Museum of the 21st Century

Mark Walhimer Future of Museums Leave a Comment

Great post! Reprinted from Social Media and Cultural Communication:

http://nlablog.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/the-museum-of-the-21st-century/

“LSE Arts and Thames and Hudson 60th anniversay discussion

The Museum of the 21st Century
Tuesday 7th July 2009

There was quite a buzz at the London School of Economics. The auditorium was packed; close to 500 people to hear the director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor and director of Tate, Nicholas Serota discuss the roles of collections in the 21st century. This was one of many 60th anniversary year events by publishers Thames and Hudson and was run in conjunction with London School of Economics Arts.
John Wilson from the BBC chaired the session. I wish to thank the organisers for securing me a pass to this event.

John Wilson chaired an entertaining and seamless conversation, ensuring that the big issues of the day were discussed and that the human side of the most powerful museum directors in the UK was on view. The highlights were clear – both directors have a firm grip on the realities of audience participation, global relevance, political recognition, cultural guardianship, trusteeship and future relationships. Their commitment to the museum as a learning space and one where knowledge is shared was evident. The both recognised a historic ‘imperfect relationship’ between curators and audiences and agreed that this was an important area, ripe for transformation.

The best jokes of the evening:

It’s good to see the director of the British Museum before he’s lost his marbles!
(LSE rep whose name I didn’t catch)

Parliament is seathing with closet aesthetes! (Neil MacGregor)

Some highlights on the musings of the future of the museum:

On audience engagement…The future of the museum may be rooted in the buildings they occupy but it will address audiences across the world and will be a place where people across the world will have a conversation. Those institutions which take up this notion fastest and furthest will be the ones which have the authority in the future.

On THOSE marbles…
Yesterday’s debate was about whether another country should have objects in their collections. The greater argument is, how do London and Greece ensure that some of these objects can be seen in China, Africa etc.

On travelling collections…Transformations in the notion of trusteeship, making this a reality is imperative. Beginning with professional world of trust, collections and expertise should be available to others around the world. Working to ensure that collections are seen, shared, discussed in Asia, Africa, South America. Museums are unique in being able to build these international communities where publics can engage in culture.

On changing roles of authorship…One of the great things that is happening is that major collections are putting as much as possible online available for download free of charge for academic purpose. This has completely transformed the way that drawings can be studied. There is a question about the duty of museum to be guarantor about what it believes to be authority.

The challenge is to what extent do museums wish to remain authors or to become publishers. Authority of institution can be used and provide a platform for international conversation. In 10-15 yrs we will have curators who will effectively be commissioning editors but will have to make a distinction between what we say and what others who use our platform to say things about themselves. The future has to be
museum as publisher and broadcaster.

On museum as educator…
The museum is the first open university and institutions are all trying to work out more ways of engaging audiences with expertise from within the institution. The big question is how to use electronic methods to enable more people to learn. It was agreed that a diminishing proportion of audiences would be those who visit the galleries themselves; the growing challenge would to look for online capacity and encourage curatorial teams to work there as much as they do in the galleries.

On transformations in cultural communication…We have had an imperfect relationship between the curator and our audience. Now is the time to extend this. There is a great need to reinterpret the museum in non-eurocentric way. This includes making collection material available in non-european languages; encouraging and learning about interpretation from a non-eurocentric perspective.

On the media…
The relationship between the media and museums has transformed: there was a time when museum news only appeared in the arts pages, it is now often in the news section. Arts are now an issue.”

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