05.04.2017, Saint-Petersburg: the State Hermitage Volunteer Service gathered for a meeting regarding the upcoming Intermuseum festival in Moscow. The slogan of this year’s festival is «The Museum of the Future». Main issue of the meeting was the attempt to find out what the museum of the future will look like and what the main topics of future museum work will be. Besides the Volunteer Office staff, interns and volunteers from Moscow, head of the Volunteer Service Mikhail Kozhukhovsky invited Daria Hookk, senior scientific researcher of the department for Archaeology of Eastern Europe and Siberia.
The meeting started with a presentation summing up the current developments, latest works and new methods in museums all over the world. The intention of the presentation was to point out the major concerns of future museums by giving an overview about current projects. It also proposed some topics for the later following discussion. Main propositions of the presentation were attempts for more interaction and participation between museums and visitors.
This could be realized through:
- Games (digital or classical).
- Use of new technologies to open new possibilities of learning, interaction and participation.
- Digitalisation of the collection and free access at any time and place.
- Involvement of the senses, especially possibility to touch either the originals or replicas.
- Workshops (printing, drawing, do your own work of art).
The following discussion focused on three topics:
- Definition of the term «visitor».
- The call for more interaction in the museum (by means of technology).
- Children as the future and an important public.
Who comes to the museum? The definition of the «visitor»
At the beginning of the discussion the question was raised how we define the visitors, who and what they are. In the presentation there was the example of the changing concept in museum work in the Badisches Landesmuseum, Germany. To understand how museums in the future will work it is important to find out how the relationship between institution and individuum will change. In the Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, the attempt is to replace tickets with usercards, implying the role of visitors will change into «Benutzer», the German word for «user». In the discussion Daria Hookk pointed out that the term «user» in the Russian language has a more negative connotation than in languages like German or English. In conclusion one of the tasks for museums in the future will be, to find a fitting term for the changing relation between person and establishment. Also to find a right addressing towards the now called «audience».
The question in the future will be:
- Are they still visitors or guests, observers, beholders, audience, public, customers, consumers, users or stakeholders?
- How will the Russian museum address them?
What is the connotation of the words, especially «user» and «consumer»? Is «user» more active and interactive whereas «consumer» is more passive? Many questions were raised during the discussion. Although it is hard to find answers to all of them, one fact stuck out. The relation between the two parties that meet in museums are changing. The one directional path of information and knowledge being transferred from one to another has changed into an interaction between visitors and specific parts of museum work. Mikhail Kozhukhovsky emphasized the aspect of people being the owners of their cultural heritage and raised the question how they can be involved. The further task for the Volunteer Service will be to open this question to discussion, not only for members of the State Hermitage Volunteer Service but also for interested people all over the country or maybe even all over the world.
Ask the people about the Museum of the Future
The suggestion was made to ask the visitors of the Intermuseum fair to write down what they expect or how they imagine the museum of the future. There can be different approaches to get in touch with people of all ages, drawing posters of the museum of the future, poetic writing, summing up thoughts, maybe even architectonical concepts. In the long term, it could also be possible to organize a competition on this subject, where people can participate and send their works to the Volunteer Service.
To find a future concept for museums, the participants of the discussion collected their experience with museums and what impressed them the most while visiting them. One example was the Jewish Museum & Tolerance Center in Moscow, which is very interactive and has an educational aspect not only for adults but especially for children. However, this might not only be a museum in the traditional sense because its main focus is not on having a collection that is displayed behind glass but on the concept of being an interactive space.
While talking about interaction in museums, there is also the question how we define this term. Is there always technology involved when it comes to interaction in the museum of the future? And more important, for whom will the museum of the future be?
In the meeting everyone agreed that thinking about a future concept for museums, it is necessary to think of future generations at the same time. So the starting point for new considerations and concepts of museums is to work with children and their families as they are the audience of museums of the future. As children being the future generation, now is already the time to focus on the young visitors. Children can learn so much in museums and get a connection to their own cultural heritage and its connection to cultures all over the world. Only then humankind can continue to grow, flourish and reach aims we now can only dream of. But the focus should not only be on the children but also on their families, as part of their daily life and closest relatives they play a major part in their education. It is the mission for future museums to provide an interesting visit not only for adults as independent personalities but also as members of families who visit the museum with their children to teach them something about their culture and heritage. Some museums already developed a concept how to address not only adults but also children, for example the Finish Forest Museum Lusto, where children have their own entrance through a hole in a tree and experience the forest as explorers by using all their senses. Whereas it seems to be a more difficult task for art museums to provide an interactive an integrative access to their installation considering the value and the uniqueness of the displayed artworks.
Nicole Krist, volunteer from Germany.