Earlier this week I was invited to take part in a panel discussion titled “Business Not As Usual. Revolutionizing the Cultural Economy” at Frankfurt Book Fair.

On the panel with me were Florian Bräunig CEO at YAIR, Martin Eyerer, CIO at Factory Berlin, Stein Olav Henrichsen, Director at Munch Museum, Cleo Schöps, Head of Art Sponsorship Partnership at UBS, Harry Verwayen the Executive Director at Europeana Foundation.

Each of the initiatives presented was extremely interesting and the selection of speakers allowed for an animated conversation, exploring different perspectives on how technology makes new business models possible.

Most questions coming from both from the moderator and the audience revolved around the idea of collaboration and, whilst everyone agreed that the idea of “sharing” seems to inform a lot of the new business models, an interesting point was raised:

Is sharing a mean to an end or an end in itself? Are we sharing in order to reach targets that will define us as the best and the first player in the market or are we sharing because there is an intrinsic value in doing so?

From the perspective of someone that is working to bridge the gap between private and public, I would argue that museums, as non profit institutions, are in a very privileged position, as they can look at sharing both as a mean to an end and as an act that is purposeful in itself.

When I think of touring exhibitions for example the Vastari Reports have highlighted that for the large majority of museums interviewed, the primary reasons for touring are raising their profile and expanding their audience. Meaning touring and sharing exhibitions has the strategic goal of positioning the museum, its brand and content in a competitive way.

That said often times touring an exhibition or even hosting one that has the explicit goal of reaching big numbers (of visitors, ticket sales, engagement) allows museums to be able to take risks and include in their programming shows that they feel they have the duty to share without any specific concept of return in mind.

As I can’t think of any other player in the cultural sector that can look at their work from both perspectives, I am hoping with this article to raise awareness and inspire museums to be both pragmatic and visionary.