The future of museums

Museums are not normally something people necessarily think about as being part of the VCS but there are actually 1, 118 independent museums in the UK which are registered charities according to this year’s Civil Society Almanac. That’s why this blog post by Andrew Curry from the Henley Centre Headlight Vision on the future of museums caught my eye. The current model of the museum itself, he points out is:

“…about 150 years old [and] basically consists of a building with some stuff in it, arranged according to some organising principle. It is changing already in the face of challenges from technology and shifting ideas about authority and hierarchy.”

It is particularly interesting to think about how models and notion of museums might change in the future as museums often encompass very traditional ideas of culture, heritage and history. The blog post sets out five indicative scenarios for museums in the future which turn some of today’s models of museums completely on their heads:

  • The forum: “A local resource and meeting space, enabling discovery, shared experience, relearning of skills, and disputes about meaning – and a place for such disputes to be addressed.”
  • The rich club: “The corporate museum, with high profile collections and exhibitions. In a world where it seems likely that knowledge will be more contested, this upholds traditional notions of the canon. But why open them up to the public?”
  • Splinter groups: “Museums created through tightly engaged communities of interest move beyond their current ‘oddball’ status. In a more digital world support groups and user groups would start to emerge – in which amateur experts engage with professionals.”
  • The cut up: “The remix museum, which takes the notion of the ‘extended’ workplace (in space and time) to its logical conclusion, and extends it to remixed meanings, active reinterpretations, and open knowledge. Each time you entered you’d see a different museum.”
  • The imaginarium: “New challenges require new discourses. The imaginarium is a transformer, a home of social and interpretative innovation - drawing on diverse workforce and users, bringing history into the present as a source both of meaning and skills.”

The rest of the post is well worth a read and goes on to discuss ideas of ownership, power and prestige, the notion of the public in relation to museums, material culture and uses of technology. Does anyone think any of these scenarios are more likely than others? Does anyone working in a museum have any thoughts to share about the particular challenges facing museums today?

Last updated at 15:08 Mon 18/May/09.
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How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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