There have been a few conversations that keep repeating themselves over the past few months (in some cases years) on social media. What are your thoughts on these topics?
I’m involved with a fabulous community that loves to remix. But what does remix mean? For Open Community Lab and MuseomixUK it means creating prototypes to bridge the gap between museums vs everywhere else. At the heart though is real change in thinking. It’s much more than prototypes.
We as a sector have to believe that the powers to be want meaningful changes that the general public is going to appreciate and want to support.
I’m on record several times with my feeling of the trend of museums moving from academia to emotive. What does that mean? There’s the obvious one that museums as a research center is skewed a bit now that we have powerful computers on our smartphones. We (the public) want more storytelling (emotive). You know what else we want? Access to visit when we’re not working.
On average, most people work 9-5 (ok, it’s more 8-6 these days). Wouldn’t it be great to have museums (outside of London) that have a late night once a week? Opening hours are often a contention finding staff to work different hours is a sore spot but it’s one of the simple items museums can change to open to a different reach of visitors.
Diversity is also a hot topic right now. Four-five years ago, the topic was lack of females then recently it’s been lack of males. There also is a lack of non-whites, representatives of those with accessibility, needs, etc. Basically, we don’t do very well as a sector attracting a diverse pool of people. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not lack of trying with pools of money being shared here and there but I can’t be the only one that feels it’s often a tick-box manoeuvre to say ‘well we did try!’. The serious issue is usually around the money (isn’t always).
No one in this sector will get rich from working in a museum or art gallery. However, the salaries, and certainly starting salaries are so incredibly appalling I’m surprise anyone can survive without the support of an extra income and it’s incredibly hard when you have a family. We spend so much time saying we’re not an elitist sector but really the only ones that can get involved with it has to have extra support somewhere – not something a lot of people have.
Getting back to the public – lets stop telling them how to be a customer when in a museum/gallery. There is a stigmatism that museums can’t seem to shake and probably because they don’t help themselves in the matter (with as always, exceptions). The public needs to see that museums are lightening up which is great but I’ve been to two conferences this year where people actually said MuseumSelfie and other hashtag events dumb down museums. LIGHTEN UP! I’m going to explore the space the way I want thank you very much.
We all have stories about funding. I can only speak on my experience in the UK which quite honestly has never been a good experience. There seems to be monies worldwide available but the criteria is so specific … well we’re back at being elitist again but this time amongst ourselves. Many creative people who DO aren’t good at writing what they do. Funding applications are suppose to be for all but there are many barriers from the get go [i.e. guidance for the new ACE portal is 57 pages long].
We have the national I Love Museums campaign but more and more we’re seeing individual ‘Save X Museum’ campaigns. To be taken seriously and make a difference, there has to be a collective voice of ‘We’re not going to allow this to happen.’ We also need to talk to politicians from local to top level to say we are not happy with museums, library, theatres, etc being targeted as an easy cut. There are many benefits to museums, including health and well being which are very hard to measure.
Pay attention to what others sectors are doing and have been doing for a couple of years. AR/VR, 3D printing, beacons and drones are hot but you don’t have to be the first to do it to make a difference. For those that are doing it – make sure you share your findings – the good, bad and the ugly. And if you really want to make a difference, make it scalable for small to medium museums.
Also, don’t forget social media is still a valuable resource if you use it properly. What platform you use can make a huge difference to your outreach.
Please know we want you to stay open and alive! We do care even if it might seem you’re putting us at an arms length.
To Museum Management
Treat your staff a little better. They are working their butts off with limited resources. Praise them for how they have managed to keep the façade going for so long. Praise them for their creativeness. Praise them for their passion in such dire times. Just praise them
To the Public
Support your local museum before it’s too late! Don’t feel you have to have to have any prior knowledge. There is no dress code or protocol outside common sense. Enjoy your visit by making games around it – choose one item you like and forget the rest. Share your experience. Front of house love to chat so if you don’t understand something, ask them.
I’m saying all of this with love. We need to stop making excuses and start doing and making changes. We have a code of ethics in the UK that reads:
Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collection, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.
Are we really hitting the targets where it matters?