Saturday, 8 May 2010

The challenge for museums in the 21st century?

Nick Serota, Director of the Tate, writes about modern museums in 'Why Tate Modern needs to expand'. I'm not sure he convinces me that the expansion needs to be physical, but it's a brilliant case for expanding Tate's online presence:

The world also sees museums differently. Wide international access, directly or through digital media and at all levels of understanding offers the opportunity for new kinds of collaboration with individuals and institutions.

The traditional function of the museum has been that of instruction, with the curator setting the terms of engagement between the visitor and the work of art. But in the past 20 years the development of the internet, the rise of the blog and social networking sites, as well as the more direct intervention in museum spaces by artists themselves, has begun to change the expectations of visitors, and their relationship with the curator as authoritative specialist. The challenge for museums in the 21st century is to find new ways of engaging with much more demanding, sophisticated and better informed viewers. Our museums have to respond to and become places where ideas, opinions and experiences are exchanged, and not simply learned.

...
The museum of the 21st century should be based on encounters with the unfamiliar and on exchange and debate rather than only on an idea of the perfect muse—private reflection and withdrawal from the "real" world. Of course, the museum continues to provide a place of contemplation and of protection from the direct pressures of the commercial and the market. It has to have some anchors or fixed points for orientation and stability, but it also has to be a dynamic space for ideas, conversations and debate about new and historic art within a global context.
The Tate's Head of Online, John Stack, has put the Tate Online Strategy 2010–12, including their 'Ten principles for Tate Online'.  Go read it - with any luck UK parliament will have managed to form a government by the time you're done.

So, do you agree with Serota? What are the challenges you face in your museum in the 21st century?

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