Future of Museums, Museum Websites

Museums and Net Neutrality

2 Comments 06 May 2014

No Passing

Museums and Net Neutrality.  Please join me in telling FCC Chairman Wheeler that it is imperative that the internet remain “Net Neutral”, write an email to Chairman Wheeler using the Freepress Take Action Link  

Join me in signing the Popular Resistance Petition

Join me in donating to the $50,000 in 15 Days to Save the Internet

The future of informal education, shared authority and the democratization of content is at risk.  If the new FCC rules are approved,  internet service providers would be able to receive fees to distribute selected content faster  to audiences. As an example, a large corporation that can afford the additional fees can have their content “pass ahead” of other content and be delivered to the internet user.

1. As an example, a for-profit corporation’s content on King Tutankhamun could be placed ahead of a museum’s content

2. A for-profit corporations science fiction toy could be placed ahead of the content delivered from a small local science center

3. A larger museum’s content could pay to have their content pass smaller museum’s content

4. A chain restaurant’s information could be placed ahead in a search for “Educational Actives Nashville”

5. An artist represented by a large gallery could have information on their Art delivered ahead of an unrepresented artist

The power of the current internet is we each vote with our “clicks” and the time we spend reading a website page.  Currently internet content is delivered according to an algorithm based on time spent on a website, number of pages visited and how many times we return to the same website (amongst other factors).  If the new FCC regulations are  allowed to pass, corporations can pass each of our “click votes” and the corporation’s content will go to the “front of the line”.  The power of the internet comes from shared authority with examples such as citizen scientists, online education, crowdfunding and wikipedia.

Please join me in telling FCC Chairman Wheeler that the internet needs to remain Net Neutral.

New York Times: FCC New Net Neutrality Rules
Museums and the Web: Net Neutrality and the Future of Museums Online
The Atlantic: The Best Writing on Net Neutrality
Wired: So the Internet’s About to Lose it’s Net Neutrality
The Association for Computers and the Humanities: Open Letter on Net Neutrality
Bill Moyers: Don’t Let Net Neutrality Become Another Broken Promise
Freepress: Net Neutrality 101
Tim Wu: Network Neutrality

Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

“Start-Up Success Isn’t Enough to Found a Museum”

No Comments 20 March 2014

David Wallis Article “Start-Up Success Isn’t Enough to Found a Museum”.  Success at museum start-up isn’t enough to make for a successful museum.

Exhibition Management, Museum Planning

Art Handling

No Comments 20 November 2013

MuzeoThis morning I received an email about hanging a heavy piece of Art on a sheetrock wall.  Thought I would start a thread about Art Handling.

  • Art Packing / Art Handling
  • Art Crating
  • Art Shipping
  • Art Installation
  • Art Rigging
  • Art Lighting
  • Art Climate Control

Will start to fill in the details of each area in separate posts.


Preparation, Art Handling, Collections Care Information Network

National Park Service, Harpers Ferry

Smithsonian Art Conservation

AAM Registrars Committee Links

Conservation On Line (CoOL) 


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

12 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”


Museum Planning

In a perfect museum world…

8 Comments 29 September 2013


In a perfect museum world;

1. All museums would have a collection perfectly matched to their mission, each piece of the collection would be perfectly preserved for eternity.

2. All museums would have in-house research departments, exhibition departments, fund raising departments, conservation departments, programming departments and finance departments

3. All museums would have well connected millionaire Board of Directors scholars, with sub committees of scientists, artists, mothers, fathers, students and the working poor

4. All museums would collaborate and happily share staff, collections and research

5. All museums would be community based organizations that attract tourists from worldwide locations

6. All museums would interact with each of their visitors at their learning styles and their interest level

7. All museums would combine Art, History, Science and Philosophy at an exact level perfectly matching their mission

8. All museum staff would be well compensated with enough time to pursue their own research projects as part of their job responsibilities

9. All museum staff would be tenured positions with a strong international organization protecting their interests with a pension plan at the time of retirement

10. All museums would be a perfect combination of interaction, contemplation and discussion amongst visitors

11. All museums would integrate living artists into museum planning, education and museum operations

12. All museums would cost less than a local movie ticket

13. All museums would provide a seamless experience from home, to school, to the museum from birth to death for all people

14. All museum collections would be available both in-person and in an “open” digital format

* “Collection” includes Art objects, artifacts and science exhibits

Above is my “perfect museum world”. What would you want in your perfect museum world?

Museum Planning, Science Center, Starting A New Museum

Science Pop

6 Comments 10 September 2013

Mobius Lab, Preview Science Center

Mobius Lab, Preview Science Center

A year ago we worked on a new science center in Indonesia. The project was on a very short schedule and we needed to use all “off the shelf exhibits” to meet the deadline.  As part of the project we created a database of quickly available exhibits.  Start to finish the Indonesian science center opened eight months, after I was first contacted.  The process got me thinking, “Why can’t we open lots of little science centers all over the world?”.  In Asia cites are popping up so quickly they are calling them “Cities in a Box”, why not “Science Centers in a Box”?

I am bothered by the “big box” science centers, $300 million dollar projects seem unnecessary.  You could build 100 smaller science centers for the same $300M budget.  My thinking behind Science Pop (science center in a box), has grown out of a need for community based science centers.  I receive an email a day from groups all over the world interested in starting small community based organizations without the resources to move forward.  There has been a dramatic shift in the world of science centers / children’s museums towards “Big Box” multi-million dollar organizations leaving smaller organizations behind.  To my thinking there is a greater impact to opening 100 small community based organizations world wide than one large destination based organization.  Below is an “elevator pitch”:

Science Pop

Let’s open 100 science centers worldwide.  Why can’t science centers be like a restaurant franchise?  A parent organization helps with site selection, then delivers a proven solution and continues to advise with oversight.  With a $20M (approximate) budget a foundation can be formed to create 100 tested proven educational facilities throughout the world.   Each science center would be self sustaining, with the core organization continuing to assure quality and adherence to science standards.

We receive many emails from people interested in opening a Science Center in developing countries.   These centers could be self sustaining but part of a core organization that assures quality with adherence to Science standards.  Since the Science-Pop (working title) development costs would be covered by the granting organization, the costs would be minimal: $250,000 start up and $70,000 per year operating (approximate).

We have found that trying to explain a science center is difficult.  It is much easier to build a “Preview Facility” and show people.

The next steps:

  • Create Advisory Board
  • Partners, Corporations; Non-Profits
  • Create request for business planning grant
  • Form 503(c)(3)
  • Start List of Locations / Organizations
  • Create Science Pop Prototype

What do you think?

Museum Planning, Museum Trends, Types of Museums

What is the most innovative type of museum?

No Comments 09 August 2013

Which Type of Museum is the Most Innovative ?

What is the most innovative type of museum?.   As a follow up to the post  “Science Centers Leading the Way”  there has been a very interesting discussion in Linkedin Group “Museum Planning”.  Created a survey about innovation in museums by “type”.

Survey Results:

Science Centers: 25.3% (21 votes)

Children’s Museums 20.5% (17 votes)

Science Museums 19.3% (16 votes)

Art Museums 16.9% (14 votes)

Natural History Museums 8.4% (7 votes)

History Museums 8.4% (7 votes)

Corporate Museums 1.2% (1 Votes)

For the purposes of the survey I made a distinction between Science Center (non-collecting) and Science Museum (collecting), if I add the Science Center results with the Science Museum results,  the results would be 45.7% (37 Votes).   In many ways I see the perception in museums just as important as the actual results.  Visitors expect Art Museums to support innovation in Art, but necessarily in the institution and visitors expect innovation in Science Centers.  What do others think?  Please take the survey, and add your voice to the conversation in the linkedin group, Linkedin group link.



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


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