Paper Session 8: The Future of Museums

Wednesday, April 5th: 1:00pm - 2:30pm

Situating openness in the new museology


From open-source software for collection management to open access initiatives for public reuse, and to the recent global pandemic that shut down most of the world, the museum community is experiencing an ongoing transformation in what openness truly means. Adopting the social construction of technology as a theoretical framework and analytical method, this study investigates the changing attitudes and practices among museum professionals, especially how the intellectual precepts of the “new museology” have influenced the conceptualization and operationalization of openness. In particular, this study explores the archive of the MuseWeb conference and conducts a qualitative content analysis of all the papers presented between 1997 and 2020 related to the topic of openness. While the concept of openness may be abstract, each paper presented a museological instantiation of the concept that carried concrete and material implications. By comparing how these papers discussed openness in the museum context, this study traces how museum professionals have socially constructed the changing meanings of openness in the past twenty years, demonstrating a gradual, albeit not definitive, shift away from an institution-oriented understanding to an access-oriented interpretation that increasingly centered on the needs of the public.

keywords: openness, social construction of technology, new museology, MuseWeb, content analysis
Proposal ID: 11060

Deep Viewpoints: Using Citizen Curation to challenge the Participation Gap


Many countries observe a participation gap in engagement with cultural heritage: people from lower socio-economic groups, members of ethnic minoritized groups and people with disabilities are less likely to visit museums and other cultural institutions. The UK Warwick Commission proposed that this is not due to cost but rather many public cultural institutions having a perceived lack of relevance to their potential audiences.
This paper describes an initiative developed and used at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) to help challenge the participation gap by enabling a broad range of communities to develop their personal responses to the IMMA collection and exhibitions, as well as contribute to curating the museum experience of other visitors in a way that reflects their own concerns and perspective.
The approach made use of a web application designed for the purpose called Deep Viewpoints that supports two forms of citizen participation: mediation and interpretation. Mediation involves developing a script that guides the interpretation process of other visitors through a sequence of stages comprising contextual information and questions. Interpretation involves selecting a script associated with a theme and progressing through its stages in order to develop and share an interpretation of one or more artworks.
The process of citizen participation was realized as a combination of mediation and interpretation for several reasons. First, it divided the participation process into manageable activities. An approach that involved an extensive time or training commitment would likely create participation barriers for the communities the initiative was attempting to reach. Second, interaction across participants, as one responds the script of another, can lead to creative outcomes that neither participant may have produced individually. Third, it reflects contemporary curatorial practice in which the aim, rather than to provide an authoritative account, is to help the

Proposal ID: 11047

Taming the numbers: automated and interactive reporting from heterogeneous data sources


Modern museums rely on several disparate data sources to capture operational information such as visitor counts, revenue, ticket sales, demographics of visitors such as age and home location, times spent in different sections of museums, usage patterns of interactive exhibits, group/school visits, special tours, museum store sales, donations, and memberships. These data are of crucial importance to museums for tracking performance in terms of multiple metrics including financials, visitor engagement, outreach, etc. Analysis of forecast vs. actual numbers also feeds into tuning of predictive models used for planning and strategy development. These analyses play a crucial role in operations planning, future development, advertising, organizing of special exhibitions, etc. As such, these various data are of interest to several groups in museums including senior staff, heads of departments, finance, operations, collections/exhibitions, and information technology. Channeling and customizing the data sources to meet the needs of these several groups involves multiple challenges. Firstly, these data sources have vastly differing schemas and involve different \”types\” of data (ranging from dollar figures to people counts and time durations, numerical/categorical data, complex interrelationships between data feeds, different temporal granularities, etc.). Furthermore, the different groups interested in the data are diverse audiences requiring different granularities and levels of detail. While some audiences prefer automated reports, others prefer interactive dashboard interfaces to perform their own analyses. Automated reports for different audiences could capture different types of data and from different viewpoints and be generated with auto-formatting to provide easily understandable summaries of key metrics of interest to the particular audience. Desirable functionalities in interactive web-based dashboards include graphical plotting, analysis of historical trends, con

Proposal ID: 11085