MuseumNext Part 2: Radical Change, Crazy Ideas and Dinosaurs in the museum

The opening keynote was given by Nancy Proctor, Head of Mobile Strategy & Initiatives at the Smithsonian.

Nancy started with a brilliant video about dinosaurs in the museum.  Provoking the question, was she referring to colleagues or objects? And is it just our perception that makes us see our colleagues as scary monsters?  This was a subject that progressed throughout the conference. Koven Smith presented the recurring theme of Us vs Curators, so digital engagement vs collections authority and ultimately  radical vs conservative.  It can often seem like that, but Bridget McKenzie reflected on her blog, that we really shouldn’t think like that anymore because “We should stop trying to define and critique ‘curators’ as distinct from those of us from learning, engagement, marketing and digital areas of work. We are all curators (even those of us who don’t work in museums) because we’re all stewards and interpreters of cultural commons”

Anyway. Stepping away from that.  Nancy discussed the Hype cycle for emerging technologies, highlighting that change does happen, but it isn’t really long lasting.  change is often revolutionary as it goes in circles, so today’s solution might not work tomorrow.  What is required is Radical change.  Change at the Root level means it is likely to be deeper and longer lasting.  However in order to do that museums need to rewire institutional structures of power.  This is easier said than done.

Nancy went on to deliver three clear messages:

Know yourself

  • Know your mission
  • Know where you a going.  Goals and priorities
  • Know where you’ve come from (learn from your mistakes)
  • Know your history as well as your present and future

Know your audiences

  • Why are they visiting?
  • Are they visiting at all?
  • What do visitors want to know?

Let everyone in

Nancy then moved on to the idea that we need to start thinking outside the box and have crazy ideas.  Using Halsey Burgund’s Scapes as an example. Which is a fantastic audio experience and if that doesn’t inspire you to try something new, then I don’t know what will!

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