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MuseumNext’s 2021: a look back at some of this year’s most popular stories

It’s been another turbulent, discombobulating year with the covid pandemic affecting more or less everything we do. However, despite this, museums have continued to tackle difficult subjects, embrace new ways of doing things and generally being a beacon of hope for the future.

MuseumNext published were many stories about COVID-19 and how museums were coping with the pandemic throughout the year but also news stories and features about they were being used (when able to open) as places to improve mental health and wellbeing.

There were also stories about repatriation and decolonising museums, the use of technology and the fight against censorship of art on social media. Here is a snapshot of MuseumNext’s 2021:

Museum Visits Prescribed to Combat Covid-Related Stress

In Belgium a three-month trial was initiated in September by medical professionals to use museums trips as to rebuild patients’ mental health during the pandemic.

Patients undergoing treatment for stress at the Brugmann Hospital in Brussels, for example, were offered prescriptions to visit five museums in the capital.

Inspired by a similar initiative in Quebec, Canada, Delphine Houba, Brussels’ Alderwoman of Culture, said the scheme would help with stress and burnout resulting from the Covid crisis.

MuseumNext will be exploring the benefit museums have on our mental health in our first virtual conference of 2022, the Museums, Health and Wellbeing Summit in January.

Read the full story

Radiohead create immersive museum exhibition launched on gaming platform

In November Radiohead launched an immersive museum experience to mark the 21st anniversary of the release of their Kid A and Amnesiac albums.

The band said they had originally planned a physical museum exhibition possibly at the V&A but logistical problems coupled with COVID-19 restrictions led them to take the concept online.

The result was a virtual Radiohead world where visitors would manoeuvre through like they would a computer game and their music was played in the background. It seemed to pique the interests of MuseumNext readers who found the project exciting and inspiring as it opened up the possibilities of these bespoke online worlds for museums.

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What does it mean to decolonize a museum?

In this article oral historian, Elisa Shoenberger delved into the many museum projects underway to decolonise their spaces and began with exploring what defines decolonisation.

She finds that it is not only reflecting diversity but also about how museums treat indigenous people and other minorities in their collections. The Australian Museum in Sydney, for example, is in the middle of a 10-year Indigenous Roadmap Project where it has worked with First Nation People to get a better understanding of its collection of arrowheads.

The article also discovers how some view decolonisation as an ‘upfront challenge to white supremacy and de-centering the Eurocentric view’ and questions who museums serve and who has the power and authority over collections and narratives.

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Vienna Tourist Board opens OnlyFans account for museums’ ‘explicit’ content

At first glance this story seems quite amusing but is really about museums in Vienna making a serious point on censorship by social media organisations.

In the past five years various museums in the Austrian capital have had accounts suspended over the censorship rules implemented by social media companies, which the tourist board calls a ‘new wave of prudishness’.

The latest institute to have problems was the Albertina Museum whose TikTok account was blocked in July for showing works by the Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. The solution was to move some of the museums’ content to the OnlyFans platform, which was set up to provide a space for users to publish explicit content to their subscribers.

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Why we need museums now more than ever

In April Rebecca Carlsson gave us five reasons why we need museums now more than ever.

These ranged from addressing key social issues to transforming how we see the future. She argued that the humble museum has the power to reflect and shape our society.

Not only can our museums bring history to life, she says, but they can also shine a light on our past, present and future – a light which can be hard to find elsewhere.

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IKEA Launches a Digital Museum

IKEA, the global brand which provides home furnishings, launched a purely digital platform in October bringing its old collections and exhibits to a global audience.

The digital repository was launched to celebrate the company’s seven decades of producing consumer catalogues.

In light of the current pandemic, the Swedish furniture giant decided that it would augment its physical museum in Älmhult with a virtual one. Now, anybody who wants to visit its vast collection of old catalogues to review the changing sense of style since the middle of the 20th century can do so in the comfort of their homes (probably sitting on some IKEA furniture).

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Paris Museum Train launched to encourage passengers to visit city’s artworks

The Paris Museum Train is decorated with works from some of the city’s 14 municipality museums and travels along Line C of the Réseau Express Régional (Regional Express Network).

The idea was to encourage passengers to visit the museums situated along the line the train passes through and ‘enjoy a cultural moment’.

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AR transforms National Gallery equine classics into My Little Pony portraits

The My Little Pony Magical Gallery was launched in September to coincide with the release of the film My Little Pony: A New Generation on Netflix.

An AR app – free to all visitors and accessible through QR codes around the gallery – uses image recognition to instantly augment ten iconic horse paintings into the New Generation of Earth Ponies, Unicorns and Pegasi.

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How museums can adapt their content to new short-video formats

Using video-based content as a marketing tool has been incredible successful recently with a 41% rise in the number of businesses using video since 2016, and many marketers suggesting that video provides a positive return on investment.

Here social media strategist, Hollie Hilton provides tips for museums wanting to capitalise on this trend, suggesting what video platform to use and shares short video ideas for their organisations.

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We wish all our readers a happy 2022!

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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