MuseumNext NYC

In November, Carolina Garcia from our Toronto office, attended the latest MuseumNext conference in New York City featuring “The Future of Museums”. While topics and presenters ranged widely, two threads clearly emerged: the undeniably important and exciting role that technology can play in museums and the shift of the traditional ‘top-down’ model of museum management to a community oriented “bottom-up” approach.

Illustrating this process of revitalization and innovative thinking, Laura Flusche from the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) declared “Visitor input is shaping what the museum is and does”. It is this principle that has provided the driving force behind the museum’s evolution into the collaborative and publicly engaged institution it is today. Similarly, Hannah Fox from Derby Museums (Derby, UK), explained that turning to community input and creative thinking reinvented their museum into a dynamic and engaging community hub for experimentation, learning, collaboration and innovation.

Continuing along the lines of this ethos of community and collaboration, the Museum of Communication (Berne, Switzerland) discussed their recent launch of a program characterized by “dynamic curation”. In this program, a group of trained “communicators” work in the exhibition space to connect with audiences and gather input that is funnelled into the future production of relevant and engaging material, while also reducing the gap between the curatorial department (traditionally ‘back of house’) and the visitor.

Speaking to technology, Augmented and Virtual Reality were at the centre of many presentations discussing creative forms of learning and connecting with audiences through the creation of enhanced immersive experiences.  Undeniably, the use of technology is not only transforming how learning takes place in museums by providing new tools to access content and promote learning, but it is also opening possibilities for further audience engagement.

During my time at MuseumNext, I listened to stories and examples from presenters about what the current climate of change and innovation means for museums in the 21st century. With positive results ranging from increased and more meaningful forms of community engagement and collaboration, productive partnerships, cross-disciplinary work, and the use of prototyping, experimentation, hubs and incubators, the trend towards bottom-up approaches has successfully demonstrated the value in reformulating old models while opening up space for further creativity.

I left MuseumNext thinking that the seed of innovation rests at the core of thinking creatively and differently about the way we do and understand things. With this in mind, I began to think about the ways in which hsd is already contributing to this changing landscape and what else we could be doing to continue to push the envelope.