Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Some Projections to End the Year

Contributed by Phil Katz, AAM’s Assistant Director for Research.

Most anecdotal evidence has pointed to shrinking museum staffs in 2009. However, new projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that the demand for museum curators, registrars and relate museum professionals will be up sharply over the next decade – 23% for curators between 2008 and 2018 and 26% for “museum technicians” (as the government calls registrars, et al.). This comes from the brand new edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2010-11
, which categorizes the growth as “much faster than average employment” but warns that “keen competition is expected for most jobs … because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings.” US News & World Reports even calls curating “one of the 50 best careers of 2010.”

Two caveats on this projection: First, the BLS only counts a portion of the museum professionals working in the United States. According to their numbers, there were only 11,700 working curators in 2008 – which seems unrealistically low, with more than 17,500 museums in the country (a low-ball estimate) and the large number of curators who combine their curating with other functions.

This could mean an even larger number of openings than the BLS predicts, which is potentially good news for museum job seekers. But (and here comes the second caveat) the keen competition for these positions is likely to keep wages from rising very much. (According to the BLS, in May 2008 the median wage for curators was just about $45,000. They’re not predicting what salaries will be in 2018.)

Switching gears completely, here are some projections of population growth and energy consumption over the next decade or two – the big context in which all those new curators and registrars (and their institutions) will be operating!

These three graphics are part of the supporting evidence from a new book by environmentalist Lester R. Brown, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009). For more information and a free download of the book, visit the Earth Policy Institute.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Why would you want to visit a museum?"

This week’s guest post is by Ron Chew, independent consultant and Community Scholar in Residence at the Museology Graduate Program, University of Washington. Ron is the former director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum, and a member of the CFM Council.

I want to share with you a recent “ah-hah” museum moment. It happened last year during a three-week trip to China with my sister. It was my first trip ever to China. Before this trip, China was a distant place I knew mostly through the stories of my mother who talked incessantly while I was growing up about the hardships of life in Hoysan, a rural area that was once home to both my parents and most of the early Chinese immigrants to America. I took my two boys, 10 and 13, on this journey of discovery. My sister, Linda, brought her four kids. Because three of her children are girls she adopted from China, this was my sister’s fourth trip there.

In China, we visited my father and grandfather’s ancestral village of Fow Sek, a place that time seemingly forgot. The village has not changed for generations. People there still till the rice paddies with a simple plow and water buffalo. We visited the 1,400-year old Buddhist temple of the Six Banyan Trees in Guangzhou. We took a boat cruise on the Li River, marveling at majestic peaks in the distance. We visited the Temple of the Soul’s Retreat with its rows and rows of huge religious statues. We took tours of a comb-making factory and a jade factory. We explored some of the 100,000 Buddhist figures that make up Dragon Gate Grottoes in Henan Province. We saw the terra cotta warriors and horses in Xi’an and climbed a towering section of the Great Wall in Beijing.

Being a museum person like those of you here, I can’t travel anywhere – and certainly not overseas – without stopping at a few museums. About a week into our trip, I realized that we hadn’t visited a single museum in China, even though we had already spent a lot of time going into factories, caves, gardens and picturesque old buildings.

As the tour bus left the hotel that day, I turned to our tour guide and interpreter, Wendy, and said, “Can we visit some museums today?” Wendy paused, seemingly puzzled, then went to speak to the driver. They huddled and talked for nearly five minutes over the din of the kids in the rear of the bus. Wendy came back over to me and asked, “Why would you want to visit a museum?”

I paused. I didn’t know what to say. It first occurred to me that Wendy did not know what I had done for a living and, therefore, did not understand my “special interest” in museums. But then I thought: Why would anyone need to have a “special interest” to visit museums?

I awkwardly responded to Wendy: “Uh, I used to work for a museum back in the United States.” Wendy persisted, “But wouldn’t you rather visit more of these interesting sites like the temples and the historic places?” Again, I didn’t know what to say. She went back to the driver – they huddled again – then she said to me: “The driver says there aren’t any museums around here. We would have to drive far to find one, but we can if you like. How about tomorrow?”

Well, eventually, during the following week, we made our way to two museums: the China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou and the China Block Printing and Yangzhou Museum. The museums were interesting to me – as a museum person who likes history, culture and art – and it provided a badly needed dose of air-conditioning for our kids who had been withering in 100 degree temperatures outside. But it was striking how few visitors there were, except for a handful of foreign tourists.

In fact, as we approached the Yangzhou museum – a huge modern building – we couldn’t figure out where to enter the towering block structure because the parking lot was nearly empty and there was no crowd of visitors to follow to the front. We walked around the building, trying doors.

I’ve been thinking about what I learned in China, and the little exchange with the tour guide and the driver. Sad to say, they were right. The most memorable and engaging places were not the museums – the air-conditioned enclosures with objects protected behind glass and neat little labels – but the living spaces: restored temples, rustic gardens, village courtyards, public squares, orphanages, and outdoor and indoor markets. These well-trafficked spaces – where daily life is lived and lots of things just sort of happen – were the places where I learned the most and found the greatest inspiration.

I started thinking to myself: Should our museum exhibitions and “stuff” be out there in newly-imagined old public spaces rather than in newly created hermetically sealed temples that we now call museums? And what is a museum exactly? Especially since we once believed that they were for collecting and displaying objects, and those boundaries have long since been shattered by the emergence of non-collecting institutions and oral history based rather than object-based exhibitions.

What about a community center that displays the artwork of senior citizens on its walls – using the artwork to inspire, educate and empower? What’s the difference between that community center and a museum?

In Beijing, the Forbidden Palace is called a museum; to me it was mostly a series of giant, interlocking public squares knit together by imperial buildings that are closed to visitors. Was all of that a museum?

Is a conservatory – which has explanatory label text next each of the plants and a knowledgeable security guard at your shoulder – a museum? Is the Griffith Observatory a museum? Why not? What about the Internet and cyberspace – with its infinite capacity to house and store virtual stuff and virtual on-line exhibitions? Isn’t that just an incredibly vast peep-hole museum with many galleries?

If the differences between these differently named kinds of institutions are fewer than their similarities, how do we begin to redefine, reshape and redirect the field?

These are not new questions, but, as you can see, when you travel to a new place, a bigger picture begins to emerge. I’m not sure I have any answers to any of the questions I’ve posed, but I do look to inspired and creative leadership from the generation coming up through the ranks to revisit these ideas. It will be up to them – and you here – to chart the way ahead.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Vetting Future Museums

I read this morning that the National Museum of Language is on the brink of closing the outpost it opened last year in College Park, Maryland. This caught my eye because almost ten years ago their founder asked me to speak to their board about starting a new museum.

That encounter has been much on my mind lately. In my new position as founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums, I receive many calls and emails from folks saying “I am going to start a new museum, and since it will be one of the museums of the future…”

Most of these conversations make me want to bang my head against the nearest wall.

Not because I don’t love their ideas. Some are mainstream, some marginal. Many are about museums I would love to visit, if they ever came into being. But really—look at the timing! I am, somewhat to my chagrin, being proven wrong in my contention that museums are the non-profit equivalent of cockroaches, impervious even to nuclear annihilation. Some mainstream, relatively well-established museums are closing or on the brink of closure. The traditional funding sources of museums are under stress. And although the population of the US is growing, the segment that forms the core of museum visitation is stagnant.

You could argue that in a time of social stress and need, society needs nonprofits more than ever: to pick up the slack left by employers or the government dropping their end of the rope; to provide respite and relief from the grim realities of the stock and job markets. But never once have I received a call from someone saying “People in my community have an acute need for [fill in the blank] so I want to found a new museum.” It’s usually “I have been passionate my whole life about [fill in the blank] and I want to share that passion with the world.” Conversations like this led to my recent remark about the “sweetly self-absorbed” nature of museum folk.

I presume many of the readers of this blog work with or in museums. You probably get called at work, or are cornered at cocktail parties, by prospective founders as well. Since even these grim economic times evidently are not enough to dampen people’s enthusiasm for founding a museum, I want to share the list of the questions I raised with the Museum of Language’s board and have used time and again in the ensuing decade—please use and distribute it widely if you find it useful.

  • Is what you want really a museum? Think about who you want to influence, what difference you want to make in the world and then choose the right delivery mechanism. Separate your purpose (e.g. “we want to save a historic house”) from your position (“so we are going to start a museum.”) Sometimes your purpose can best be served by another means (in the case of an historic house, this could be turning it into a bed and breakfast.) Sometimes the things you love (language, or literature) are best experienced and celebrated through other media, like books. Or if you want to be more 21st century, podcasts.
  • Is anyone else already doing what you want to do? If the history of American commerce is about anything, it is about the economy of scale. A bunch of small museums spend a lot more money on administrative costs, and less on mission-delivery, than one big museum. If someone is already successful at serving the mission you love, why not join forces with them? You can use your resources to help them extend their reach or broaden their delivery. Your partner might not even be a museum—they might be a library system, or a performance space—but they could have resources, an existing infrastructure and an audience on which you can build. This approach requires a certain setting aside of ego. There is immense personal satisfaction in being the founder of a new organization. But at what cost to the public interest?
  • Does it require bricks and mortar? Now, more than ever, it is worth considering whether you should try delivering your mission via a website or museum in a virtual world before progressing to bricks and mortar. This allows you to test interest in your concept at a relatively low cost. It may help you decide whether you need to be a physical museum, if so where and what you would offer. Building a constituency can also lay the groundwork for a fund-raising campaign for a “real” museum.
  • Should you believe the experts? Nascent museums seeking public funding often commission “feasibility studies” to prove the viability of their proposals. In my experience, these studies should be filed under “creative writing” rather than “research.” Most of the time when people commission them, they have already made up their minds to go ahead with the project. Rarely, if ever, will they prove you shouldn’t proceed, even if it is true. And above all—don’t believe the attendance projections.
  • What will it cost and where will the money come from? People consistently underestimate what it will cost to run a museum. This has particularly unfortunate consequences since the planning and construction are often paid for by the time this sinks in, and what gets cut is the budget for staff, exhibits and programs. In other words, the people and services actually delivering value to the public. The “typical” income mix for a museum is 24% government funding (usually local or state), 36% philanthropic (individual donations and corporate support), 28% earned (admissions, space rental, memberships etc.) and 12% earnings on investments. While there is a good deal of variation in this mix from museum to museum, it gives you an idea of what is feasible and makes you focus on specific sources. If you are going to rely heavily on philanthropy, who, specifically, is lined up to support you? If earned income, what will you sell, at what price, and have you tested that there is a large enough market willing to pay? Benchmark your plans against the performance of other museums to test what is realistic. AAM’s Museum Financial Information is a good source of crunched numbers from the field, and you can look up the financial statements of individual museums you think are suitable comparisons on Guidestar.

And closing with the question you should really consider first:
  • Who Cares? This is the key to determining whether the museum will sustainable and useful. Of course you love your subject matter, or else you wouldn’t want to start a museum. But a nonprofit museum exists to serve the needs of its audience, not the interests of a single founder or a relatively small founding board. What is it that you are offering that people want? Someone has to pay for what you do. It may be the people who use your services. It may be philanthropists or government entities who are willing to underwrite access so people who can’t pay can benefit from your services. Maybe financially it is enough that you care, if you are fortunate enough to be independently wealthy. But even if you have the money to open a museum regardless of need or desire, will you be happy, after the ribbon cutting, with who does or does not come through the door?

If you find good answers to all these questions, by all means, proceed full speed ahead. And invite me to the opening.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

We love Free! We love Research!

If you follow CFM regularly, you know we love Susie Wilkening and James Chung of Reach Advisors. Of course I mean we love their work--notably their CFM report Museums & Society 2034: Trends and Potential Futures. Come to think of it, we do love James and Susie, too. They are smart and passionate, knowledgeable and articulate about the importance of museums. What's not to love?

Anyway, I am excited to help spread the word about a free research opportunity Susie and James are offering to museums. They are preparing a research project that will dig deeper into their observation (described in Lifestages of the Museum Visitor) that certain kinds of museum experiences are critical catalysts for turning kids into life-long museum geeks-- what Susie and James call Museum Advocates. So Reach Advisors is recruiting museums across the country to participate in a national study. Participating museums will contribute access to their contacts (email lists, Twitter followers, Facebook Fans etc.) and in return get free data they can use about their museum and overall comparables from the other participants to use for benchmarking. The findings will also be shared widely with the field. Follow the Reach Advisors' blog for updates on the project as it evolves.

The current trends in museum visitation are troubling. There is a growing disparity between the demographic profile of museum visitors (largely Caucasian) and the demographics of the US population as a whole, which will be majority minority by mid-century. Even now, we can document a decline in arts participation for reasons that are probably relate both to generational and cultural demographic shifts. This makes it incredibly important that we explore how to nurture the next generation of museum-goers. I encourage museums to participate in the Reach research project--the resulting data may be crucial to our future as a field. And James and Susie do great work.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Managing Holistically—Lessons from Ecosystem Management

This is a second guest blog post from Robert Janes, editor-in-chief of Museum Management and Curatorship, Chair of the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley and former president and CEO of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Canada. Read his first post here. These posts are adapted from Janes’ recently published book Museums in a Troubled World in which he explores the meaning and role of museums as key intellectual and civic resources in a time of profound social and environmental change. You can also hear Janes’ thoughts on the future of museums in his Voices of the Future interview on CFM’s nonprofit YouTube channel.

One of the constant themes throughout this book is the seeming failure of most museums to truly gauge their role and responsibilities in the larger scheme of things. A medley of hesitation, introversion and self-doubt supports the museum’s isolation from mainstream issues and aspirations, with the notable exception of participation in the marketplace. With the exception of those museums that are in search of resilience, the profile of many museums is now being achieved through the notoriety that accrues to consumption—sensational shows, vanity architecture, large private donations and so forth—you’ve heard it all before. This is not dissimilar to the situation confronting environmental scientists and resource managers in the recent past, only they have taken it upon themselves to define a new future for their work with a view to societal values, needs and participation. Museums can learn from this pioneering work and, in so doing, ‘rotate their consciousness’ in a more thoughtful direction.

Resource management is apparently undergoing a fundamental change in the United State, with traditional sustained yield approaches being replaced by what is called ecosystem management. The primary goal of ecosystem management is long-term ecological sustainability, with the recognition that socio-political context is essential, but has been largely ignored. To achieve a more holistic and integrated perspective, ecosystem management emphasizes socially-defined goals and objectives, integrated and holistic science, collaborative decision making and adaptable institutions. This recognition of the need for holistic management highlights the current failure of museums to effectively manage their broader potential as social institutions.

I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by one of the architects of ecosystem management, Hannah Cortner, and what follows is a distillation of a couple of her key observations—which are strikingly relevant for museums.

Ecosystem management attempts to bring the “citizen’s chorus” to the table, answering the question of how specialists will interact with citizens and imbue that performance with wisdom, courage and vision. The challenge is the same for museums, and persists as a result of their inability or reluctance to share authority with outsiders. This deficiency is related directly to the politics of expertise, where the role of the citizen is eclipsed and replaced by experts who have their own values and aspirations. This is certainly a formidable challenge, and ecosystem management employs various principles to address them, beginning with socially defined goals and objectives, coupled with collaborative decision-making. The intention here is to make room for both experts and the public to share in a decision-making process that crosses many boundaries, be they social, cultural or economic.

Cortner and her colleagues believe it is the duty of scientists and scholars to also promote the ideals of democracy and citizenship, a commitment like that of the Field Museum’s
Center for Cultural Understanding and Change. The CCUC describes it’s commitment to public involvement and urban research in its own city and region as follows:

“To use problem-solving anthropological research to identify and catalyze strengths and assets of communities in Chicago and beyond. In doing so, CCUC helps communities identify new solutions to critical challenges such as education, housing, health care, environmental conservation, and leadership development. Through research, programs and access to collections, CCUC reveals the power of cultural difference to transform social life and promote social change.”

Ecosystem management also places great value on integrated and interdisciplinary science, a perennial need in museums, as well as on the importance of adaptable institutions. The latter are flexible, allow decentralized decision-making, and are comfortable with what is called active adaptive management. The purpose of active adaptive management is to learn by experimentation in order to determine the best management, while also involving active stakeholder collaboration.

Ecosystem management is really the attempt to nurture interconnectedness, increase knowledge and thereby evolve professional practice. The broader museum community is in dire need of all these things, although there are admittedly impressive obstacles to developing a new management paradigm. These are various and include the current predilection to look to the marketplace for solving museum issues; the resulting short-term economic thinking; the notion that risk-taking and failure are not acceptable; and the woeful lack of inter-institutional cooperation and collaboration. All of these challenges are the artifacts of convention and comfort, and can be replaced with a rotation of consciousness in the direction of ecosystem management.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quick Thoughts from the CFM Lecture

My mind is still reeling from the boffo lecture Gregory Rodriguez delivered for the Center for the Future of Museums Wednesday night at the Embassy of Canada here in Washington, DC. It is going to take some time to process all these thoughts as we race to prepare a discussion guide for the webcast of the lecture on January 27, 2010, at 2 pm EST. (Stay tuned for instructions on how to register.)

Gregory’s talk,Towards a New Mainstream?, explored the future of museums in a majority-minority nation. It is particularly timely given the release yesterday of the NEA's 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. This report documents a drop in nearly every kind of arts participation —including a drop in the percentage of adults who visit art museums/galleries each year (from 26.5% in 2002 to 22.7% in 2008). The underlying factors for this decline are complex, but the role of Boomers is especially important: as they get older, they are participating less in the arts – while the generation behind them is participating at lower rates than the Boomers did at the same age.

Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the population, and the NEA reports that Latin music concerts are doing better than most other musical events, “attracting larger groups of young audiences, including adults at lower education and income levels.” Are culturally-specific patterns of arts participation of concern to museums? The report notes that 15% of Hispanic adults reported visiting an art museum in the previous year, compared to 26% of non-Hispanic whites. (African Americans visited less often than whites or Hispanics.) But Gregory spent some time pushing the audience to go beyond the facile conclusion that Salsa concerts and annual Day of the Dead exhibits are the answer to diversifying museum attendance.

I’m not going to go further into Gregory’s’ comments—you will have a chance to hear them for yourself during the webcast. I do want to share some of the things that surfaced as he probed my brain while preparing for the talk. Rodriguez is a journalist and a scholar. He freely admits to knowing nothing in particular about museums (though his conversation suggests that he’s no stranger to culture—high, low or in-between). This made our conversations particularly interesting—as some science fiction luminary pointed out, in encounters with alien cultures, you find out more about yourself than you do about them. And I certainly count Gregory (as a journalist and a Californian) as alien to my usual world!

One question Gregory posed bluntly went to the heart of the subject he was asked to address—i.e., the challenges facing museums in an increasingly diverse society. “Is this really a problem for society?” he asked, “and is it really a problem for museums?” My answer was “no and yes.”

No, the imminent status of the US as a majority minority nation isn’t a problem. It’s a fact—and a neutral one at that. I don’t subscribe to the notion that an American society without a dominant ethnic group will fragment our culture or undermine our political system. (Here I’m straying onto Gregory’s turf. He addressed at some length the fact that assimilation, in a good sense, is something that America does well and will probably continue to do well in the future.) And in fact “majority minority” may be an ephemeral concept. It is quite possible that we are on the cusp of a truly blended society. An increasing number of our fellow Americans either identify themselves as being of mixed heritage or refuse to categorize themselves at all, at least not in terms of race or ethnicity. And individuals increasingly pick and choose which traditions—cultural or religious—they want to incorporate into their lives, whether or not the traditions are part of their ethnic or family heritage. I myself, grandchild of Russian Jews and flinty New England whalers, choose to celebrate the Day of the Dead because it has personal meaning for me.

Whether the increasing demographic diversity of the US is a problem for museums depends on which museums over what time frame. I think it will be a big problem for many institutions, now and in the coming few decades. Reach Advisors has documented a gap between the composition of the US population (1/3 minority trending to majority minority in a few decades) and the core museum-going audience (1/10 minority with no sign of budging). Those trend lines collide in a very ugly way. And the problem isn’t simply attendance (though we often focus on that); it is also whether those who control resources (legislators, philanthropists, corporate donors) see museums as serving the needs of an increasingly specific, historically-privileged segment of society rather than the community and society as a whole.

For culturally-specific museums, the cultural blending I cite above may be an even greater threat, if their existence depends on an audience that strongly self-identifies with that specific cultural designation. Already, here in the nation’s capital, I hear debate about how many more culturally-specific museums will be created within the Smithsonian, and whether at some point it would not be better to integrate all these stories into “American History” rather than isolating them in silos.

I hope listening to and discussing Gregory’s lecture will send your thoughts spinning in interesting directions as well. Keep an eye on the CFM website as we post essays and links to related material in the weeks leading up to the webcast. And think about what interesting group of people, inside our outside your museum and community, you might assemble to view the lecture and discuss the issues it explores.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Museum of the Future—your vision reflected here?

A friend who works with, but not in, museums has asked me for predictions regarding characteristics of the museum of the future. He is working on an interesting project to create a prototype of the “future museum” in order to generate conversation inside and outside the field. I’d love to paint a personal vision (including my own universal master key to collections storage and a standing discount on all jewelry in museum stores.) But given the potential impact of this advice, I had better stick to synthesizing what I have heard in the 18 months or so of CFM’s existence. (Of course, much about museums still works and should be preserved—an equally productive discussion could focus on which museum babies should not be thrown out with the bath. But talking about what should change is often more fun. Let’s go there, first.)

So, I predict that the museum of the future will be:

1) Green. (Let’s get this out of the way early, since it is sure to come up.) There is a great deal of debate about what this means—being LEED certified? Generating the museum’s own energy and growing produce for its cafĂ©? Promoting local rather than global tourism? Trying to influence the behavior of visitors in ways that will promote resource conservation? Figuring out how to partner with organizations in China and India to effect change? (After all, these countries’ collective behavior will swamp out the global effects of anything we do in the US to reduce carbon or conserve resources.) At the same time, there is a good deal of consensus that in some way, shape or form most museums of the future will be conspicuously eco-conscious.

2) Personalized. We live in a world where Web applications display ads and search results based on your browsing history and social media connections. There are few remaining technological boundaries to any service organization knowing as much about you as you care to share (and some stuff you wish they didn’t know). As Nina Simon has pointed out, there is no excuse for museums not to provide similarly personalized experiences, rather than acting like their patrons are strangers every time they walk through the door. The museum of the future will track and serve people as individuals—providing personalized benefits, interpretation, suggestions and even access based on your history with them. Liked the show on Giant Ground Sloths last year? Get a tweet reminding you of the upcoming exhibit on Megatheriums. Visited six times in the past year? Get an automatic “get in the door free” next time you show up. Use your iPhone to “tag” your six favorite paintings on your museum user profile, and receive back a list of “you may also like” with a gallery map of where to find these suggestions.

3) Comfortable. In the future, museums will become Ray Oldenburg’s quintessential “third place”—anchors of community life that foster broad, creative interaction between people who might otherwise not interact with each other. This is a huge challenge, but as Robert Janes has written, some kind of “dialog center,” formal or informal, will be as common in museums as food service is now. (Perhaps not as ubiquitous as restrooms.) This requires multiple adaptations in both physical environment, programming and operational behavior. Some of the models Janes discusses include sophisticated technological support for substantive conversations. Other important changes may be low- or no-tech. We will minimize barriers to “just dropping in” (cost/distance/open hours); comfort (places to sit, hang out, eat and drink, access the Internet, kibbitz and even snooze); have fun (structured or unstructured play); and some very thoughtfully engineered support systems to encourage interactions with strangers. (Another topic on which Nina has written extensively.)

4) Interactive. Not in the simple sense of having flip labels to manipulate or computer games to play. Interactive in the true sense that the visitor and the museum act on and influence each other. The CFM report Museums & Society 2034 points out that the up and coming Millennials expect to be actively involved in “curating” their experience, not passive consumers of content. The museum of the future will have many layered strategies for inviting users to contribute to the work of the museum, whether it is encouraging visitors to create and post their own podcast tours of exhibits; research and document the collections based on their own areas of interest and expertise; share their experience of the museum visit with remote users; or participate in core decision-making about planning and use of museum resources. In this way, museums will become an extension of the “mash-up” and “crowdsourcing” cultures promoted by Web 2.0.

5) Flexible. With our physical and cultural environment changing so rapidly, it no longer makes sense to invest our resources in capital projects that may be outdated within the decade. The buildings we do construct will need to be able to change with the times, and we may have less emphasis on single sites and more on distributed content. Museums of the future will truly embody Louis Sullivan’s dictum that “form follows function,” which may mean “following” the museum out into the community, or into the virtual realm. Museums will invest more in making their resources accessible, and delivering their services to people where the people live, and less to monumental and relatively inflexible architecture.

Whew. That is my quick data dump of what I have heard in dozens of conversations around the country, and I am sure I have left out more than I have put in. Please add your two cents here in comments on the blog, or as video musings at Voices of the Future! When those outside the museum community take an interest in what we do, it can lead to productive dialog and collaborations about change.