Art-ificial intelligence

Auckland Art Gallery’s new chatbot

Auckland Art Gallery’s new chatbot demonstrates art-ificial intelligence to give new access to 17,000 artworks. The chatbot is accessible via Facebook Messenger.

It is part of an initiative called Send Me conceived by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), who launched their text message-based chatbot in July 2017. Following the project’s success, SFMOMA shared basic code behind the chatbot, so that institutions around the world could adapt it to their own holdings. Auckland Art Gallery’s project was initiated following a conversation with SFMOMA facilitated by Sabine Doolin, Audience Strategist from InsightUnlocked, and Anna Leary, Director of Objective Virtual Marketing.

Read more in the Auckland Art Gallery press release.

(c) Auckland Art Gallery

Welcoming diverse visitors – are you looking at the data in the right way?

A diverse audience is a much proclaimed goal for many cultural organisations, and rightly so. Public arts organisations need to be relevant to a broad population in order to be sustainable and funded long term. This means striving for an audience that is representative of the population.

The upcoming NZ census will tell us more about the ever-increasing diversity of the NZ population and with the update of the Audience Atlas by MHM and Creative NZ due in a few months, we will be able to compare cultural audiences with the population and understand the opportunities and challenges.

Here is a good perspective on how to look at such data and how to interpret (and not mis-interpret) it by Colleen Dilenschneider: Why Some Cultural Organizations Overestimate Success In Welcoming Diverse Visitors

What businesses can learn from artists

There is so much we can learn from artists, it’s not just the STEM subjects that are relevant in the business world, as is often claimed. In our changing world creativity, dealing with emotions, managing ambiguity, creating something memorable are skills that will become more and more useful.

The team from Let’s Go shares some of their experiences with creative collaboration

The role of Museum Lates in the night time economy

Three interesting new reports by Culture24 (UK) focus on the role and impact of Museum Lates on the night-time economy:

And here is the Executive Summary.

“The reports reveal the scale of after-hours museum and gallery openings and events in the UK; why venues do, and don’t, open after hours; what kinds of events they offer; where the hot and cold spots are in the UK and much more about the role Lates have in the context of night-time economy issues. The research also tackles how Lates can make a contribution to diversifying the night-time economy and helping UK towns and cities provide a more balanced evening cultural offer.” (Culture24)


Building a culture of empathy

Museums have the wonderful potential to be catalysts for empathy.

How can we more fully integrate these values in our museum practice and begin to make the shift happen toward a more human-centered mindset? – discusses Mike Murawski (Director of Education and Public Programs at Portland Art Museum) in his blog post:

Towards a More Human-Centered Museum: Part 2, Building a Culture of Empathy

A review of museums in England – with interesting findings for museums in general

A review of the museums in England, the Mendoza report, was just released. The report makes interesting reading. Some structural findings and recommendations are particular to England, but several of the findings the about the state and priorities for museums are relevant beyond England and provide interesting context e.g. when considering NZ museums.

Most interesting to me are these two points:

  • The increasing evidence of the benefits of museums to society is acknowledged: community cohesion and place-making, formal and informal learning, health and well-being, the attractiveness of cities both for locals and visitors, and direct and indirect economic benefits. It is suggested that museums make more of this by measuring and reporting their impact more widely, ideally using a standard method. And while the Review is focused on national museums, it even includes suggestions for how local authorities, where funding pressures particularly high, can support and make the most of their museums.
  • Museum attendance levels have risen consistently, driven by free admission, a lively sector and high activity level of museums. However, free admission and close proximity of museums does not automatically translate into diverse audiences. Despite rising attendance, audience diversity is still an issue with the ‘usual suspects’ attending and lower attendance by younger people, people with lower socio-economic backgrounds or ethnic minorities. Diversifying audiences is imperative.

Other interesting points:

  • Data is important to understand audiences and museums invest more in audience research, but there is still a big potential for making more of data, e.g. through more consistency and the collation of data for deeper analysis.
  • Digital offers major opportunities for engaging current and new audiences as well as for museum management, however medium and smaller museums are still lagging behind other cultural institutions.
  • There are also number of workforce challenges laid out, in particular the need to diversify staff as a basis for diversifying audiences and developing leaders and leadership skills.
  • The potential for more international collaboration and partnerships is also highlighted.
  • Not surprisingly, financial self-sufficiency is the most pressing challenge for museums in today’s funding environment.

Museums responding to current topics: The Migration Museum

A wonderful example how museums can offer new perspectives and provide spaces for engaging with and questioning current debates: The Migration Museum in London has operated projects since 2013, it now has a semi-permanent space and just started coordinating the Migration Museum Network that aims to increase outputs related to migration themes in museums and galleries. In a time when migration is front page news almost daily, they ask „How do we as a sector effectively respond to this?“

Migration Museum



(c) Migration Museum

New report: The impact of AI, robotics and automation

A new report by the RSA, the Royal Society of Arts, looks at the potential impact of artificial intelligence and robotics on the workforce – it seems to be less than expected in terms of reducing jobs.

But while the question might be how fast the changes are coming, fact is that they are coming. It confirms for me that life-long learning and creativity are key tools to cope with these changes –  arts and culture have real potential to play a valuable role in this, it is not just about STEM subjects.

Read the report: RSA report on AI, robotics and automation

Audiences change – we change: Making Tate more inclusive

The Museums Aotearoa conference 2017 He waka eke noa – Museums Of Inclusion asked: How do we make our institutions more inclusive – accessible to everyone? In my presentation at the conference, I spoke about how we approached this at Tate.

Tate is known for attracting large audiences and has been associated with opening up and democratising art. It has delivered an impressive array of diversity-driven initiatives and the contemporary collection, newly presented when the new Tate Modern opened in 2016, is more culturally diverse than ever before. This is consistent with Tate’s aim to be “a truly inclusive organisation with a workforce and audience as diverse as the communities we serve”. However, in common with many other cultural organisations, Tate has not seen the consistent growth in diversity it was hoping for, and we realised we needed to make fundamental changes to the way we work.

We moved to a whole new approach: From short-term successful but often unlinked diversity projects in different parts of the organisation, we started to move to a new and more integrated strategy that places diversity and inclusion at the heart of Tate’s objectives and organisational practices. At the core of this are two initiatives: a new Audience Strategy and a Diversity and Inclusion training programme for staff to recognise and combat unconscious bias.

My confernce presentation “Audiences change – we change. Making Tate more inclusive” showed how we approached this, the challenges and what we learned in the first two years of this process.