Reinventing the Museum (III)

While I agree with many of the points made in the readings this week, I’m happy we are finishing Reinventing the Museum. The arguments against top down management in favor of cyclical (383-384), or creating a guiding coalition for implementing innovation (524) are great, however these authors need more concrete examples of success in the 21st century. I feel these authors are reacting to the economic slump we have found ourselves in and are trying to shape a future for museums without many examples of what success looks like.

For example the article by the Institute of Museum and Library Services gives plenty of examples of the way the job market is changing and what skills are needed for the future, but the list they provided has no weight behind it because there is no evidence accompanying it. I would much rather read about a specific institution that is succeeding in 2013. What are they doing? What skills are they looking for? As far as I saw, these articles did not give enough examples from the real world. Even though they give great advice, if I was a museum director I couldn’t use this book to guide me in decision making because none of the models on these pages give examples of success. The blog we explored does give examples of emerging trends, however it is a blog and lacks the rigors of publishing. Again, if I was a museum director putting together a proposal for a major directional change for my institution, could I cite Reinventing the Museum or the Future blog as evidence for my decision? Why should I trust these sources if they can’t show some examples of their model working?

The reading this week reminded me of an interview on the Colbert Report with the Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom. In his new book Citizenville, Newsom argues for similar changes in local governments to the changes advocated in Reinventing the Museum – open access, individualized interactions, two-way conversations, etc. While Newsom’s ideas seem great and point to a better model for governing, he spoke to Stephen only using mantras and techspeak. Colbert continued to ask Newsom what he was getting at, but the Lt. Governor couldn’t explain himself without using the 21st century abstract sayings. Colbert said,  “What do you mean? Again, every single one of these things could be carved on a stone and put in someone’s garden as like, as like a mantra.” This may be just what happens when we try to describe the future without really knowing what to expect.

I think we have some good ideas here, with reinventing our institutions for the 21st century. I think we need some more writing on some good case studies or examples from places that are making a difference in their community. The Denver Public Library for example, has some innovative programs worth studying. I would like see some ideas put to action!

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