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Strategies to fight budget cuts in cultural programmes

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In times of "lean economy" museums and other cultural heritage related institutions and programmes must come up with a maximum of creativity and strategic thinking to obtain the most from as little as …

In times of "lean economy" museums and other cultural heritage related institutions and programmes must come up with a maximum of creativity and strategic thinking to obtain the most from as little as might be available. In this presentation - first shown on 13 November 2011 at the Digital Youth of Central Asia Forum in Dushanbe via video conference on Skype, some possible approaches to the issue are discussed, while hinting at the roots of the problem - way back in the mid Eighties - when public programming failed to keep private sponsors from investing in large, expensive, but prevalently ephemeral projects.

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  • 1. Strategies to Fight Budget Cuts in Cultural Programmes: From Volunteering to Crowdsourcing Alessandro Califano Senior Curator, crdav Rome, Italy Digital Youth of Central Asia Forum Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 13 November 2011
  • 2. The Setting 1/4
    • In a sluggish economy, budget cuts – though in the long run probably self defeating – are the rule.
    • … And the cultural sector is often one of the first to suffer of significant budget cuts.
  • 3. The Setting 2/4
    • In the UK, according to the Daily Telegraph, the amount of Government money available for cultural heritage and the arts was to be cut by 33% in 2010.
    • ANAI (National Association of Italian Archives) recently explained: “... in 2016, archives will operate with only 50% of the staff they’d need to properly work .”
  • 4. The Setting 3/4
    • According to the British MLA “ Four out of five of the UK’s top tourist attractions are museums .”
    • “ Investing in culture means to be making an investment for the future. ” (Sergio Escobar, Director of the Piccolo Theatre in Milan, Italy)
    • But cutting budget continues…
  • 5. The Setting 4/4
    • … though this sounds like cutting the throat of the Goose that laid golden eggs !
  • 6. The Roots of this…
    • … can be found – in many Western countries – in the mid and late '80s, when large companies invested in big projects, while the State wasn't able to force private sponsors to initiatives less ephemeral than blockbuster exhibitions (like the  Riace bronzes  fad) or mass events (as the RAI sponsored Pink Floyd in Venice concert in 1989).
  • 7. Looking for Ways Out
    • Having a low budget is often the given setting both in “start-up” heritage related (ad)ventures and in established institutions.
    • But this shouldn’t however be limiting our creative thinking…
  • 8. A First Strategy: Volunteering
    • Around 2003, a first strategy to fight budget cuts that were strangling cultural programmes was seen in rallying volunteers.
    • Graduates were accepted in Cultural Heritage related institutions, and trained to be able to work on a voluntary basis along with regular staff.
  • 9. Volunteering: the Pros and Cons
    • Rallying together volunteers meant having a readily available working force of young, bright and well trained labourers.
    • However, regulations allowed them to stay no longer than 6 to 12 months: as soon as they were well trained, they had to leave.
    • Moreover, since they volunteered, exploitation was around the corner even by telecommuting .
  • 10. Another Strategy: the Information Society 1/3
    • Making better use of the potential of ICT in the virtual Information Society is a strategy taken into account in the last few years.
    • The first step of this strategy was to use ICT, and particularly the Web, as a window to better show off an event, a collection, an exhibition .
  • 11. Another Strategy: the Information Society 2/3
    • Collecting “ followers ” on Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), or Twitter (2006), became a way to inexpensively convey information to one's audience.
    • People could be alerted of a new show to come, be informed of a press coverage, or be attracted to a special evening... or by pictures of past events.
  • 12. Another Strategy: the Information Society 3/3
    • But all this was still a one-way communication, and feedback forms, emails, or guest books could not transform an institutional web site in a real Web 2.0 experience.
    • What was missing was actual involvement of people interested in one's own activities and programmes.
  • 13.
    • Even QR codes , that at New York's MoMA were featured on wall labels of the recent Talk to Me exhibition, simply link to a web site, adding to the interpretation... but not to real interactivity.
  • 14. Participation and Sharing 1/3
    • A real step forward can be considered the Spend Less, Let Others Work approach.
    • Archaeological museums could for instance profit of pictures posted on Flickr to:
    • Complete their photo archive at no cost, linking to images of the area that interests them
    • Assemble a list of people interested in their collection.
  • 15. Participation and Sharing 2/3
    • Other institutions set up space in their own YouTube account, in order not only to post self produced videos about events they organize, but also to let people upload their own videos about that same events.
    • This fosters:
    • Stronger customer / audience loyalty
    • A steady growth of shared content.
  • 16. Participation and Sharing 3/3
    • Even greater freedom given to the public to help shaping events and setting priorities is achieved when contributions from visitors or interested people are directly used.
    • Posted to the web site of an institution – or to a dedicated screen at an exhibition – they thus become part of the event itself.
  • 17. Crowdsourcing , as this is called, really seems to be at the same time a rich source of content, an effective way to attract interest, and a tool to develop a network of loyal, interested people.
  • 18. Summing it up
    • Reacting to budget shortage means to think creatively and strategically, adopting available FOSS tools and the Web to maximize output of given resources.
    • While relying on volunteers can only bring us so far, knowledge sharing and virtual participation take us much further, and full involvement of the public in a programme is likely to bring it to a full success.
  • 19. Credits
    • Spend Less, Let Others Work – was the title of the 5 th session of a UNESCO workshop led in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, by Alessandro Califano (13 June 2008).
    • The image on Slide 5 is by Milo Winter (via Wikipedia) – see: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19994
    • The image on Slide 17 is by Roberta Lilliu / Alterstudio sas (in interactive systems for social networks , Parma, 1 October 2011).
    • The image on Slide 20 is by themuseologist (via museumstudies on tumblr, 4 March 2011).
  • 20. Thank you, tashakor, спасибо !

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