MuseumNext Amsterdam attracted over 450 delegates from 30 countries joining us at the city’s old stock exchange, the Beurs van Berlage for the fifth annual European Museum Conference. While the core of the conference was still based around digital media, the context had shifted. Museums were now embracing digital but many were still unsure about how best to integrate this into their institutions.
This theme of institutional change was echoed throughout the presentations with Michael John Gorman, Director of the Science Gallery, Tony Butler, Director of the Museum of East Anglian Life and Seb Chan, Director of Digital and Emerging Media at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum giving some of the most thought provoking presentations, outlining three very different visions of the future of museums.
We partnered with Dutch organisation N8, who work to connect a young audience with local museums, and they organised a series of excellent fringe activities for delegates, including an evening symposium at the Zuiderkirk. The symposium provided an inspiring start to the conference with a series of presentations juxtaposing heritage and retail. This was followed by a drinks reception, which kept delegates talking well into the night.
The main conference started the following morning, offering delegates four keynote seminars, more than forty presentations and a range of unconference sessions and masterclasses. Once again this was achieved through a call for papers, which attracted several hundred applications from museum professionals around the globe.
The opening keynote, which sparked much discussion, was given by Seb Chan, who shared how his institution in New York had been reinventing itself for the 21st century and how ‘digital’ ran through every aspect of this change. This was followed by presentations from the National Museum of Denmark, Museu National d’Art de Catalunya, Imperial War Museum, University College London, ICOM, Rangsit University, Mediamatic, Flow Associates and Brazilian museum consultant Luis Marcelo Mendes.
The afternoon started with a keynote from Dave Patten, Head of Digital at the Science Museum London. He talked about the museum’s collaboration with Google to create Web lab — a new kind of exhibition which takes the experience beyond the walls and joins it to online spaces which are accessible 24 hours a day.
Other presentations from National Museum of Denmark, Peabody Essex Museum, University of Ulster, National Gallery of Denmark, Victoria & Albert Museum, MOSI, Museum of East Anglian Life and University of Manchester took place over the afternoon in addition to MuseumCamp, an unconference session run by Mar Dixon, which gave anyone the opportunity to share and discuss their ideas. Following a busy day of learning, the delegates were invited to the Van Gogh Museum for drinks and a private view hosted by the museum’s Director, Axel Rüger, and organised by N8.
The second day of the conference started with a keynote from Peter Gorgels of the Rijksmuseum, who shared a case study of the Rijkstudio. This project aimed to anchor the museum in the world of digital image culture and open design by releasing 125,000 images to the public. Other morning sessions were delivered by Royal Museum of Antwerp, American artist Hal Kirkland, Fabrique, Q42, N8, DUS Architects, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, TATE and ArteConTacto.
Michael John Gorman, the Director of the Science Gallery Dublin, delivered the afternoon keynote. He shared his museum’s exciting approach involving the local community in the development of their exhibitions. Michael John also revealed that his museum would be opening bases across the world following sponsorship from Google. Following this session, Dutch museum consultant Jasper Visser ran Open Stage, an unconference session, with presentations from MoMA, Dallas Art Museum, AR Lab, Dosdoce, National Gallery Denmark, Whitney Museum of American Art and Amsterdam Museum.
The Conference received great feedback:
‘A great conference. I had so many great conversations with all sorts of people and have come away with so many new thoughts about all sorts of things.’
Andrew Lewis, Victoria and Albert Museum
‘MuseumNext may be the most lively, fresh and young conference there is.’
Peter Gorgels, Rijksmuseum
‘MuseumNext was excellent, very positive, great commitment to innovation.’
Tony Butler, Museum of East Anglian Life