Posted: May 2nd, 2013 | Author: Jasper Visser | Filed under: Thoughts about museums | Tags: communities, conference, development, projects, sarajevo, work | No Comments »
At the Learning Museum Conference in Riga in April 2012 I was introduced to the work of Cultural Heritage Without Borders and especially of Diana Walters in using culture and heritage as a binding and empowering force in post-conflict areas. CHWB’s motto ‘we restore and build communities’ appeals to my background in international development work as well as to my work building relationships between people, and people and culture. You can imagine how thrilled I was when earlier this year I received an invitation from Diana to participate in a conference of CHWB and the Balkan Museum Network in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The conference was last week and it was a convincing display of the strengths and opportunities of culture and heritage under even the harshest conditions. From all over the (western) Balkans culture and heritage professionals had come together to see, meet, do (the title of the conference) and learn from each other’s projects and ideas. I was part of an international team of consultants who facilitated hands-on sessions and worked with the participants to design better projects and exchange knowledge and experiences.
It was enlightening to see how small institutions in countries like Albania, Kosovo and Serbia worked on incredibly powerful projects with shoestring budgets. The ambition and creativity of most participants easily matched that of the world’s largest institutions, while their ingenuity and willingness to cooperate I only remember from working with really professional NGOs. So much can be done with so little.
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Posted: March 27th, 2013 | Author: Jasper Visser | Filed under: Thoughts about museums | Tags: collections, curating, de gulle ekster, ideas, information, innovation, projects | 3 Comments »
Photo by Suresh Eswaran on Flickr.
One of the primary trends for museums I’ve been researching and discussing lately is their potential renewed role as curators of information in the digital age. The amount of online information approximately doubles every two years and when the 4+ billion people without internet access will start contributing, it will become ever harder to find the stuff that is worth your while online.
Google and Facebook are designed to tell you mostly what you or your friends already know, not to help you discover new things you didn’t even know existed. Museums often play this role in the real world and could do so in the digital world as well.
This means rather than digitise millions of objects for the rare geek googling his obscure interest, museums should use their unique knowledge about the collection to curate highly engaging stories that appeal to larger numbers of people. (Compare the excitement of the Wikipedia article about the Big Bang with a 60-second video.) Their curatorial function unbiased by commercial interests (such as Amazon, Booking.com and most blogs/online magazines) could fill an important void in the current web landscape.
I like how the Rijksstudio of the Rijksmuseum enables such behaviour (Holland’s best moustaches!) although it’s still too passive, too noncommittal. It’s still a collection, not a story. Another good example is the Facebook page of the Saatchi Gallery in London. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: March 21st, 2013 | Author: Jasper Visser | Filed under: Inspiration, Technology | Tags: behaviour, DEF, digital, mindset, projects, question | 6 Comments »
Photo by J Brew on Flickr.
1. Yesterday I hosted the return day of a DEF workshop at the Danish Museum Association in Copenhagen. After enjoying an insightful presentation about the digital strategy of SMK and a thoughtful presentation about digital at the National Museum, we discussed some of the most pressing issues that hindered the digital potential of Danish museums. Number one among these issues: the digital mindset (or lack thereof) with colleagues in the museums.
We carefully broke the idea of a ‘digital mindset’ down to its core behaviours: what does a person do when he or she has a digital mindset? The answers varied widely between people and institutions: A colleague with a digital mindset shares ideas, uses the right tools for the right challenges, is present on social networks, asks and answers questions, etc. etc. For most participants, a digital mindset had little to do with digital tools and much more with a 21st century way of working: open, collaborative, lean, proactive…
Breaking down a complex idea like ‘digital mindset’ into simple behaviour you can observe helps to find opportunities towards this idea that address understandable things, rather than abstract concepts. One of the things we figured out in Copenhagen was that talking about a ‘digital mindset’ might be the wrong way to get your colleagues to develop the desired mindset. ‘Digital’ causes resistance, while the ideas behind it may be easier accepted.
2. Which brings me to an important question I need your help with (which is why I emphasised it so outrageously): Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 29th, 2012 | Author: Jasper Visser | Filed under: Thoughts about museums | Tags: awards, coffee, coffee for culture, competition, culture, customer service, full package, projects | No Comments »
Yesterday we quietly launched the first global Coffee for Culture Awards competition. The challenge is to find the best museum, theatre, library or other cultural venue to drink a coffee, and we enlist the world to help us find, sort, rank and rate all possible options. Certainly, this is a fun project and people seem to like the idea, but you might wonder, why should we care about the quality of the coffee?
The museums that leave the best impression on everyday people are not necessarily the museums with the best collections, or the most expensive buildings. Similarly, the experience of a great play or concert can be ruined by grumpy staff or cheap wine. Certainly, our content is very important, but doesn’t suffice to conquer the hearts of the masses in the 21st century. Chances are I’ll skip your once-in-a-lifetime exhibit if your restaurant has a poor rating on Tripadvisor.
Coffee is in many ways the heart of great customer service, even if you prefer tea. The way coffee is served tells a lot about the intentions of the venue when it comes to pleasing the audience. Instant coffee from a machine served in a cold cup in the basement of an institutions will have me (and many with me) running to the exit. Kind and helpful baristas who skilfully prepare a perfect cortado can convince me to visit the galleries, even if I only bumped in for a drink (as happened to me in the Bergen Art Museum). Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: June 8th, 2012 | Author: Jasper Visser | Filed under: Buildings | Tags: advice, community, ideas, leaving building, mobile museum, outreach, outside, projects, rotterdam, thoughts | 1 Comment »
Photo by Grant Hutchinson on Flickr.
At last week’s Ecsite conference Steven Snyder of the Franklin Institute posed a rather interesting dilemma: If the Franklin Institute wants to achieve its mission of inspiring a passion for learning about technology and science, they need to leave their building. Yet, at the same time they’ve just invested millions in a redevelopment, are seen as a building by their audience and get in most of their revenue because of the building. “How the heck,” to use Steven’s words, in such a case, “do you leave a building?”
In other words: Can outside become your primary side, even if you’ve had a roof over your head for the last n years?
Leaving a building, like leaving anything stable and safe, is all about opening up.
Once there are no more walls to hide behind, you’re really vulnerable and naked. That is incredibly scary and – to most of us – immediately blocks out the potential positive side effects of being in such a position: the need to work together, the renewed curiosity, the increase in serendipity…
A great example of an institution that has managed to leave their building and revived because of it, I think, is the Museum Rotterdam. I’ve written about their The City as Muse project before. The project searches for inspirational developments and initiatives among the people of Rotterdam and tries to connect this with the museum. At the moment they’re working with care givers, doing pop up events around town and (still) involving an audience otherwise alien to the institution. Read the rest of this entry »