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Predictions for 2010, 2011, 2012

It is wonderful the perspective distance offers, sitting in a cafe in Pokhara, Nepal, I offer the following predictions:

1. We will see another significant correction in the American stock market in 2010.  The correction will continue to put financial strain on museums and we will see several large and small museums and science centers close.

2.  The closure and slow down of museums and science centers will cause the closure of several large and small design and fabrication firms, in 2010 and 2011.

3.   The changes will force many museums and science centers to rethink their business model.  With the changes there will be several new models tried, “museum clubs”- where you are a member of a museum club, “museum cells” – where the museum exists without walls, “small satellite museums” where the main museum has closed, but there are several small exhibitions scattered around a community,  “the combination of institutions museum/library, museum/ town hall”, “member only for profit museums”; the market will decide the best mix.  By 2012, many struggling museums will be greatly changed, with smaller staff and dark exhibit galleries.  The institutions that will survive will be those that can be flexible and change quickly.

4. To drive attendance museums and science centers will need to change exhibitions more often, with new exhibits every month.  The blockbuster exhibitions will be dead for all but the largest / richest museums.  Instead museums will need to have several smaller topical exhibitions several times a year.   The typical two year exhibit design and fabrication model will be dead at all but the largest museums.  Institutions will no longer be able to afford the two plus year exhibit development cycle and with it museum design and fabrication firms will become more service oriented.

5. By late 2011, we will see demand from the public for connectivity.  Museums and science centers will need to more closely collaborate with schools and universities to meet educational and science standards.  The public will demand transparency, ” how are these exhibits adhering to the science standards?”.  The public will demand a more easily understood set of educational standards that can be easily applied.  With the increased connectivity we will see a distance education model emerge, where the museum experience will be expended beyond the walls of the museum.

5. By 2012 we will start to see and increase in museum donations.  The surviving museums will be leaner and quick reacting.  The surviving museum design and fabrication firms will also be smaller and more service oriented.  We will see a new for “profit model” that is sustainable along side the non profit model.  The museum market in Asia will be greatly expanded and there will be more collaboration between Asian and American institutions.

If the above comes to pass, I think it will be good news.  I can foresee the museums and science centers of 2012 as more vibrant and visitor-centric.

About Mark Walhimer

Mark is Managing Partner of Museum Planning, LLC, a museum planning and exhibition project management firm of interactive educational environments for Science Centers, Children's Museums and Natural History Museums. You can reach Mark at mark@walhimer.com.

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