Banding Together: The Case for Museums

In times of trouble, people join together to solve problems and face a common enemy.

That is the case with museums. These institutions have been faced serious government cutbacks, across the board worldwide, since the crisis of 2008. When times are tough, it seems – logical to some – culture is one of the first things to be cut back on.

As a result, museums have to start looking in new places to improve their business models and engage the public.

The first way they have innovated is social media. One only has to look at last week’s #askacurator day, now in its fourth year, to open the door for anyone on Twitter to ask a question to the museum’s top curators. The event is a great success, trending worldwide and bringing very interesting questions to the fore. Organiser Mar Dixon, a Brit, is a great proponent of social for museums, speaking at various events and consulting with many institutions on how to be more engaging through these means.

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Image courtesy of Museumnext

Events are the second way that museums are banding together. I don’t mean having events at their institutions – this is a normal activity and has always been there. More and more events have popped up for museums to discuss trends in their industry and think of new ideas with each other. For example, the Collections Trust hosts an Openculture event, now in its third year, to discuss the trends in digitisation and collections, Museumnext has become a go-to place to learn about the newest developments in museum culture, and “We are Museums” where Marta went in June is another initiative to bring the industry together to brainstorm and learn.

The last event, which is starting tomorrow and is in its first year, is the International Committee for Exhibition Exchange – the ICEE, a subdivision of international organisation ICOM. This event promises to be very exciting. Not only is the programme full of engaging speakers and interesting visits to Finnish museums (yes it is in Finland), there is also a marketplace of exhibitions where museums and/or partners can pitch projects that are available or need collaborators.

Museums have had it tough the last few years; but rather than shrink, it seems that they are now growing. They are working together, embracing social media and being entrepreneurial in their endeavours to survive the storm together. In an increasingly globalised world on both an economic and cultural level, this seems like a very wise decision.