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 on the impact of AI, robotics and automation

A new report by the RSA 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.

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.

Getting visitor donations in an increasingly cashless world

National Museums Scotland experience with cashless donations

Cashless and contactless payment transactions are rapidly increasing. Some charities are already using cashless devices to get donations. Now National Museums Scotland are experimenting with a cashless donations box and have summarised their experience in a case study.

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