy, their core business is “Innovation, not consumer goods”.  It is far more profitable to create successful new brands rather than  maintain existing brands.

A typical museum project is 2-4 years in development.  What if the museums were designed by virtural teams assembled only for a specific project and the project team is divided into two parts, the Research and Development team and “Off the shelf” team?  70% of most museum projects are repackaging of existing technologies and solutions, while 30% are unique to the project.   By having the “Off the shelf” team working on project management of known solutions it frees resorces for the Research and Development Team to create innovative solutions.

Museums are at a “cross roads”, if they do not learn to innovate they will continue to go away.

“Virtual Museum Design Team” Advantages:

  • Nimble Project Teams
  • Lower Cost
  • Faster Project Cycle
  • Higher rate of success (70% known solutions)

“Virtual Museum Design Team” Disadvantages:

  • More complex team communication
  • Higher risk to client, Virtual Museum Team an unknown entity
  • New model for design

Fast Companies listing of the “Most Innovative Companies of 2011”:

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