Ben Uri Gallery and Museum transforms to “a fully virtual museum with a physical presence”
The Ben Uri Gallery and Museum is a small museum in London that “celebrates, researches and records the rich Jewish and immigrant experience in the visual arts since 1900”. It made a bold strategic move and amid financial pressures decided that transforming its operational model to a fully virtual museum with a physical presence is the way forward to being a sustainable organisation and delivering its mission. And adding another bold move, it funds the transformation by deaccessioning some of its collection. In the first 3 months after the soft-launch of benuri.org engagement numbers have exceeded budgets and expectations, so they seem to be well on track despite (because of?) the difficult pandemic times in the UK. Chair David Glasser explains the move in a video and in an ArtsProfessional article.
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For the Museum Association in the UK, the combination of the coronavirus crisis and the climate crisis “makes it imperative that we make a transformational change to the role of museums in society. This is a time that requires radical social innovation.” This has led them to publish a Manifesto for Museum Learning and Engagement. Built on two years of research and consultation with museums, it wants to provide a framework for museums to reflect on their purpose and develop their practice.
Thought-provoking article with a variety of views from international museum directors about measuring the success of museums and why attendance is not enough on in other words.
“…how do you measure ‘quality’ in numbers? It’s much easier to track attendance than to try to answer that question.” (Emilie Gordenker, director The Mauritshuis, the Hague)
Attendance can “act as an ‘index of relevance’, but the numbers should be tempered with a “kind of high-level of responsibility towards … society at large, in saying: ‘Are we doing something together that will make us as a people more intelligent, maybe more tolerant and certainly more visually acute?’” (Richard Armstrong, Director Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation)
“Museums should be ‘of the people and for the people’ by generating debate” (Taco Dibbits, director Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
A more interesting measure … is stickiness: do people want to visit more frequently and spend more time at the museum looking and thinking about art?” (Glenn Lowry, director Museum of Modern Art, New York)
“You can very well as a museum decide you want to attract a different group of visitors, which might lead to a decline in numbers, but that will have achieved the objective that you set. … Attendance on its own is simply too rough a measure to be meaningful.” (Emilie Gordenker, director the Mauritshuis, the Hague)