“Highlights from an ongoing series of exclusive interviews exploring innovative museum practice where Gregory Chamberlain talks to alternative museum thinkers about their work and the future of museums. Full list of interviews in the ‘Alternative Museum Establishment’ series published in issues 09 and 10 of Museum/iD magazine:
• Nina Simon, Museum of Art & History, McPherson Center, Santa Cruz
• Tony Butler, Museum of East Anglian Life
• Michelle López, Queens Museum of Art
• Stuart Gillis, Derby Museums
• Lisa Junkin, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Chicago
• Camilo Sanchez, Museum of Independence and ICOM Colombia
• Peter Stott, Falkirk Community Trust”
Interesting - and possibly useful - answers to the question haunting many (not enough, though…) museum professionals: “Who am I and what am I supposed to do at/with this place?”
A first version of this essay - a comment focused on the new management and expected cultural policies at MACRO museum in Rome - has been already posted to this blog on 5, 6, 7, and 11 July 2011, under the name “Kafka at MACRO, the true inside story - OR - How Not To Run A Museum (Act 1-4)”.
I think it to be somewhat useful, however, to provide it also as a complete, downloadable .pdf file. Enjoy! :-)
It is fortunate that these extremist Christians didn’t assault or kill anyone in their destructive fervor, but it’s typical of populist religion to prefer destruction and violence over understanding.
Per The Guardian:
When New York artist Andres Serrano plunged a plastic crucifix into a glass of his own urine and photographed it in 1987 under the title Piss Christ, he said he was making a statement on the misuse of religion.
Controversy has followed the work ever since, but reached an unprecedented peak on Palm Sunday when it was attacked with hammers and destroyed after an “anti-blasphemy” campaign by French Catholic fundamentalists in the southern city of Avignon.
The violent slashing of the picture, and another Serrano photograph of a meditating nun, has plunged secular France into soul-searching about Christian fundamentalism and Nicolas Sarkozy’s use of religious populism in his bid for re-election next year.
It also marks a return to an old standoff between Serrano and the religious right that dates back more than 20 years, to Reagan-era Republicanism in the US.
I feel a tad embarrassed, taking position towards this.
Of course, as a museum professional, I do not side with people eager to hammer on a museum’s artefacts. Also, I do not particularly like fanaticism - especially religious one.
This said, I wonder if similar events have more to do with “religious populism” - as mentioned in the Guardian - or rather with a somewhat stale “epater-les-bourgeois" attitude from the artist’s side…
I apologize in advance for the length.
I’ll get to Museums and Non-profit work eventually, but I’m going to be more general right now:
The world is falling apart.
The Generations of a society fall into cycles that repeat every so often – the Boomers set up a “new world”. They set the…
Yes, the post is long - but it really deserves to be read with attention. And not only by museum professionals. Cheers to themuseologist for giving us a really good opportunity to rethink reality, not giving trends for something to be taken for granted…
France, politics & museum policies - “Fillon III : un espoir pour le Musée du Jeu Vidéo ?” http://post.ly/1CS0h (via @MuseeInfo)
Admittedly, I do not like uniforms too much. Or rather, I’ve been (metaphorically) using too many hats in different contexts – though not to the extreme degree of a Zelig – not to know that there isn’t such a thing as a one-catch-all hat. Much less so, if it must be used to define individuals.
This is the main reason why Whitney’s experimental subdivision of museum members in a fixed set of different profiles doesn’t fully convince me.
As any Marketing 101 course will stress, qualitative customer analyses are complex and costly procedures. They usually lead to drawing socio-psychological profiles that can be very detailed, and that – by this very reason – can guide companies in developing sophisticated communication strategies, fine-tuning the message they want to convey to their existing customers, and their prospective ones.
No such qualitative analysis is probably in general need of museums or other cultural heritage institutions. Though not devoid of competitors – just think of other museums with comparable collections (or even with different ones, but located in the same area), but also of theme parks and even… shopping malls! – museums do generally have an advantage if compared to commercial ventures. Each artefact being more or less a unique piece (remember Walter Benjamin, though, or an issue like the reality degree of virtual existence…), museums enjoy an almost monopolistic position, though this doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be still considered more or less attractive by different people.
Since however the “Know Thee Audience” commandment has to be considered a vital component in a museum’s life, and since diversifying our visitors leads to better understanding their needs, their likings, and even their “lingo”, setting up a method “to give to each according to their needs” is highly to be recommended.
This can be done (and has, in a lot of occasions) collecting “comment sheets” from museum visitors both at the physical location of an institution and at their virtual sites. We must consider, in fact, that now is the time when even eager museum-goers tend to have been visiting more virtual than physical cultural institutions. However, not everyone visiting a museum is going to leave a comment. Also, not being tied to an immediate feedback from the institution could be a real, accurate footprint of the visitors and their opinions – or they could not. In any case, opinions thus collected would not represent a homogeneous fragment of museums’ visitors – except of course for the definition: “people who wish to express their opinions in writing, and do so while visiting a museum”, a not too appealing nor very usable segment definition.
Thus, identification of an audience’s needs, preferences, and (dis)likings should better be shifted to a different occasion. Perhaps, to one coincident with the moment a one-to-one relation is established between the visitor and the museum. I.e., the moment when the visitor is on the verge of becoming a museum’s friend, or signing for museum membership, or requesting a museum’s newsletter (all this, both virtually or in physical presence.
This seems to be the best time to be asking for preferences and to give wide way to options. Far from leading to formal profiles (like in the case we’ve started our post with), these expressed options would than allow the museum to communicate “with a personal touch” about events, news, and opportunities. At the same time, this would allow the visitors to reach a high level of personalization in the way they would like to be addressed and informed be the museum.
Our audience would be brought down to more identifiable segments, but the much more versatile option composition would allow a degree of accuracy being significantly higher, while – from the visitors’ point of view – it would avoid them having to stick with a limited set of predefined profiles.
Curate Your Own membership at the Whitney via Museum 2.0:
Audience segmentation and research has become a hot topic in museums, especially when it comes to crafting appealing offerings that are customized to different kinds of visitors.
The Whitney has started a new membership where people are able to choose the extra ‘add-ons’ to core membership benefits (e.g. unlimited admission, 10% cafe discount, members-only coat check queue) which can be chosen from five areas:
Social - emphasis on events like openings and champagne receptions. The mingler’s choice.
Insider - Behind the scenes tours and curator talks.
Learning - Lectures, gallery talk and advance registration and notice of programmes.
Family - Free admission to family programmes, museum “passport” for children stamped on each visit
Philanthropy - Tax deductable warm and fuzzy feeling.
Sounds like a great idea to me, but I don’t know whether it will lead to more expensive memberships for those who most engage with events and programmes, or whether it will be cheaper and mean that more people sign up for the things they are interested in, free from the thought they are paying for stuff they won’t use. Would be interested to know how it works out in the long run.
Sounds good for planning personalized museum/audience communication. Museumsandstuff’s perplexity is, nevertheless, reasonable - this could indeed just mean trying to get a couple bucks more out of our visitors’ pockets…
It would be both a wasted opportunity, and a shame.