Museum professionals are always searching for new ideas and ways to push the boundaries of their work and be innovative. It is then the job of the savvy professional to work out how to balance the tensions between traditional museum practice and exploring new ways of connecting with audiences. I want to share some of what I spoke about with the Museum Hack team (New York City) in a 20 minute mini-consultation by phone last week.
Museum Hack is an innovative organisation that ‘provides highly interactive, subversive, fun, non-traditional museum tours’.
What does this mean? Museum Hack rethinks the traditional museum experience and challenges the status quo with an aim to create new content, strengthen existing programs, build social media prowess, reach new audiences and inspire interest. The team works broadly with issues of audience engagement, focusing particularly on the familiar medium of the museum tour.
Wow – what an amazing undertaking!
If a museum challenges its approach to interactivity, engagement, tours, programs and events it can be sure to create meaningful connections between visitors and the museum’s collections, team and space. It can also provide opportunities for visitors to make connections between each other.
Although my mini consultation, much like speed dating, was short, sharp and shiny, it really clarified that some basic elements of practice are being validated and utilised in museum and gallery spaces all around the world. An example of this is the Subject to Change program at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History in which teenagers who want to make a difference in Santa Cruz can by raising awareness of community issues through collaborative arts practice and creative experiences. The program focuses on exploring what it means to be an active community member, how a community member can create change, and the tools necessary to ignite leadership. The program is driven by the teenagers and gives them a say in what and how they experience the program and museum. Amazing!
In short, the key messages from the conversation are:
Be clear about your goals – Every program or event we manage in our museums has a rhyme and reason, and as an organisation we strive for our programs to be the best possible experiences pinned down by equally as strong meanings.
Encourage co-creation – Audiences want to be part of the decision making process, they want to have a say in the how and why of what they are doing at the museum and they want their experiences to be meaningful.
Don’t be afraid to fail – Experimentation is a way of life and without trying we will never know. Keep up momentum until you find something that works, and then keep changing it.
Have some fun – It is a legitimate outcome for a visitor experience to be fun and this should not, and does not, compromise what is at the core on an institution and its goals.
Like my phone conversation with Diana at Museum Hack this post is short and sweet but I look forward to speaking more with the team at Museum Hack to be inspired for future endeavors.