The power of genuine partnership was a strong theme that ran throughout Communicating the Museum (CTM) this year, with many inspiring examples being presented.
Partnerships that sought to blur the boundaries and break down the traditional relationships between agency & client and drive creativity, innovation and experimentation came from Project Projects in New York, Pattu in Turkey and Us.
Innovative partnerships that extend the reach, take collections out to the public and help Museums fulfill their organisational purpose were also presented by the likes of Louvre, that sought to partner with Paris CDG airport and curate an exhibition inside Terminal 1 as well as partner with LEGO to create a set where the famous architecture of the Louvre is re-created in LEGO bricks.
The importance of strong organisational purpose and culture was another theme at CTM. As Museums shift from ‘monasteries to public squares’ where ideas are exchanged and audiences seek to participate rather than ‘attend’, the importance of a strong purpose is ever more important. The challenges this shift in thinking creates for internal divisions and departments, risks exacerbating tensions between curators - the traditional experts and holders of knowledge and the communicators, tasked with engaging audiences and promoting reach. In this environment a definition of purpose and culture helps provide a guiding ‘north star’ to internal teams who seek to reimagine their purpose beyond the traditional boundaries and provide a clear ‘red thread’ ensuring coherence overall for audiences.
The importance of considering all the ways in which Museums can engage with hard to reach audiences within their communities and genuinely deliver culture, knowledge and art 'for all' was a popular topic.
An inspiring presentation from the State Library in Queensland referenced a range of innovative ways they are tackling ‘Threshold Fear’ and welcome new communities through their doors. From policy changes that drastically reframed their security protocols and admissions process, to creative partnerships with local families that taught new skills in surprising ways such as the Cubby House project. All of this was perfectly summarised in this quote from Nina Simon:
"If you're a museum person and you want to understand threshold fear, don't go to a museum. Go to a boxing gym. Go to an unber hip bar. Go to a place of worship that is not your own. Go to a tattoo parlor. Find a place where you feel an increible urge to bolt out the door the minute you walk in. Go there alone. See what makes sense and what doesn't to you. Consider what intimidates you and what you feel comfortable with. Not the people, the areas or experinces you gravitate to as safe starting points. And then go back to your own insititution and try and see it through that lens. Hold on to your poudning heart and imagine carrying that adrenaline through your own front door."
Interesting presentations from Project Projects and Pattu explored the expanded and expanding role of graphic design and designers in creating experiences that inspire, delight and generate open sourced identities.
From organisational brand identities comprised of distinct url codes, evolving structures that use meta data shaped by users to identities which are reimagined every 4 weeks, to minimalist identities that move and change. Organisational identities and exhibitions that reach out, live and evolve were discussed and showcased.
Several presentations explored the role of digital innovation within the Museum experience - both now and in the future. The Van Gogh Museum talked about the need to think about experiences, not products. And how and where technology could play a crucial role in enhancing the overall museum experience, rather than designing ‘digital’ experiences per se.
Amy Heibels at LACMA talked about the Museum of the future and the crucial role technology and innovation would play in curating and facilitating the entire experience. She also outlined the case for why a strong innovation culture was the single best investment a Museum could make in supporting digital communications and enabling innovation through technology.