‘Slavery’ – an exhibition at the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands, is taking a new perspective on its collection and for the first time looks at slavery in the Dutch colonial period. The new exhibition ‘Slavery’ is curated along ten true stories from people who were involved in slavery. It was developed with input from descendant communities as well as scholars and activists across the globe, and drew on sources other than colonial archives and collections. Beyond the exhibition itself, the museum is adding 77 museum labels to paintings and objects in the permanent collection to highlight hidden links to slavery.

Here is the Art Newspaper’s review

The Rijksmuseum also presents the ten stories in an online exhibition

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Image: Rijksmuseum

Digital engagement in real life

The new report In Real Life: Mapping digital cultural engagement in the first decades of the 21st Century explores arts and cultural participation in an environment increasingly influenced by digital technology. Produced through a partnership between the Australia Council for the Arts and the National Arts Council Singapore, the report looks at the implications of digital transformation for the cultural and creative industries.

Its key insights are:

  • Digital elements are embedded in everyday life and cultural participation
  • It is increasingly difficult to distinguish ‘artist’ and ‘audience’
  • Audience expectations are changing
  • The live experience is no longer just about ‘in-person’ attendance
  • Digital access is unevenly distributed
  • Audience expectations include significant access to arts and culture for minimal cost
  • Platforms claim to be impartial, but privilege some content over others 
  • Many of the digital trends were already occurring and have been accelerated by the pandemic

Interested more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Hospitality and Humanity

In this podcast, Danny Meyer, CEO of some of New York’s most acclaimed restaurants, discusses the intersection between hospitality and humanity: “Hospitality exists when you believe that the person on the other side of the transaction is on your side.”
He talks about what hospitality is, why we’re all invested in the hospitality business, how to deliver it the right way, how to scale a feeling, why the first people who need to receive hospitality are the people who work in your organisation and the difference between a being a bricklayer or a mason. 

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Image: The Knowledge Project

Radical Pricing

The concept of Radical Pricing is a new approach to ticket pricing for the performing arts. It draws on the principles of Radical Hospitality and puts the emphasis on making people feel welcome. Pricing is used not only as a revenue management tool, but also as a form of access for audiences of all backgrounds. It recognises the value the offer represents and gives patrons a new level of freedom to reconcile the value they place on art with the money they pay for it.

This JCA article introduces new ideas for pricing under the Radical Pricing umbrella

Interested in more articles like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Love / Science: A new exhibition at MOTAT

Love / Science is a new exhibition at MOTAT, the Museum of Transport and Technology. The exhibition beautifully stages some of the treasures from the collection and the stories of NZ innovators. It tells the human stories that inspired the innovations and shows the science that made it possible.

My favourite object was the Totalisator, an early 1900s calculator (or an early step towards a computer?) that looks a bit like a piano and was used at horse races – calculators never looked more beautiful. In our time of the pandemic the Iron Lung, an early ventilator from 1935, has a new relevance. And it was touching that the woman who was treated with the Heart and Lung Machine as a child was present at the exhibition opening. There are new innovations, too, from surf boards made of wool to a bamboo bike.  

Having worked with MOTAT over the last couple of years (and still doing so), I particularly enjoy the exhibition as it is another milestone on the museum’s journey towards its vision and bringing its Visitor Experience Plan (see the case study) to life. 

5 Steps to co-creating with communities

Much is talked about co-creation, be it with young people or other communities. Yet it can feel scary and overwhelming to put into practice and it is easy to fall back into old habits. The American Alliance of Museums offers five steps to create custom approaches to engagement that are driven by the interests and expertise of people in the communities:Abandon – Prepare – Engage – Co-create – EvaluateThey acknowledge that change doesn’t happen overnight and that “…creating a more participatory, diverse, accessible, inclusive, and equitable museum starts with small actions that build relationships and trust.” More in this article

Interested in more stories like this? Join my monthly newsletter.

Image: Clay Banks on Unsplash

France gave teenagers €300 for culture. What are they buying?

In May, “Pass Culture” launched nationwide in France – a smart phone app that gives €300 to every 18-year-old for cultural purchases such as books, music, exhibition and performance tickets or courses over two years. A NYT article looks into what they buy and it looks like so far the majority of purchases were books of which two-thirds were manga. That purchase went to physical goods is likely driven by the limited availability of events due to Covid restrictions. “But the focus on comic books reveals a tension at the heart of the Culture Pass: the freedom for young people to buy what they like (including mass media they already love) and its architects’ aim of guiding users toward trying something new”. Teenagers themselves echoed both critics and promoters of the pass: More guidance wouldn’t hurt, but the freedom is great. 

Interested in more stories like this? Join my monthly newsletter.

Image: Miika Laaksonen on Unsplash

Dementia friendly venues

Continuing my mini-series on the ageing population, I found this new initiative by the mayor of London: the world’s first Dementia Friendly Venues Charter.

As London’s creative arts scene re-opens with the lifting of Covid restrictions, the mayor in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society launched an initiative so that those living with dementia can make the most of the city’s cultural venues.

The charter aims to make cultural venues more welcoming and accessible for visitors with dementia through a range of dementia-friendly resources including sensory tours, inclusive performances, dedicated relaxed sessions, clear signage, designated chill out zones and staff training.

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my newsletter:

How re-branding can reflect decolonisation

The National Gallery of Canada wanted to reflect the work it is doing to decolonise its collection and amplify new voices in its new brand strategy. This included an overhaul of the visual identity and they decided to go beyond the logo, colour palette, photography and typography, to the Western worldview that lay behind the previous design. 

Working with an agency, the process began with a lot of conversation, “we started with deep listening in interviews with employees, heads of other Canadian museums, board members, leadership, youth artists, transformation consultants, JEDI [Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion] consultants, Indigenous Elders and artists”. A breakthrough came when they shared some early brand concepts with an Elders committee.

Read more about the new visual identity and their process and see the brand on their website

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my newsletter:

The changing shape of learning in museums

Art Gallery of Ontario hosted a conversation with two women who have impacted the share of learning in museums in recent years – Wendy Woon, Deputy Director for Education at MoMA, and Anna Cutler, Director of Learning and Research at Tate. They significantly influenced how museums work with practitioners and the public to build dialogues and opportunities to connect art and society and the broader issues society faces today. 

They discussed their roles and approaches as well as how the museum’s role is changing in a time when people are impacted or traumatised by the pandemic, and museums are under more scrutiny in relation to decolonisation. 

The conversation circled around questions about the museum’s role today when communities are as central as objects, and how museums can become more part of their local community, or, as Anna Cutler suggested, at Tate “our local can be international.” They spoke about the importance of providing a civic space – a physical or digital meeting place where people bring their knowledge, feel being heard and acknowledged. 

Among the challenges discussed is “the desire of museum people to tell people”. There is a need to hold back and let others in, to move from telling to an exchange, and rather than getting rid of the expert it is about approaching education as facilitation. 

They acknowledged the challenge of decolonisation when the concept of a museum is a colonial enterprise in itself. Building on Stuart Hall (you can’t decolonise, you need to rethink it) they see an opportunity to rethink and relook at why we do what we do and for whom, and what narratives are not being heard. 

Touching on the power of digital, they recognised that a certain digital saturation and fatigue are setting in, which requires museums to use digital more inventively and better interlink it with analogue experiences. 

Now that their museums are reopening, both see an opportunity to fully understand the impact of this moment in time and if/how art and museums can add value to people’s lives. Anna Cutler wondered whether we can set out with genuine questions we don’t know the answers to. What is really important? What do we have to change and what do we want to change? 

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Immersive exhibitions on the rise?

At the core of museums are exhibitions and it seems that the way exhibitions are made has not essentially changed in its long history – is now the time to re-imagine exhibition making? 

Van Gogh Alive has toured New Zealand and other countries, advertised as the “most visited multi-sensory experience in the world.” It seems to move the blockbuster idea into a new territory and touches on the (controversial) territory of entertainment and focus on income generation. I haven’t had a chance to see it – has any of you? I’d be interested to hear what you think about it. Are immersive exhibitions on the rise?

Geoffrey Marsh, Director of Theatre and Performance at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London writes about The Rise (and Rise?) of Immersive Exhibitions and how over the last fifteen years the V&A has presented a series of successful exhibitions using sound and vision mixed with rich object displays. The best known was ‘David Bowie is’, which toured in 2013-2018 and was seen by over 2 million visitors.

He has also co-written a longer, illustrated paper about the evolution of immersive exhibitions at the V&A, which reports that they attract more diverse audiences, who may not typically visit museums and galleries. The authors suggest that “it seems likely that public sector and trust funding will be increasingly linked to ‘culture for all’ and immersive exhibitions are a potentially powerful tool to achieve this in what is otherwise quite a bare larder”.

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

The age of infinite browsing

The premise of this book sounds interesting: Dedicated – The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing.

Author Pete Davis believes that a defining characteristic of our generation is to keep our options open as we are stuck in ‘infinite browsing mode’. This culture of restlessness and indecision, he argues, is causing tension in the lives of young people today, wanting to keep options open and yet yearning for the purpose, community and depth that can only come from making deep commitments. 

I haven’t got hold of the book yet, but I’d be interested to read it. It seems we can see the effect in audience data already given tickets are being booked more and more last minute. 

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Image: Michael Fenton on Unsplash

Embracing ageing

As a follow-up to my recent post about the ageing population, this cartoon and story see an obsession with young people among marketers and suggests we finally tap into the aspiration of age

Here is a restaurant that is embracing the ageing society and is living inclusion. 37% of its orders were mistaken, but 99% of its customers were happy. The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders is a pop-up project in Japan where all servers are people living with dementia. It wants to spread awareness and make society more open minded and relaxed about dementia. Highly relevant in light of 35 million dementia patients worldwide, which – according to the WHO – will increase to 115 million by 2050. 

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Good to know: New research into New Zealanders’ cultural participation post-Covid

New research into New Zealanders’ cultural participation in 2020 and future participation in a post-COVID environment has been released by Manatū Taonga the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Undertaken by ColmarBrunton, it looks at current and anticipated future participation, Covid-19 related concerns about participation and new participation behaviours (including digital).

The findings suggest that participation in arts, culture and heritage activities will increase from where it was in post-Covid 2020. While intention data always needs to be read with a grain of salt, it is good news that intended participation is higher than post-Covid 2020 participation for all arts, culture and heritage activities with increases most pronounced for activities which involve visiting a place or going to an event.

There is a clear preference for engaging with arts, culture and heritage in person rather than online, in particular among Māori and Pacific peoples, as well as women. Yet results also indicate that online engagement will continue with respondents typically saying they intend to engage both online and in person.

Still, concern about Covid-19 is the primary barrier to in person visits to arts, culture and heritage places in the next 12 months. Aucklanders (especially those living in South Auckland), people with disabilities, Pacific peoples and Asian peoples were more concerned than average about Covid-19. The research suggests that the most effective measure for encouraging attendance is reassurance that people will be refunded if the event is cancelled. Health-related measures are important to half of New Zealanders, but play a lesser role.

The study goes into participation and engagement by art form and for highlights demographic differences in engagement levels and platform preferences, find the full report here.