Building the Community - My first year at Vastari
My experience at Vastari began more than a year ago, in September 2016, when I started interning in the Exhibitions Department. Everyone was very friendly and I immediately appreciated the passion transpiring from Bernadine, Francesca and the rest of the team about what they were doing and trying to achieve: an online platform on which museums and producers could exchange exhibitions and knowledge. It has been one of my first working experiences in London and, indeed, very different from the corporate environments that I was used to.
When I officially started as a Community Manager in January 2017, the shift from the internship was fairly easy because I already knew the platform inside out, but being in charge of clients' happiness is a different kettle of fish.
From the beginning, I found it very important to understand what our clients were looking for and how we could best help them. This is what we are continuously working on because the museum industry is changing and we at Vastari are changing with it. And, at the same time, trying to disrupt it. Moreover, from a certain point of view travelling exhibitions are still a niche of this market, in constant development, like a child that is measuring his limits and strengths. Not every museum, institution, collector, curator has explored it properly and fully exploited its potential.
In the last 365 days, we shifted from pure matchmaking between museums and hosting venues, to a broader range of options for our clients. These include thorough feedback on their exhibitions, feasibility studies for projects still in the development phase, brand promotion to different institutions and so on. We have been able to do this thanks to the museum professionals that have supported us on this journey and are pushing us to do something that has never been done before: mapping out the museum industry to understand how institutions from all over the world organise and plan their exhibitions.
During my personal journey at Vastari I had the chance to speak with various players in the industry such as museums, producers, collectors and different organisations from all around the world. Before Vastari, I could never imagine the enthusiasm that science museums would radiate. Their approach to technology and sharing information has given us great feedback. They get incredibly excited when they look at our platform and immediately praise the value of the solutions that Vastari can bring to them in their daily struggle. Finding shows is never an easy task, especially taken that many museums do not have the luxury of a dedicated department for touring exhibitions or for sourcing individual works.
I got also disenchanted at times, seeing that some important institutions prefer to solely rely on their network rather than approaching new technological solutions. They need to personally meet their counterpart just to start a conversation because first impressions and a coffee together are still THE base for a fruitful collaboration, disregarding the quality of the content that they want to host or tour.
I still struggle to believe that something like Vastari never existed before. Particularly since technology can allow you to review impressive exhibition profiles without than flying around on someone's desk.
I still believe that museums can plan everything in a more efficient way, but something (traditions and old ways of working, or maybe an unidentified entity) holds them back from it. Sharing information on your needs as an institution is the future. It could just help you save money, time, find the best content and preserve your sanity in the process.
I still believe that transparency is the key to build a trusted community of museums that are not afraid of sharing information and using technology for better exhibition programmes. Most of all, I am really proud to be part of this journey.