Reinventing the Museum: Take Three

Creating a New Business Model seemed to lack depth.  In explaining how to create a new business model, John Falk and Beverly Sheppard write that “change has always been a part of our world” and that “museums will ultimately be forced to reject the approach” that museum success is derived from museum attendance.  The first statement is obvious, as are many of their seemingly grandiose statements about formulating a new business model.  The authors clearly explain how to create and maintain a successful business model; however, they fail to explain in greater detail how museums will be forced to reject their client based, ergo financial based, model that rewards the amount of visitors.  If museums drastically change their business model, yet fail to garner high levels of visitor attendance, what was the point of changing their business model in the first place?  I feel that the authors cut their argument short of the most influential part, a deeper understanding of their final claims.  This article would have benefited from further discussing how a business model entails so much more than financial motives.  Business models work towards a goal, and museums need to work towards a goal that is based in individualized value and more meaningful education for all.  Most importantly, museums need to create a business model that values the individual patron.  Museums will surely die if they fail to garner much needed funds from their patrons.  Seeing as patrons will only frequent museums that have business models ensuring beneficial, meaningful experiences for their patrons, it is clearly in the best interest of museums to create a better business model.

Museums and Libraries in the 21st Century has great potential as an article.  The Institute of Museum and Library Services clearly sets up their argument; they intend to explain how to cope with the significant shifts in our economy, our societal needs, and audience expectations.  The pages of bullet points, while some certainly hold valuable information, read as a “How To Handbook.”  Many of the points are rather ambiguous and would greatly benefit from being applied to an example, or at least being linked together in written format rather than standing alone as self-evident bullet points.  Rather than simply stating that museums and libraries should “articulate thoughts and ideas effectively…use communication for a range of purposes…[and]utilize multiple media and technologies…” the authors should have applied there ideas about the need to communicate effectively to specific examples.  Demonstrating how these ideas have been implemented in a specific institution and explaining how the communication transformation has directly benefited the specific institution will surely hold more gravity for readers.  This real-life application can be applied to all of the categories.  It is one thing to say that museums and libraries should “apply knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and skills across disciplines in appropriate and effective ways,” but it is a completely different (and more beneficial) thing to explain how to implement changes that will allow libraries and museums to incorporate techniques that will encourage learning across multiple disciplines.  Real substantive, applicative examples would greatly substantiate the many ideas advanced in this article.

John P. Kotter makes up for the lack of application and depth in Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.  After explaining what he sees as the eight essential steps to transforming organizations, Kotter offers real-life examples of what happens if you fail to reach each step.  Kotter writes about what happens if an organization fails to create a powerful enough guiding coalition while trying to transform an organization.  By explaining what goes wrong when each step is not clearly met, not creating a useful vision for example, Kotter is able to reach organization members and organization leaders.  Organizations, not just museums, will benefit from implementing his eight step process because his process entails applicative examples of what not to do while explaining what organizations need to do.  This article serves as a great end to the text, offering valuable hope for those working in the field while serving as a harbinger of what is to come if organizations, museums included, fail to enact lasting, meaningful change.

Dan Spock makes a great argument for transforming museums to better cater to the public in order to survive in In Defense of Nostalgia.  He explains that history museums must create “highly personalized ways” for individuals to “experience nostalgia.”  He also illuminates the fact that people will be more apt to attend history museums if they see the museum and its artifacts as relevant.  He concludes that museums must accommodate the desires of the public by utilizing personal stories, allowing individuals to feel as if they are a part of the exhibit, and encouraging social interactions throughout the museum in order to survive.  Spock also offers great insights into the many roles museums are expected to fill.  Museums must protect, serve, educate…the list goes on and on.  Museums exist because of the many roles they fill.  Effectively run museums protect artifacts and successfully encapsulate history through lively exhibits.  Museums provide a valuable service to the community, most commonly practiced via furthering knowledge.  Museums are important because of the services they provide, this is the reason so many professionals are working to maintain, enliven, and transform museums.


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