A short interview with MuseumNext founder Jim Richardson by Public Art Magazine, Korea.
How did MuseumNext start?
MuseumNext came out the shifting technological landscape of the first decade of the 21st century. Digital media was transforming society and shifting audience expectations and we saw that museums needed to embrace change, or risk extinction.
What is the main philosophy that made Museum Next possible?
MuseumNext is built very much around a community of like-minded people, museum professionals who are shaping the future of museums. Our conferences bring together this community to talk about best practice today to shine a light on the museum of tomorrow.
The scale of Museum Next which first started as a small workshop now have grown so much in less than 10 years. What do you think the key to it?
I think that the growth of MuseumNext represents a real hunger for innovation in museums. The people who attend our events are hungry for new ideas and by bringing together our international community, we share what is working and what isn’t for the benefit of everyone.
The conference used to be held once a year is now held twice a year since 2015. Is there a reason for it?
MuseumNext has always grown with the help and encouragement of the community that attend the event. Last year we were invited to hold a North American edition in Indianapolis and we thought it was a great way to reach museum professionals who aren’t able to travel to the European edition.
It proved a huge success and we’ll be returning to the United States in November for our New York museum conference. That organic growth continues and we’ll be announcing our first event in Australia very soon.
How is the venue selected? Is it co-managed or supported?
We are invited to bring the conference to many cities every year, but it works best when we are working with people who’ve attended MuseumNext and understand what makes it unique.
Working with members of our community means that the conference attendees really see the best of what a city has to offer, from behind the scenes tours of museums and historic sites to visiting the restaurants and bars which tourists wouldn’t normally find.
It also means that we can highlight best practice from that country or city.
How do you select MuseumNext speakers?
MuseumNext uses a call for papers to find the majority of the speakers for each conference, these are reviewed and presentations chosen by members of our community.
We receive upwards of 700 proposals every year, and the standard of presentations both in terms of delivery and content is extremely high.
If the most valued keyword is “what’s next for museums”, could you explain about sub-themes that were discussed in each conference?
The conference started with tech at it’s heart, but now in the post digital world where technology is very much a tool of innovation rather than driving change, we focus on a wide variety of issues.
The role of museums as activists is theme that is very strong this year, looking at the power that cultural institutions have to inform the public about challenging issues, how museums add to the political power of a city and how we can ensure that culture is open to all.
Do you see the debates/presentations actually changing the future of museums?
The museum leaders who come to MuseumNext are reshaping the sector through there work and we are a platform that brings these exciting individuals together.
What MuseumNext really excels at is being a catalyst for these people to collaborate. We have had people who have met at the conference produce exhibitions together, build technology together and collaborations between artists and museums happen. With delegates from more than forty countries, these collaborations span the globe.
What do you think the participants could gain from Museum Next?
I think the biggest benefit of coming to MuseumNext is the opportunity to network with museum leaders from around the globe. Those discussions over lunch or at one of our receptions can lead to a different perspective from someone from another country or culture, advice from someone who has faced similar challenges and collaborations with the world’s greatest museums and galleries.
What is the ultimate purpose of Museum Next?
MuseumNext is a catalyst for inspiration, innovation and collaboration.