Pathways are not destinations….

…but we still need them to get where we want to be.

Lewes Castle, East Sussex

Lewes Castle, East Sussex

You’re the top! you’re the Collosseum, You’re the top! you’re the Louvre Museum,

You’re the melody from a symphony by Strauss, You’re a Bendel bonnet,

A Shakespeare Sonnet, You’re Mickey Mouse!

–Lyrics to Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top,” from Anything Goes (1934)


I sat down today to write a blog about the top trends identified by our doughty advisory board in the 2011 Horizon Report> Museum Edition.  And I’m going to, after this brief public service announcement.

After (more than) 25 years in this business one of the aspects of the brave new world of museums I, and probably you too, have come to realize that it is terribly easy to confuse the pathways to my desired destination and so to make my point painfully obvious I’ve started with an image of Lewes Castle in East Sussex and some lyrics from Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top.”

In museums, as in the world of fashion,  some folks are meant to be trend-setters metaphorically wearing the tools and technology equivalent of the outrageous cutting edge fashions, getting feedback (good and bad), and eventually discarding these seasons favorites–the parachute pants,  fur vest, stirrup pants, blazers with shoulder pads,  skinny jeans, combat boots, and the hoodies–in favor of the next new thing.  Others are less adventurous and stick to classic tools and technologies that have served us in the past–the little black dress, the blazer and khakis, the two piece suit [single vent please], the wingtip, and the plain old black pump–until such time as one of the newer tools or technologies shows signs of becoming a classic.   To continue this tortured analogy I am reminded of a quote from the actor Kyle McLachlan, who said: “Actors have an unusual perspective on clothing. You’ve really got to know the impact of what you’re wearing on the character you’re playing.”

I’m asking you out there to keep McLachlan’s comment in mind as you peruse the  2011 Horizon Report>Museum Edition.  Read it to understand the trends and technologies, particularly if your institution is going to be embarking on a project, but be conscious of the impact of the tools and technologies you choose on internal and external audiences.  Is a choice a good fit for your institution?  Your collection?  Can you successfully manage a project?  Do you have the time to do it right?  The right people with the right skill sets?  Do you have all the assets you need to reach your goal (financial and otherwise)?

You don’t have to be a trendsetter to be at the top of your game.  But, to continue mixing my metaphors and analogies with a Friday morning reckless abandon, we all know from fairy tales we know that frumpy luddites (and frogs) and have to make some decisions about the path they are going to take if ending up in a castle is the goal.  Don’t keep hanging out at the bottom of the hill.

With that said,  here is a sampling of the trends this year’s advisory board feels museum professionals need to know about in 2012:

  1. Increasingly, visitors and staff expect a seamless experience across devices.
  2. Collection-related rich media are becoming increasingly valuable assets in digital interpretation.
  3. The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.
  4. There is a growing chorus of voices advocating a more active role for visitors in shaping what museums do.
  5. Digitization and cataloging projects continue to require a significant share of museum resources.
  6. Expectations for civic and social engagement are profoundly changing museums’ scope, reach, and relationships.

What’s your focus going to be in 2012?

You may not see me on the runway, but I’ll be there in the audience taking notes and making a plan.




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