What next for museums? An interview with Jim Richardson (Founder- MuseumNext) #MCMexclusive

What inspired you to start MuseumNext?
MuseumNext was started in response to the digital revolution. I was working in arts marketing at the time and saw a big shift in the way in which the public were using digital technology.

The internet was making it possible for anyone to have their say and diminishing the role of the expert. I felt that if museums didn’t respond to this societal shift, then they might no longer be relevant.

Our first MuseumNext conferences focused on digital, but over the last decade we’ve broadened what we discuss to embrace all aspects of the future of museums.

How would you describe the evolution of museums?
I think museums have in the twenty years I’ve worked with them, moved from being inward looking and object focused to being much more outward looking and audience focused.To me it’s a very positive change.

And what do you think is next for museums?
I don’t think you can point to one future for museums, there are so many people working on taking their institutions in a multitude of different directions. It’s exciting times.

From the movement to decolonise European and North American Museums, to the fight to have better representation for both female artists, to the growing environmental movement in museums to moving beyond the idea that any one person can represent a community.

Technology is still playing a big role too, but these tools have moved from driving change to facilitating it.

Is next the same in all Global markets?
The museum world is so interconnected that I think the ideas flow around the world. What I do think divides museums in all countries is money. With some highly visible museum brands having huge resources and many less well known institutions really struggling.

How diverse is the MuseumNext community?
We bring together delegates from more than forty countries, so MuseumNext conferences feel much more international than most museum events.I think this international reach is what makes the community special, and we’re continuing to grow. For the first six years of MuseumNext we held one conference each year, that’s now expanded to five events across three continents. We’re also looking at how we can use the web to encourage conversations about the future of museums, publishing regular articles on everything from how museums are using virtual reality to museums and health.

What are your top presentations from the MuseumNext archive?
We’ve filmed hundred’s of hours of MuseumNext conferences and put them online for anyone to enjoy free of charge. 

A few highlights would be Nina Simon talking about her community based approach to museums, Adam Lerner talking about how to build an awesome Art Museum and Scott Stulen talking about introducing fun into the museum.

What can we look forward to at upcoming MuseumNext conferences?
We’re now attracting speakers who I never thought would be possible, for example the Director of the V&A who is speaking in London next month and acclaimed author Seth Godin who will keynote our New York event.
We’re also expanding the number of events that we do, the subjects that we cover and the cities that we run events in, so it’s an exciting time for MuseumNext.

What’s next?
We’re looking at new ways to enable our community to share ideas about the future of museums. That might be articles, streaming conferences, new kinds of events but it’s all focused on helping enabling museum change makers to inspire and be inspired.

You can find out more about MuseumNext by clicking below.

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