Future of Museums, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

Museum Branding in 10 Steps

No Comments 10 November 2013

The Who 1967

The Who 1967

I never loved the Beatles, not to say they are not a wonderful musical group, just not my thing. For me I prefer the Rolling Stones or the Who, that is just me. There is no apology needed for likes and dislikes, as my mother used to say, “it is fine to say “No, thank you”".

I never loved the Whitney Museum, again not to say it is not a wonderful museum, but not my thing. I prefer MoMA or the Guggenheim. Yes, I know they are very different collections, but those are my likes and dislikes.

It is important to understand that every community cannot include everyone. Different people belong to different communities.

Below is a list of “how to build a museum brand in 10 steps” or  ”Museum Branding in 10 steps” :

1. Founders – It all starts with the personality of the founders. Understand the founders individual and group personality and if a key component to the brand is laking from the group, consciously add those personalities to the mix of people.

2. Community – Understand your target audience. Age, income, religious beliefs, social beliefs, distance from the venue, interests and non-interests.

3. Segment Community – Once you understand your targeted community, segment the community. The 2-5 year old user has different requirements than 5-7 year olds; 20-35 year olds have different requirements from 30-40 year old family audience.

4. Segment Requirements – Understand the requirements of each segment.

5. Create a loop – Ask each targeted segment of their needs, listen. Test, and make changes. Repeat. Your “loop” can be used for testing all aspects of the museum from ideas of new exhibitions to on floor programming, donor requests and collection acquisitions.

6. Share the vision – Build and share the brand vision.

7. Cull – In the process of building and sharing the vision you will loose staff and community. That is fine. Be realistic, trying to build a brand for a historic house in a community of 10,000 people and expecting to attract 300,000 visitors per year, is not an issue of brand, but of expectations.

8. Staff Selection – The most important impact on brand is staff selection. Even more difficult to change than institutional culture is brand. We can all sense a less than genuine brand, when the staff and brand are not in alignment, there is a inconsistency. When I go into REI, I believe the floor staff use the equipment, when I go into Big 5, I have no confidence that the people who work there use the merchandise.

9. Refine – Starbucks has now removed the word Starbucks from their logo, the brand is now so strong we all know the logo and all that it embodies without the company name. MoMA, is seldom written out (Museum of Modern Art), the four letters have become an embodiment of the brand. Reduce your brand to it’s core.

10. Let the brand out – I love the City Museum, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, The Mutter, The Yale Art Gallery and DIA, (to name a few). I am happy to promote each of the venues, I am an enthusiast (an unpaid enthusiast). I don’t receive any payment from any of the mentioned venues, they have never been a client, but I am happy to spread their message and share their brand with others. Encourage others to spread the brand.

You will notice there is no mention of logos or color schemes above. A logo is a symbol of a brand a way to communicate brand. Brand is is much larger than graphic design and logos, it is the embodiment of an institutional culture.

Future of Museums, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

Building a Museum Brand

8 Comments 26 October 2013

Frank Oppenheimer, from the Exploratorium, David Baker

Frank Oppenheimer, from the Exploratorium, David Baker

Brand is the glue that holds together a successful museum, it gives visitors a comfort level and engages audience.  Building a museum brand is often an unintentional output of a founder, sometimes it is a well crafted form of communication.  This series of blog posts will examine how to craft a brand that touches on every aspect of a museum.

I have a friend Mark.  He and I have been friends since the first day of kindergarden forty-five years ago (I will be 50 this year).  I know Mark as well as anyone in the world, I know how he walks, what makes him smile and his interests.  Every time I see Mark, it give me a sense of place, I know who I am, I know how to act and I get a sense of comfort.  When Mark, my wife and I go out for dinner, the dynamic changes and we are now a group and the dynamic has changed.   When Mark, my wife and I go to a dinner party, we have now joined a larger group and there are too many variables for me to know the expected behavior of the group.  This is where brand comes into play, a way to help people with expectations and predict outcomes.

Businesses are the same (yes, museums are a business), a founder hires a staff and most often the founder finds board members and staff that reflect his personality.  Most often the culture of a museum can be traced back to the personality of the founder.  Brand is the output of a culture, both intentional and non-intentional.     I love the quote “You cannot not communicate”.  Even when we do not wish to communicate we are still communicating.

I am working on a book “How to Start a Museum”, and I have been struggling with how to create a framework for the book.  I believe brand is the framework for all museums.  Many will disagree with me.  They will say that museums are based around a collection or a mission statement, I say it is a narrative that engages audience.  Narrative is the story of an exhibition or program, “museum voice” is how the museum communicates brand.

This idea of brand touches every aspect of a museum, including:
Engaging Community
The Content of collections
Museum Programming (Education)
Exhibition Evaluation
Museum Marketing
, (Earned, Owned and Paid)

Back to Mark.  When I get together with Mark, I know how to act, it would be out of character to go to a dance club with Mark.  If we went to a dance club it would be a joke and we would become silly, because it would be out of character for both Mark and I.

I loved the old Exploratorium.  For me, central to the brand was the vision of Frank Oppenheimer of making science accessible.  I loved the rough and tumble approach, the plywood exhibits just rolled out of the exhibition shop.  At the old location, it was dirty and messy, a place of passion for science exploration.  The old Exploratorium allowed me to “own” the content, the content became accessible.

As a next step I will start to describe how to build a new museum around this idea of brand and how existing museums can recraft themselves with a strong brand. Future blog posts will examine each aspect of the museum around the idea of brand.

Small Museums with a strong brand:
Mutter Museum
Museum Jurassic Technology

Medium Size Museums with a strong brand:
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
The American Visionary Art Museum
Museum of the Moving Image

Large Museums with a strong brand:
The Getty
San Diego Zoo
Monterey Bay Aquarium
American Museum of Natural History
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Built to Last
Please Understand Me
Paul Watzlawick
Experience Economy 
Constructivist Learning Theory

Future of Museums, Museum Planning, Museum Trends

Museums and the Recession

No Comments 13 October 2013


How have museums* changed since 2008?  After putting together the last post “In a Perfect Museum World…”, started thinking how have museums changed since 2008 and the Great Recession.  Below are my observations, would love to hear from others how they see the effect on museums.

1. Museum funding from federal, state, private foundations and individuals has significantly decreased

2. Many museums have decreased staff, decreased open hours and or closed

3. Museum admission prices have risen to cover operating costs (although several museums have taken a different approach of free admissions and become membership based)

4. Museums are now doing more with less income, including outsourcing former staff roles

5. Museum audiences are now more demanding more to counteract lower discretionary funds

6. Museums are required to be competitive with each other for funding

7. Museums now use social media to engage audiences and drive traffic to “bricks and mortar” locations

8. Museums now use crowd-funding to fund projects

9. Museums now use crowd-sourcing to involve audiences in the development of exhibitions

10. Museums are now part of a movement of open authority

How do you think museums have changed since the start of the Great Recession?

* “Museums” include: Art Museums, Science Centers, Children’s Museums, Natural History Museums, Corporate Museums, History Museums, Zoos and Aquariums


“America’s Museums Reflect Slow Economic Recovery in 2012″

“Service and Struggle in the Shadow of Economic Recovery: U.S. Museums in 2012″

“The State of the Science Center”

“Museums and the American Economy in 2011″

“U.S. Museums Continue to Serve Despite Stress”

“Timeline: Museums and the Recession”

“The Recession and US Museums”

“Museums Exhibit Signs Of Economic Distress”


Future of Museums, Museum Planning

Science Centers Leading the Way

3 Comments 13 July 2013

Museums have evolved from display cabinets to communities.

For most of the history of museums, art museums and natural history museums have been the most prevalent, with children’s museums, science centers and corporate museums being an addition of the last 100 years.

Today’s modern science center started at the Science Museum of Boston, when staff wanted to engage visitors with the museum’s dioramas by adding push buttons that light areas of the diorama. That simple addition of a push button changed the relationship between museum and visitor, as it made the visitor an active participant in the museum experience, rather than a passive viewer.

Since the 1950s and the growth of science centers, children’s museums and corporate museums, there‘s been an evolution from museums being collections to becoming conveyors of content. Following the economic crisis of 2008, museums have been forced to rethink their business due to their new financial reality. We’re currently going through a significant change, with museums becoming communities.


Since 2008, I’ve been continuing to update my classification of museums. My current definition is: Museum – an organisation in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which researches, communicates and exhibits things and ideas, for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.

Most museums are categorised by type: children’s museum; natural history museum; art museum; science center; or history museum.

In the future, I believe large destination museums, such as the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, AMNH, Exploratorium and The Met, will continue to follow the typical museum designations, but medium and small museums will become a community based mix of the museum types.

The reality is that not every community can support a museum of each type. Medium and smaller museums will, therefore, become an amalgam of disciplines including art, science, history and early childhood education.

Mission and voice

By looking at different museums’ mission statements, we can see that there’s more in common than there is different.

The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception founded in 1969. Its mission is to create a culture of learning through innovative environments, programs, and tools that help people nurture their curiosity about the world around them. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) was founded in New York in 1870 to collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advance knowledge of works of art that collectively represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality, all in the service of the public and in accordance with the highest professional standards. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) aims to discover, interpret and disseminate – through scientific research and education – knowledge about human cultures, the natural world and the universe. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis’ mission is to create extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families.

Museum Generations

Museums can be thought of as existing within four generations. The first generation museum offers collection cases, static displays, dioramas and is object centric within a hushed atmosphere. An example of this is The National Gallery in London, UK.

Second generation museums and science centres have collection cases within minimal decoration and trim for a modernist approach, so the art stands out without distraction. They provide a relationship between the museum and the visitor. An example is MOMA in New York.

Third generation museums and science centres are open ended, multi-layered and visitor centric and encourage conversation. An outgrowth of Piaget and constructivist learning theory, they’re more concerned about emotional and intellectual reaction than conveying specific content and encourage a peer to peer relationship. An example is MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).

The fourth generation museum and science centre is the museum without walls – the experience starts prior to arriving at the bricks and mortar location and continues afterwards. The experience meets the visitor at their level of engagement, interest and is customised prior to their visit. There’s a flexible museum framework, consistent corporate identity across communication and a convergence of disciplines: art museums with children’s programs; natural history museums with art programs; and corporate museums with art collections. Examples of this type of museum are: Experience Music Project in Seattle, USA; Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, New York; and BMW Guggenheim Lab – a mobile laboratory, which travelled to major cities including Mumbai and Berlin.

Museum Spectrum

Museums exist along several spectrums including: high or low interactivity; academic or informal; inward or outward focused; early childhood or mature; collecting or non-Collecting; didactic or constructive; and innovative or traditional.

As an example, art museums are generally considered less innovative and more inward focused while science centres, by their nature, are thought of as innovative and outward focused. Generally, science centers are the most innovative of the museum type and all museums are moving towards the innovative end of the spectrum.  Of course, there are art museums that are more innovative than science centres, but this is rare.

My thinking about a spectrum of innovation in museums was inspired by an article in the New York Times in 2010, by Edward Rothstein, called The Thrill of Science, Tamed by Agendas.  An excerpt from the article reads: “A science museum is a kind of experiment. It demands the most elaborate equipment: Imax theaters, NASA space vehicles, collections of living creatures, digital planetarium projectors and fossilised bones. Into this mix are thrust tens of thousands of living human beings: children on holiday, weary or eager parents, devoted teachers, passionate aficionados and casual passers-by. And the experimenters watch, test, change, hoping….”

It’s exactly this active visitor participation that first got me excited about science centres in 1992, when I started work at Liberty Science Center

In the article, Rothstein discusses several recent incarnations of new science centres. What strikes me about the article, and the examples, is the sense of experimentation in science centres – each example is different in character and approach. It’s this sense of experimentation that’s leading the museum field.

The museum innovation spectrum, starting with the most innovative is: science centers; aquariums; children’s museums; natural history museums; mobile museums; military and war museums; corporate museums; state history museums; art museums; zoos; local history museums; living history; farm and agriculture museums; with historic houses being the least innovative.

The position on the spectrum is due to cultural differences of the institutions. The culture of Art museums, historic houses and history museums are ones of preservation and protection. Every museum has a culture, but we’re at a cross roads and museums that don’t change and adapt will disappear. Too often I’m brought in as a consultant to work on an exhibition and hit a brick wall when the conversation turns to “doing things differently”. I agree that technology doesn’t equal innovation, but often innovation uses technology as a tool. Technology is often what causes the brick wall to pop up.

Although painful, much of the impact of the economic crisis of 2008 has been positive for visitors and museums.  Museums have been forced to be more inclusive and accountable to both visitors and funders. Both visitors and funders want to know what they’re getting for their money, forcing museums to be accountable to their audience.

I see art museums becoming more like science centers, by being open to educating visitors. In the past, many art museums had an “if they have to ask” attitude, only wanting to further educate those who are already in the know. By nature, science centres have been educational institutions and more inclusive than many art museums.

Currently, science centers are leading the way for delivery of content at museums. It’ll be interesting to see how science centers continue to advance.

Museum Evolution
1. Museums as private cabinets of wonders

2. Museums as keepers of culture

3. Museum visitors as active participants

4. Museums as communities

How are science centers leading the way?

•  Engaging community, having an outward facing communication with the visitor

•  Incorporating programming as part of exhibition development, including on floor staff activities and hands on activities to accompany exhibitions

•  Having open-ended exhibits with multiple outcomes

•  Having an egalitarian attitude – all visitors are equal including those unfamiliar with a topic

•  Creating profit and non profit relationships, as part of exhibition development

•  A visit should be fun first, educational second

•  Inclusive of all groups

•  Welcoming the use of technology

Exhibition Design, Future of Museums

“The Future of In-House Design in an Outsourcing World”

1 Comment 28 May 2013

Back from the 2013 American Alliance of Museums Conference, great conference, best in years!  As part of the conference I was invited to present on the panel “The Future of In-House Design in an Outsourcing World”.  Above is a copy of my presentation.  I was asked to be part of the panel because of my blog post “The Future of Museum Exhibition Design, Part I”.

Session Description:
“Come hear five perspectives on the future for in-house design—from people who have built large, award-winning exhibit departments to consultants who have built teams of consultants and in-house staff and helped museums deal with dysfunctional in-house exhibit departments.” Final Program, Page 52 Session Description

Jenny-Sayre Ramberg, Director of Planning and Design, Exhibits and Design, National Aquarium in Baltimore

Mark Walhimer, Museum Planner, Museum Planning, LLC
Donald hughes, Vice President of Exhibitions, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Paul Martin, Vice President, Science Learning, Science Museum of Minnesota
David Harvey, Senior Vice President for Exhibitions, American Museum of Natural History
Kathy McLean, Former Director of Operations, Please Touch Museum

As part of the session I created a survey “Exhibition Production In-house or Outsourced ? “, I will collect resposnses for a month then post results here on Museum Planner.  Thank you!

I will follow this post with photos from the conference and museum trends that I observed at the conference.

Fund Raising, Future of Museums, Museum Planning

How to Increase Museum Attendance

3 Comments 03 April 2013

I Love MuseumsHow to Increase Museum Attendance
A few weeks ago I received a phone call from Geraldine Fabrikant a writer at the New York Times.  Geraldine was writing an article about “what are small museums doing to increase attendance” and wanted to know if we could talk.  We spoke several times by phone and email, the results of her research was an article in the New York Times The Particular Puzzles of Being a Small Museum including quotes from me.   Over the course of our conversations we talked about the changes in museums since 2008 and how museums are changing their business practices.

Given the tougher fundraising climate and the difficulty many museums have had driving visitation, they have been forced to rethink marketing and fundraising.  The biggest change I have seen is museums are becoming “communities” instead of places to visit. The change from a location to a community has changed the process of driving attendance to museums:

  • Using Social Media to build an online community for the museum
  • Using online community to drive visitors to museum
  • Having in-person events, lectures, music, drinks, films at museum
  • Replicating the in-person experience for online visitors who can’t visit the museum
  • Museums can now be thought of as “clubs” instead of places

How to increase museum visitation:

  1. Pre – Visit - The museum visit starts before a visitor walks into the museum.  The visitor’s experience starts with a “pre-visit” including social media, online museum information and online communities all building to a paid museum visit.
  2. Brand First – I firmly believe in “Built to Last”, that we each choose our brands and those brands need to be built for a specific audience . Museums have been late to building a brand, but creating a museum brand is part of creating community.  Often museums try to include everyone, I believe it is better to build a strong community audience and build from the community base, both online and in-person.
  3. Local First – Local community needs to be the first museum priority, then moving onto tourism, then become a destination.  Part of thinking local first is becoming a local community resource.
  4. Membership - The thinking behind museum membership has changed from a monthly newsletter to a “museum club membership”.  Museum members now have personalized access to the museum as a community member.  Membership vs. Admission.  Some museums are now pricing membership, equal to less than two family visits, making a membership sale easier.  Some museums have seen an increase in attendance by becoming free and a resulting increase in fundraising.
  5.  “museuming” :The experience of visiting a museum or multiple museums.  Museums are social by nature, often visitors go to museums to see and be seen, it is part of the experience.   When people “museum” they expect a certain level of treatment and an elevation of their experience.
  6. Satellites - The creation of other museum sites including “pop up museums”, museum programming at for-profits and smaller temporary museums in available locations.
  7. Meet the Visitor – Understand what your audience wants and consistently deliver.  Social media is developing into a “community building” tool for museums.  Many museums are using social media to develop their audience both online and in-person. Examples include, being open late, beer and wine events and 3D printing events.  I am seeing a shift from museums being exhibition driven to event drive.  Exhibitions become part of the personalized events and programs that accompany an exhibition.
  8. Partnering - Museums are creating strategic partnerships to fund museum programming.  Seek partnerships with for profits and non profits to drive attendance.   Some museums are creating multi-museum passes to drive attendance between museums.  Look for other revenue streams including retail, restaurants and consulting for other organizations.
  9. Ladder Up – Give visitors a clear path of interaction with the museum, an example:  social media, reading the museum’s blog, participating in online discussions, an in-person visit, event participation, museum membership, museum donation, volunteering at the museum and becoming a museum committee member.
  10. Personalized -  I love the new Rijksmuseum website, visitors can curate their own “collection” choosing from the museum’s collection. Part of personalizing the museum experience is providing enough information about the museum for the the visitor to feel a sense of ownership, an example would be the excellent  Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Dashboard.

Understand your local community and their needs, build a museum brand, create enthusiasts who can spread your message and drive visitors to your door.

Contact me if I can be help with increasing your museum’s attendance, including a review of your facility, social media strategy, strategic planning and exhibition design.

Future of Museums, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

Starting a Museum

No Comments 23 October 2012


Starting a museum, simple words.  I started this blog as a way to clarify my thinking, as a by product the blog as become the world’s most popular resource for museum planning.  My most popular blog post has been “10 Steps to Starting a Museum“.  Four years after starting the blog, I now have enough content to put together a book, “Starting a Museum” planning to publish by Spring 2013.

The Word “Museum”

Museum: An organization in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which  researches, communicates and exhibits things and ideas, for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment,  my definition from a previous blog post.

I do not believe a museum is a collection.  Many collecting museums have gone through fires or natural disasters, to reopen and rebuild their collection.  Of course a museum losing its collection is a catastrophe, but museums have continued to overcome such disasters.  I don’t believe a museum is the building, many museums have moved to new buildings.  A museum is it’s mission and the intent and communication of that mission.

Expoloratorium’s Mission:
The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception founded in 1969. The Exploratorium’s mission is to create a culture of learning through innovative environments, programs, and tools that help people nurture their curiosity about the world around them.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Mission:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded on April 13, 1870, “to be located in the City of New York, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said city a Museum and library of art, of encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the application of arts to manufacture and practical life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, of furnishing popular instruction.” The mission of The Metropolitan Museum of Art is to collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advance knowledge of works of art that collectively represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality, all in the service of the public and in accordance with the highest professional standards.

American Museum of Natural History Mission:
The American Museum of Natural History, to be located in the City of New York for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said city a Museum and Library of Natural History; of encouraging and developing the study of Natural Science; of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and to that end of furnishing popular instruction.  To discover, interpret, and disseminate — through scientific research and education — knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis:
To create extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families.

As descriptive as each mission is they don’t fully communicate the “how” to accomplish the mission of each museum.  I use the term “museum voice”, as a descriptive  in addition to the mission statement, to more fully describe “how” the museum communicates.   As examples, (I am making these up), The Exploratorium will speak with you as the smart hip neighbor who is a little wacky but such an expert that you respect and admire their opinion, The Met is your very rich great great grand father who you only know from his books, photos and memoir, but he is a legend in the field of Art, The AMNH Is the older aunt who has traveled the world as a research scientist whose opinion and knowledge is beyond reproach, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the forty year old young mother who works as a child physiologist and wears Jimmy Choo shoes.   Each would communicate in a different manner.  I believe a museum is a combination of the mission and “museum voice” that describes the museum.

I believe museum exist on spectrums such as;  Collecting / Non-Collecting, Highly Interactive /Low Interactivity,  Academic / Informal, Inward Focused /Outward Focused, Early Childhood / Mature each museum exists on a point on each spectrum creating a matrix.  Today most museum are categorized by type, such as  Children’s Museum, Natural History Museum, Art Museum, Science Center and History Museum as examples.  I believe we are at a juncture in museums.  In the future I believe large “destination”  museums.  (Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, AMNH, Exploratorium, The Met) will continue to follow the typcial designations but smaller museums will become community based mixes of all of the types.   The reality is every community cannot support a museum of each type, so the community based museums will become hybrids.  Recently I consulted on a very large international “Art Museum”.   I put “Art Museum” in quotation marks, although the museum has a very significant Art collection, from top to bottom they do not want to think of themselves as a typical Art museum and all of its associations (old, stuffy, snobby, off putting) but instead as an amalgam of many of the disciplines, Art , Science, Philosophy, Community and Technology.  Slowly more of these types of museums will emerge.


Starting a museum can be the process of founder deciding to create a museum, leading to community involvement, design, building, fabrication and opening.  But, as museums continue to morph, “starting” can also mean an existing museum, with an existing collection, reinventing itself.  I have seen many examples of this recently, Curiodyssey is an existing Natural History Museum in San Mateo.  The Director Rachel, realized that the museum needed a new direction.  The museum changed it’s name, changed it’s logo and most importantly changed its focus.  Before the rebranding the museum was a more typical small natural history museum, displays or local taxidermy, fauna, and local history.  With the new refocus the museum is now more in the model of a smaller Exploratorium, highly interactive exhibits grouped around themes of science and natural history.  The collection is the same, the building is the same, but the museum voice is very different  focusing outward instead of inward.  When I think of a typical natural history museum the museum voice is “here are the objects, and the content please absorb”, an outward museum voice is “here is something to interact with, now what do you think?”  I would include the process of Curiodyysey as Staring a Museum.

When I use the term “Starting a Museum” I am referring to how I see the future of museums, some will be new museums, some will be museums reinventing themselves.  I thought it was important to define how I see the future of museums and how I think of starting a museum.

Future of Museums, Museum Planning, Museum Trends

Museum Trends

No Comments 14 October 2012

What will the museum of the future look like?

I am thinking about how to go about answering that question.  As part of the  process I have created museumtrends.org a microblog to use as a scrapbook to collect thinking about the future of museums.  My hope is to create a collaborative forum for discussion on the topic and use museumtrends.org as the record of the conversation.  As a first pass, I have some thoughts about the future of museums to get the conversation going.

I welcome suggestions and comments!

Thanks, Mark

Museum Trends, for the week ending October 14, 2012

Museum Crowdsourcing:

Museum Crowdsourcing Resource Guide, SFMOMA, Art Micro HubsMuseum volunteer from Anywhere

Future Business Models:

Tesla Museum Fund Raising,

Using the Museum as a Canvas:

Anish Kapor, “Olor a Nuevo” by Fritzia Irizar

Open Source Mobile Museum App:

MuseumMobile Wiki,  Tap Into Museums

Artist based Destinations:

James Turrell’s Skyspace at Rice University

Open Authority:

Museums and Open Authority,

Artists using emerging technologies:

Manta Rhei, Richard Dupont


Exhibition Design, Future of Museums, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

“Starting a Museum”, the book

1 Comment 07 October 2012

I have started work on a book tentatively called “Starting a Museum”.   More than “How to Start a Museum”, the book will explore the question “How could a museum be started?”.  I will need lots of help and hope that I can call on the readers of this blog as active participants in the creation of the book.  My big questions for the book, “what will the museum of 2050 be like?”, “What is the business of museums?” and “what are new business models for museums”.  Most people who start a museum have never started a museum before, the book will serve as a resource for the fundamentals of museums as well as future thinking about museums.  I will be looking to add specific editors and contributors in the areas of Fund Raising, Grant Writing, Art Handling, Registration, Board Management, Conservation and Finances and hoping that each book editor can than serve a similar role in an online forum.

My thought is to create an outline on Google Docs from previous blog posts, then work with a content editor (job description link) to refine the objectives of the book.  Once the first draft is in reviewable form invite people to comment on the book.  Then release as an ebook.  Simultaneously I would like to create an online forum for each of the areas of the book.  The forum be a place for discussion and more detailed analysis of the topics covered in the book.  Once the book has been thoroughly commented on and reviewed as an ebook, publish the book as a softcover.

If you are interested in being the content editor or an editor of a specific area (Fund Raising, Grant Writing, Art Handling, Registration, Board Management, Conservation and Finances) please contact me

This posts is one of many for the book, future posts:

Spectrum of Museums

Book Introduction

How to Start a Museum

Starting a Museum


Web 3.0 / Museum 4.0


Exhibition Design, Future of Museums, Museum Planning

The Future of Interactivity?

No Comments 14 November 2011


What is the future of museum interactivity?

Reaching consensus on the stages of development of museums is difficult, but for the purpose of this conversation, I will use:

Museum 1.0
First Generation Museum, “Cabinet of Curiosity”
Collection cases, static displays, dioramas, object centric
•    Mutter Museum

Museum 2.0
Second Generation Museum / Science Center
Collection cases with push buttons and cranks
•    Museum of Science, Boston

Museum 3.0
Third Generation Museum / Science Center
Open ended, multi-layered and visitor centric and encourages conversations
•    Exploratorium

Museum 4.0
Fourth Generation Museum / Science Center
The Museum / Science Center is without walls, the museum experience starts prior to the visit to the “bricks and mortar” location and continues after the visit to the museum.  Museums of the fourth generation can / will use the techniques of museums 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, plus the museum experience is customized to the visitor (similar to Web 3.0).  The visitor experience “meets” the visitor at their level of engagement, interest and knowledge.  The museum experience is customized to the visitor prior to the museum visit.   I do not know of any museum that I would refer to as Museum 4.0

Nomenclature becomes difficult, because web 1.0, web 2.0 and web 3.0 are often used in combination with Museum 1.0, Museum 2.0, Museum 3.0, Museum 4.0.  For more information about the development of the web Web 3.0 Explained

Many of the phases of the development of museums is based on the work of Piaget and Constructivist Learning Theory.  Piaget “suggested that through processes of accommodation and assimilation, individuals construct new knowledge from their experiences. When individuals assimilate, they incorporate the new experience into an already existing framework without changing that framework”.  In other words; when we don’t know why the sky is blue, we each come up with our own theory of why the sky is blue until other knowledge challenges our theory.  To change our “knowledge” of why the sky is blue, first we need to deconstruct our current theory, then replace the previous knowledge with new knowledge.

The Exploratorium is the forefather of today’s Science Center.  Many of the practices of the Exploratorium have now migrated to Art Museums, History Museums, Aquariums and Children’s Museums.  Science Museums prior to the Exploratorium (I will make a distinction between Science Museum and a Science Center, as Science Center incorporates the Constructivist Learning Theory), showed visitors information, the Exploratorium, encouraged visitors to deconstruct their previous knowledge.  Earlier Science Museums assumed that all visitors learned in the same way, assuming that by exhibiting a geode and a label, all visitors could assimilate the causes that created a geode.  It was the Museum of Science (Boston), that took content beyond the previous museum model of “Cabinet of Curiosities” by adding push buttons to diorama graphic panels, the museum created the first interactive exhibits and made the “knowledge that of the visitor”.

It was the Exploratorium that took museums to the next phase of their development, by having vistors perform science experiments instead of having “science shown”, as such the Exploratorium incorporated the theories of Piaget.  As an adjunct to Art Museums; Children’s Museums, grew from Art museums and the “teaching collection” of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (now the Brooklyn Museum).  Since Children’s Museums grew from the teaching collection of an Art Museums, Children’s Museums have always had a hands on approach.  During the same time as the opening of the Exploratorium, Kinetic Art was developing and the Exploratorium incorporated artists into the development of exhibits.

Previously, I believed that “theming” was the start of the next phase in the development of museums, but I no longer believe that to be the case.  Theming or ”the use of an overarching theme…to create a holistic and integrated spatial organization of a…venue” provides a context for the content of an exhibition.  Although we require a context for knowledge, I don’t believe the incorporation of theming to be a milestone in the development of museums.  I now see “theming” as a continuation of dioramas, as “walkthrough dioramas”.

Web 3.0 or the “Semantic Web”, is thought to be the next phase of the development of the world wide web.  Similarly, I believe the next phase in the development of museums, Museum 4.0 will closely follow the Web 3.0 or  a web of content “that can be processed directly and indirectly”.  One of the most difficult concepts to communicate is that of interconnections, the goal of Museums 4.0 will be that of interconnections.  As a continuation of my concept of the Hub Museum, the “museum” will no longer be a location but a web of locations and interconnections, starting before the “museum” visit and continuing after the visit to a physical location.

In the next blog post “Future of Interactivity, Part II”, I will explore types of interactivity, philosophies of interactivity and the future technologies of interactivity.


History of Museums “Cabinet of Curiosities”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_Curiosities

World’s Oldest Museum? http://uk.io9.com/5805358/the-story-behind-the-worlds-oldest-museum-built-by-a-babylonian-princess-2500-years-ago?skyline=true&s=i

Jean Piaget, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Piaget

Constructivism (learning theory),  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(learning_theory)

First Interactive Museum, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_museum

Museum of Science (Boston), http://www.mos.org/exhibits_shows/current_exhibits&d=1223

Exploratorium History,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploratorium

Learning Styles, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles

Museum of Science (Boston), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_Science_(Boston)

History of Children’s Museums, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children’s_museum

Theming, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theming

Kinetic Art, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_art

Web 3.0, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web


There are limited online resources for the history of museums and science centers, I will continue to update the above resources, mw


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