MuseumNext 2016: looking at the future by bringing together museums from around the world (on- and offline)

The week of Monday the 18th started early for the Vastari team as the first half of Monday was spent travelling to Dublin for this year’s MuseumNext conference.

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MuseumNext is a conference dedicated to a museum of tomorrow and the future of museums. Looking at the list of delegates, the museum of tomorrow discussion is spearheaded by heads of communication, digital designers and social change advocates, leaders of various museum associations and quite a few start-ups. The delegates were from everywhere but as an art history graduate, the lack of art museums at the conference was quite notable.

Looking into the future meant that all conference venues provided a good wifi connection and the majority of delegates had twitter accounts. Hence, rather than giving a critical analysis of each talk I will share the twitter reactions.

Day 1: a Focus on Travel and Travelling Exhibitions

Team Vastari landed just before noon, and after getting lost a few times we found that no matter where you go in Dublin, it’s a 15-minute walk.

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After registration, we headed to the Science Gallery where we were hosting a panel discussion on touring exhibitions.

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TOURING EXHIBITIONS: LEARNING FROM THE PAST AND LOOKING AT THE FUTURE

In the last few years, more and more museums started exploring travelling exhibitions. With Vastari often acting as an external travelling exhibitions marketing and research office we have become authorities in the field. 

Vastari’s findings defined three main models used by museums to tour their exhibitions: the partnership model, the hierarchy of sharing or the sharing of ready-made shows. Often science museums and art museums use models at the opposite ends of the spectrum to tour. With art museums relying on partnerships and shared costs, and science galleries adopting what is known as a ‘Blueprint’ model.

But our discussion showed many synergies between art and science museums rather than a great divide.  

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We were very pleased that the speakers on our panel were Rachael Thomas, Senior Curator/Head of Exhibitions of Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin) and Rob Warren, Global Touring Manager, Science Gallery (Dublin). The discussion was heated and unexpected at times. (The full write up of the panel will be available soon)

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Our Panel finished at 5pm which was the end of Day 1 lectures and talks programme and the beginning of the evening drinks. The drinks were hosted by Little Museum Dublin. After the drinks came the open reception in the grand setting of IMMA.

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Day 2: All for One, One for All

Day 2 started with a social media craze as team Vastari woke up find out that we have been on BBC (!). The inspiring video showed how collectors use Vastari, and finished with an interview with our co-founders, Bernadine and Francesca.

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Getting to the Mansion House for a day of panel discussions and talks with our phones exploding. 

Unlike Day 1 where everyone had their own schedule, Day 2 gathered everyone together in the ‘jazzy’ Mansion House setting. 

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The first panel was all about the visitors, and visitor engagement: older, younger, and those pesky “millennials”. 

The first speaker Dea Birkett talked about kids taking over museums.

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Francesca Rosenberg of MoMA talked about Prime Time - a programme for the older generation that inspired some enthusiastic reactions.

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The millennial talk was given by Susan Evans McClure (Smithsonian Food History) -  a millennial herself. She finally explained the meaning of that mythical word ‘millennial’!

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It also turned out that the three groups the panel discussed - kids, older people, and millennials - are actually not that different.

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Especially when it comes to seating.

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The Day 1 Keynote speaker was Marian Goodnell, the director of the Burning Man, got people talking about the importance of communities.

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And a few confused tweets….

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The theme of communities continued in the second panel Museums and Communities’. 

Dr Sarah Rusholme (probably the winner of the furthest distance travelled to the conference, all the way from New Zealand!) talked about how Wellington Museum Trust was set up, with challenges of engaging the local communities. Her museum helped engage schools by working with teachers in areas that would usually not come to the museum, with great results.

Deborah Cullinan talked about setting up Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts outreach programme, using local artists to interact with a very urban space offered outside the building. It is interesting that they carefully curated a selection of projects as interventions in Market Street in SF, but the community hacked their own project onto the street as well.   

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The last speaker about communities was Aoife Flynn who described the social media strategies and audience engagement at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Interestingly and appropriately, all of Aoife’s slides were composed of Instagram images from their followers

Luiz Alberto Oliveira and Alexandre Fernandes of Museum of Tomorrow got twitter buzzing, and a lot of excited looks. No wonder, 

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After a look into the future, the final panel looked inwards at how museums treat their staff thanks to the super inspiring Monica O. Montgomery and Eleanor Appleby. Engaging staff is important in all industries, but with museums’ focus on engagement and audience development it is important all staff members care about the mission - and feel valued.

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After Day 2 closed at the Mansion House, a quick walk across Trinity College’s campus brought us to the Science Gallery who hosted the evening’s reception and challenged everyone to find their Birthday buddy.
Our CEO Bernadine Brocker turned out to be Birthday Twins with the fantastic Silvia Filippini-Fanton of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 

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The Science Gallery evening hosted an exhibition about the future of farming, but there was also a lot of ping pong and fun games for everyone to enjoy. They really have got the techy vibe right!

Day 3: Down to Business

Wednesday, day three shook things up from the very beginning. 

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The day started with a talk from the Director of Liverpool MuseumsDr David Fleming that almost broke Twitter (maybe not Twitter but the MuseumNext hashtag). 

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Indeed, Dr Fleming proved to be very very quotable:

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Speaking after Dr Fleming Michael John Gorman had big shoes to fill but his talk was just as quotable. 

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The seasoned CEO finished his talk with some very quotable advice ‘Stay Edgy’! 

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After those inspiring speeches, the next panel brought us down to earth by focusing on one thing most museum people try and ignore - money. 

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Future Finance was lead by Jim Broughton of the Natural History Museum in London on how to measure effective external partnerships, Silvia Filippini-Fanton who talked about the experience of Indianapolis Museum of Art of becoming a ticketed museum, Jessica Litwin demystifying corporate sponsorship. Silvia’s talk gained a lot of traction as it seems many museums are currently debating ‘to charge or not to charge?’

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The conclusion to the talk created a debate on Twitter. 

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Silvia’s Power Point can be viewed here. 

After money talks, we were taken back to digital as James Davis spoke about the Google Cultural Institute. From apps using Google Cardboard to notifications of nearby exhibitions on Google Now, it is clear museums are being included in Google’s future vision.

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And at the Closing Conversation: Ngaire BlankenbergKatie ChildsFiona RossShannon DarroughEmma McLean had an incredibly hard job of summarising this crazy diversity talks and the depth of Twitter debates.

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To sum up the 3 days I will quote Mar Dixon:

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Other Write Ups

Conference takeaways: MuseumNext Dublin from Tiana Tasich

#MuseumNext Dublin Wrap Up from Mar Dixon

MuseumNext Vimeo channel