It took me a while to process all the information and ideas we’ve been presented in the latest edition of MuseumNext, but I finally came up with my 5 main takeaways. Here they are!

1. The emotional museum

Dr. David Fleming’s talk was one of the highlights for me: so many bright and powerful statements! You can watch his conversation with Jasper Visser here.

Fleming critiques the myth of museum neutrality. There’s no such thing as a neutral museum, since we are all full of opinions and bias. So museums ought to stop avoiding difficult questions and touchy subjects.

For him, the most important designation of museums nowadays is that they should be emotional. The audience responds to museums when they feel an emotional engagement.

That is key, especially when you are working with local audiences. Traditional museum work is based in scholarships, research and the collection. To Fleming, there’s nothing wrong with that, but modern society demands more of the institutions.

As he says, you have to build rapport, to create spaces of dialogue in your community. And a good way to start is finding good partners, as we’ll see below.

2. We are all experts, we are all makers!

Those were two recurring statements heard in different sessions.

At the Future Thinking workshop on day 1, my group discussed the future of museums workforce. Fionn Kidney had one point that I very much agree: we are all experts! Museums have to embrace non-staff experts from their community.

As Fleming said, “I don’t need to know it all, they know it all”. That is beneficial to all parts involved: museums get the expertise and they are given a voice.

There are a lot of people willing to participate and create content for museums. We’ve got to create spaces for participation in a way that is both respectful and not patronizing.

Participation is a hot topic for museums. I regretfully missed the talks and workshops about makers movement, but you can read all about it at Tiana Tasich website.

3. One size does not fit all! Personalization is key.

MuseumNext-Old is the new black
In a wonderful presentation of Moma’s Prime Time program, we’ve learned that (surprise!) not all senior visitors are the same. We cannot put them all in the same box!

Aging audiences, like millennials, may have common traits (like gray hair and more free time available), but they are obviously different individuals with different interests and expectations.

Your audience is looking for tailor-made content, not the “one size fits all” approach.

4. Digital transformation

MuseumNext - Visitor journey
Another conference highlight, especially for the ones expecting digital, was Conxa Rodà’s presentation about digital transformation. Conxa brings good sense to the digital talk.

Here are my takeaways from the presentation, with my own personal remarks.

Strategy before technology. We have to see technology as a mean to pursue your goals, not tech just for the sake of it.

Design a visitors oriented strategy. Exactly what we call in software development, a user-centric approach. We are all used to designing products from the organization’s perspective and it can be very challenging to make the switch, but there are great techniques like Design Thinking and fast prototyping to the rescue!

Meaning over information. When you put yourself in the visitors role you start to notice we are broadcasting a lot of content, so much that it can be sometimes overwhelming. Visitors need contextual information, hear what they are asking. Don’t overdeliver!

But beware of the main challenge museums face in digital transformation. Their own mindset about ownership of data. Go open data and allow your visitors reach your collection in other ways.

5. “Digitizing is not enough, you have to create stories that hold it all together”

MuseumNext - UV participatory web app
That was a textual quote from James Davis presentation and I love it. It just ties it all together. Through digital, you can activate your community. They can create stories around your collection that emotionally engage your visitors in a personalized manner.

I hope you have enjoyed my highlights. What are yours?