@MarDixon Passionate about culture internationally. Run remixing events, workshops, create solutions, and an international speaker. Over sharer and Mom who loses arguments to a teen. Projects created: @CultureThemes @lovetheatreday @AskaCurator @MuseumSelfieDay @TeensInMuseums @52museums
  • Challenges for Culture Sector 2018/2019

    November 27th, 2018mardixonCulture, International, Personal

    As 2018 is almost over, there have been a few hot topics for museums this year I’d thought I highlight. Now some of these issues have been going on for years/decades but were brought to the limelight again thanks to social media and media being forced to acknowledge the issues. Hopefully, they can be resolved in 2019…

    Museums Need to Change Their Hours

    Once again, there were a few articles related to museums needing to stay open late. We know this. Museums that stay open ‘late’ (and I mean until 8pm on a Thursday) find an impact. Lets face it, when you work 9–5 the last thing you want to do is spend your weekend at a museum or art gallery. Museums run the risk of becoming just for school trips and corporate hire if they are not careful.

    There are some simple solutions such as opening later on a Tuesday (say 11.30 instead of 10) and staying opening until 8pm on a Thursday to help shift the workload for staff.

    It was also mentioned on Twitter that staff has to have their well being looked after and can’t change too much from 9–5 hours. I understand the sentiment there but honestly, every sector has had to change with society to fit in. Even the majority of banks have Saturday hours and one late night.


    Yes there are a lot of late night events but they are usually once a month and run around bigger activities which are great! I absolutely love them. But sometimes, people just want to pop into a museum for a bit of culture on the way home after work. There has to be a better balance than what is available right now. And that is going to be probably more complicated for council-run museums however I truly feel a compromise is out there. Monday closure and late Thursday (as mentioned before) works for some but you need to look at your community/demographic and see if maybe early mornings might be better.


    Looted/Stolen Artefacts

    This year it seems every museum was getting caught up in the stolen artifacts, give it back debate.

    Why western museums should keep their treasures

    Give the Easter Islanders their statue back — it doesn’t belong in the British Museum | Simon Jenkins

    This has put the sector in a very hot seat but one that can’t be avoided and will not be going away anytime soon.

    It will be interesting to see if more venues take on Aberdeen’s approach:

    Alongside stolen Nazi art, there will also be bans on displays of artwork utilising human remains “as a material” and anything involving live animals.

    And in further good news for animal lovers- nothing from endangered species can be displayed “except with the express consent of an appropriate outside authority”.

    The report reads: “Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums possesses collections of outstanding importance and quality. The entire collection was awarded Recognised Collection of National Significance status in 2007.

    “The previous collections development policy has expired. The period of the policy is set at a maximum of 5 years under the accreditation scheme, but may be reviewed prior to that date by chief officer direction.”

    The policy also says that artworks can be sold off in “exceptional circumstances”- and not to fill budget shortfalls.

    Change of Ethos for Management

    I’m going to refer to the Open Letter I wrote earlier as it seemed to open a can of worms that shouldn’t have been shut if I’m honest. The sector is still very much the same as it has been for years. I personally die a little inside each time I see press about a Female director or a non-white director being appointed. This is 2018 — almost 2019 — this is not news, it’s an embarrassment that it hasn’t been done for the last 30 years!

    There was also a debate on whether the sector needs more ‘outsiders’ to run museums and galleries. I’m all for fresh blood but to think there should be some link to the sector before handing over to an ex-corporate or ex-politicians.

    If museums are ‘for everyone’ that they need to represent everyone.

    While I’m at it, there should be changes to the curriculum being taught to anyone trying to get into the sector. What worked 10 years ago, isn’t realistic today.


    Museums have always had an issue with getting new blood into the doors, or even carrying about their collections. Social media really helped for a bit but it seems to be going back into their comfortable ways.

    The sector really needs to invest time to look at their communities (online and offline) to see their needs instead of presuming people will love them just because they are there. Work with them — don’t talk AT them.

    Invest in participatory fact-finding workshops, have a coffee morning (or late!) and ask people what they want. Better yet, experts from bit profit recommend that you go to where the people are going to ask BUT LISTEN (a few years ago, believe it was in Denmark, young people working for a museum went to the food stores and ask people what they had to do to get people to visit — it worked for their event!)

    Museums are quite intelligent on paper — but seem to be lacking the emotional intelligence people are looking to embrace. Society hasn’t given up on the sector — yet. But please stop pushing them away.

    It always goes back to Listen, Understand and ACT — we have to stop failing at the Action part.

    To Use Technology or Not to Use Technology, That Is The Question

    Ok, maybe that should be Digital/Social Media in 2018

    AR/VR, interactives, and yes, social media are still topics being explored. The key element is this: storytelling is the key. While I am a firm believer that technology *is* something that is almost expected these days, there is a balance of doing technology for technologies sake. This is something everyone in the sector knows but doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

    There have been some fascinating AR projects that maybe work more due to being so Instagrammable (or shareable) but also because they embrace the person into the story. An example of this is from Streamcolors (I’m not associated with them but saw their projects):


    Social media obviously is a great way to tell stories. Overall it seems that people feel social media isn’t working as well as before but let’s be honest, there are so many people using it every day in one form or another so maybe the content isn’t right.

    Three key things to pay attention to:

    • Stories (in Facebook and Instagram)
    • Twitter Threads/trends
    • Closed Facebook Groups (these are a hot commodity right now)
    • Instagram Projects when collaboration is key
    • Gifs and Emojis are valid responses and no longer ‘just for that generation’

    But what works best? When you engage in a story and bring the person along with you. The beautiful thing is that it works for all demographics and ages — just the tone changes with them.

    Whatever you do, please stop with downloadable apps unless you have some high profile person who can make everyone download it and even then you’ll get a low percentage return.

    To end I’m wishing 2019 brings

    • Positive changes
    • More collaborations and sharing
    • Storytelling that matters
    • A year of open dialogue for debates without arguments
    • Acknowledge that Diversity and Accessibility aren’t the enemies
    • And because it needs to be said — Labels that bring the reader on a journey and not just provides facts.
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