Communicating the Museum 2014 | Part 2 #CTM14

Communicating the Museum 2014 – a journal

Going on my very first trip to Australia I want to share my experiences with you: not only the latest trends and issues being discussed at the conference Communicating the Museum, but also the cultural diversity of this astonishing continent as well as its nature and people. Be part of it!  

Part II: The conference begins

The conference begins at National Gallery of New South Wales. 260 delegates from Australia, USA, the Arab countries, China, Japan, England and France arrive and fill the place with chatter, laughter and the obligatory small talk.

Starting a new, trans-Pacific decade of Communicating the Museum

The conference is opened with an inspiring welcome by Corinne Estrada, CEO of the agency Agenda and founder of Communicating the Museum and Mark Goggin, Director of Sydney Living Museums who announce the start of a new decade of Communicating the Museum by opening up to a broader, trans-Pacific audience. Regarding this open approach there is no theme for the conference which could be more suitable than OPTIMISM.

Optimism as a survival kit for cultural institutions

Corinne Estrada emphasizes the importance of optimism for cultural institutions: Especially in times of declining budgets, cuts in personal resources, growing competition and pressure museums, opera houses as well as theatres can make a significant change by staying optimistic. Mark Goggin states that optimism is a kind of national spirit in Australia quoting big men such as Gandhi and Churchill:

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”(Winston Churchill)

Finally Corinne and Mark give a prospect on the next three days which will transfer the big metatheme of optimism into tree issues which affect cultural institutions every day: opportunities, collaboration and leadership.

The Sydney Modern Project, Dr Michael Brand, Director of Art Gallery of NSW and Richard Johnson, Director of Johnson Pilton Walker Architects

The Art Gallery of New South Wales was established in 1871 and presents its distinguished collection on modern, contemporary and 19th-century Australian works and European old masters as well as 30 annual exhibitions to an audience of more than 1 million people per year making the Gallery one of the leading national cultural institution. Last year the Art Gallery of NSW decided on a new strategic vision and masterplan to transform itself into an art museum for the 21st century including a major expansion and a focus on a global audience. The objective is to remain relevant in in our inter-connected and digitised world. On the occasion of this project entitled “Sydney Modern Project” Director Dr Michael Brand and architect Professor Richard Johnson discuss the relation between art and architecture. In fact, they are inseparable: An iconic architectural site is essential for an extraordinary experience of art. And today’s experience of art includes new technologies such as augmented reality and new participatory concepts in order to meet the new demands of today’s audiences.

An iconic architectural building holding great art is a city’s creative catalyst

Furthermore a new extended iconic building not only offers more space to put the huge collection of the Gallery on display and to show more exhibitions but also enriches a city in the terms of an internationally attractive venue for visitors, for economy and industry. Therefore the Sydney Modern Project is all about profoundly changing the city Sydney! In order to point out the importance of the building’s design Dr Brand and Professor Johnson let us take a look at the impressive list of the involved architects into the architectural competition ranging from David Chipperfield to Herzog & de Meuron and Renzo Piano.

The museum of the 21st century = the participatory museum

Despite its popularity and success the Art Gallery of NSW realized that standstill is dangerous and that it is essential to move forward in order to stay competitive as refers to ambitious projects currently evolving in Asia and the US. Its vision is to become a participatory museum engaging visitors and transforming them into participants rather than being only consumers.

Reading the Tea Leaves: Global Trends and Opportunities for Tomorrow’s Museum, Robert Stein, Deputy Director of Dallas Museum of Art

Global issues impact global museums

Based on the phenomenon of globalization Robert Stein shows us some surprisingly obvious connections, such as global trends influencing culture in a significant way. Based on the assumption that museums can really change the world Robert draws a picture about what the world might be in 2030.

Culture creates better citizens

First, the lack of educational standards and access to internet for many people in the world creates a gap of information. Therefore museums have the unique opportunity to become connecting places for all existing and diverse cultures: museums can be places where we all can meet on equal footing. They can create democracy and engage people in a way beyond their race, age or education that enhances their civic engagement, tolerance and altruism.

Museums can change the nature of work

Second, the automation process takes over: Personal skills are replaced by robots or computers. Just take a look at the first self-driving car – a vision which became true just recently and which endangers the jobs of many truck drivers in the USA. But in fact there is one skill which cannot be replaced by an automated system: It’s creativity! And as museums are the hubs of creativity there is a major chance for them to make a real difference to the nature of work and to become significant to society by teaching low-skilled workers creative skills. And note: Creativity is stated by 1.500 CEOs to be the single crucial factor for future success!

Curiosity as the essential factor for learning

Third, Robert states that there is one decisive factor for museum-learning and that is curiosity which always moves us towards the unknown.

Thus, there is a plenty of global trends which are scary, exciting and changing our lives. And most of all, they are tightly connected with museums as Robert showed us. Therefore museums should take advantage of these global influences and by doing this become relevant to our lives again.

Robert hardly ends his presentation when a wild crowd of French highschool students storms the stage in order to show their optimism by dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”!

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