See the world in a grain of sand:Communicating through Objects andCollectionsNick Poole, CEO, Collections TrustChair, ICOM...
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. This is my firstvisit to Belgrade. It is a great honour to be here and I ...
The Collections TrustWe work with museums, archives and libraries to help unlock thepotential of their Collections.We do t...
To see a world in a grain of sand,And a heaven in a flower,Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,And eternity in an hour....
What kind of museum person are you?What can museums do to change the world?How is the world changing museums?
What kind of museum person are you?What can museums do to change the world?How is the world changing museums?
What kind of museum person are you?                 Objects              Experiences                  Facts               ...
What kind of museum person are you?                Objects       “The first duties of the                                 ...
What kind of museum person are you?                   Objects            Experiences    “The first duty of the museum    i...
What kind of museum person are you?    “It is not the objects                    Objects    themselves, but the           ...
What kind of museum person are you?                              “The first duty of the museum                 Objects    ...
All of these impulses (and many others) co-exist in museums. Weare a tribe with many faiths and perspectives. The joyful t...
What constitutes success for you/your role/your museum?A.   More visitorsB.   Happy visitorsC.   Happy DirectorD.   Happy ...
What kind of museum person are you?What can museums do to change the world?How is the world changing museums?
Some current projects….
Me in 3D, Science Museum, London
Down the Back of the Sofa, Derby Museum
Skin, Wellcome Collection, London
London Riots, Museum of London
Meditation flashmob, British Museum
Rethinking Disability, Leicester Museum
All of these museums are working towards a social purpose –they are using the idea of the ‘museum’ in creative ways toprov...
“People come to museums because they want to see things thatthey couldn’t see anywhere else. They want them interpreted by...
History of the World in 100 Objects
A History of the World in 100 ObjectsBeautiful things, selected by a world-leading expert, used toillustrate the defining ...
The pragmatic challenge…“This is all well and good, and of course we want to make theworld a better place. But you aren’t ...
What kind of museum person are you?What can museums do to change the world?How is the world changing museums?
How is the world changing museums?The Activist MuseumThe Democratic MuseumThe Online MuseumThe Economic MuseumThe Sacred M...
The Activist Museum’Over the past decade, we have started to rewrite the socialcontract between museums and their users. I...
We change lives…We believe that museums are places for ideas and dialogue that use collectionsto inspire people.We are a d...
Holocaust Exhibition, Imperial War Museum
The Democratic Museum‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life oftheir community’ – Art. 27 Unive...
Monuments of Great Cultural ImportanceEmbodies special significance pertaining to the social, historicaland cultural devel...
Monuments of Great Cultural ImportanceEmbodies special significance pertaining to the social, historicaland cultural devel...
Revisiting Collections
The Online MuseumThe web solves the problems it is good at solving – distance,time, flexibility. But in itself, the web ca...
‘Your Paintings’ tagger – Public Catalogue Foundation
The Economic MuseumAnalysed as a business, a museum makes very little sense.Why do we duplicate functions such as conserva...
The Sacred MuseumMuseums contain objects of great cultural, social, aesthetic andreligious significance, including physica...
Sand Painting, Horniman Museum, London
The New Collections ManagementThese roles must be powered by a new Collections ManagementSystems that were built to publis...
Towards Strategic Collections Management  Users          Politics          Funding          Culture   External factors    ...
The museum is an endlessly adaptable canvas on which you canexplore the full range of human, social, personal and emotiona...
“A museum must serve a public purpose”
“A museum must be relevant”
“A museum must be unafraid”
Nick PooleChief Executive, Collections TrustChair, ICOM UKBlog: http://openculture.collectionstrustblogs.org.ukEmail: nick...
Workshop Question1. What is your museum’s Mission Statement?2. What is the most important indicator of success for you/you...
Communicating through objects and collections belgrade
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Communicating through objects and collections belgrade

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A presentation to the Serbian museum community as part of their 'Reshaping the Museum' project - addressing questions of the social purpose of museums, and the implications of new models for Collections Management.

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Communicating through objects and collections belgrade

  1. 1. See the world in a grain of sand:Communicating through Objects andCollectionsNick Poole, CEO, Collections TrustChair, ICOM UK
  2. 2. Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. This is my firstvisit to Belgrade. It is a great honour to be here and I lookforward to learning from you about your work.I am sorry that I must present in English. Please do feel free totranslate for your colleagues, and please do raise your hand if Iuse language that is not clear, or am speaking too quickly. Iwould much rather explain than waste your time!Thank you for your attention
  3. 3. The Collections TrustWe work with museums, archives and libraries to help unlock thepotential of their Collections.We do this by:• Providing know-how• Developing and promoting excellence• Challenging existing practices• Pioneering new ideas• Bringing experts togetherFind out more at http://www.collectionslink.org.uk
  4. 4. To see a world in a grain of sand,And a heaven in a flower,Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,And eternity in an hour.Museums are places of meaning and connection. We have anactive role to play in a healthy and harmonious society, but whatis that role and how can we make the most of it?
  5. 5. What kind of museum person are you?What can museums do to change the world?How is the world changing museums?
  6. 6. What kind of museum person are you?What can museums do to change the world?How is the world changing museums?
  7. 7. What kind of museum person are you? Objects Experiences Facts Narratives
  8. 8. What kind of museum person are you? Objects “The first duties of the Experiences museum are to collect, conserve and display material culture, to protect the nation’s treasures and to showcase the high points of human creativity” Facts Narratives
  9. 9. What kind of museum person are you? Objects Experiences “The first duty of the museum is to create an open, welcoming environment in which people can come and enjoy the experience of beautiful, inspiring things” Facts Narratives
  10. 10. What kind of museum person are you? “It is not the objects Objects themselves, but the Experiences connections between them and the stories they can tell. The duty of the museum is to weave narratives and objects together to help people understand the world around them” Facts Narratives
  11. 11. What kind of museum person are you? “The first duty of the museum Objects is to provide an authoritative Experiences record of the development of the natural and man-made world. We must collect and preserve type specimens and objects based on our authoritative and scientific Facts knowledge.” Narratives
  12. 12. All of these impulses (and many others) co-exist in museums. Weare a tribe with many faiths and perspectives. The joyful thingabout museums is that the idea of a ‘museum’ is broad enoughto accommodate all of them.Do you know what success looks like for your museum?
  13. 13. What constitutes success for you/your role/your museum?A. More visitorsB. Happy visitorsC. Happy DirectorD. Happy politiciansE. More moneyF. More objectsG. Better objectsH. Don’t know/not sureI. Other…
  14. 14. What kind of museum person are you?What can museums do to change the world?How is the world changing museums?
  15. 15. Some current projects….
  16. 16. Me in 3D, Science Museum, London
  17. 17. Down the Back of the Sofa, Derby Museum
  18. 18. Skin, Wellcome Collection, London
  19. 19. London Riots, Museum of London
  20. 20. Meditation flashmob, British Museum
  21. 21. Rethinking Disability, Leicester Museum
  22. 22. All of these museums are working towards a social purpose –they are using the idea of the ‘museum’ in creative ways toprovide experiences which help people examine current issues.BUT this perspective is not universally welcome – all of theseprojects de-emphasise the object, the material culture.
  23. 23. “People come to museums because they want to see things thatthey couldn’t see anywhere else. They want them interpreted byexpert Curators and presented for them to enjoy and learn from.Collections Managers, Managers, Education specialists – theseare all nice to have, but they’re not the heart of the museum.The Curator is the heart of the museum.”
  24. 24. History of the World in 100 Objects
  25. 25. A History of the World in 100 ObjectsBeautiful things, selected by a world-leading expert, used toillustrate the defining social, creative, scientific and politicalmoments in human history.‘Seeing the world in a grain of sand’Uniting the real world, the radio and the InternetInteresting to explore the profile of the audience…
  26. 26. The pragmatic challenge…“This is all well and good, and of course we want to make theworld a better place. But you aren’t talking about the reality. Thereality is not enough money, limited access to resources andfierce competition with other museums.”When did your museum acquire the majority of its collections?In the UK, it’s likely to be between 1950 and 1980. With somesignificant exceptions, we stopped collecting 20-30 years ago.If we are not confidently asserting our place in the future, verysoon, we will be part of the past, a bubble of a particularhistorical moment. We will have failed.
  27. 27. What kind of museum person are you?What can museums do to change the world?How is the world changing museums?
  28. 28. How is the world changing museums?The Activist MuseumThe Democratic MuseumThe Online MuseumThe Economic MuseumThe Sacred Museum
  29. 29. The Activist Museum’Over the past decade, we have started to rewrite the socialcontract between museums and their users. It is no longerenough to be a good museum, our museums need to do goodthings.Can a museum be an activist and a neutral bystander?If we become activists, how do we avoid becomingpropagandists?
  30. 30. We change lives…We believe that museums are places for ideas and dialogue that use collectionsto inspire people.We are a democratic museum service and we believe in the concept of socialjustice: we are funded by the whole of the public and in return we strive toprovide an excellent service to the whole of the public.We believe in the power of museums to help promote good and activecitizenship, and to act as agents of social change. Mission Statement, World Museums Liverpool
  31. 31. Holocaust Exhibition, Imperial War Museum
  32. 32. The Democratic Museum‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life oftheir community’ – Art. 27 Universal Declaration of HumanRightsMany museums were built to serve elites. If we accept thatparticipatory culture is a right, then how can our organisationsevolve to enable open, democratic participation?If the foundations of our museums are built on trust andauthority, then does a right of participation undermine the veryessence of the museum?
  33. 33. Monuments of Great Cultural ImportanceEmbodies special significance pertaining to the social, historicaland cultural development of peoples in the nations history anddevelopment of the nations natural environment;Testifies to crucial historical events and personalities and theiractivities in the nations history;Is a unique or rare representation of the human creativity of acertain time period or a unique example from natural history;Exhibits exceptional artistic or aesthetic value.
  34. 34. Monuments of Great Cultural ImportanceEmbodies special significance pertaining to the social, historicaland cultural development of peoples in the nations history anddevelopment of the nations natural environment;Testifies to crucial historical events and personalities and theiractivities in the nations history;Is a unique or rare representation of the human creativity of acertain time period or a unique example from natural history;Exhibits exceptional artistic or aesthetic value.Who decides?
  35. 35. Revisiting Collections
  36. 36. The Online MuseumThe web solves the problems it is good at solving – distance,time, flexibility. But in itself, the web cannot solve the problemsof meaning, value and relevance.As the web evolves away from publishing and towardsconversation, we can adapt some of the new rules ofengagement (crowdsourcing, mass-participation) .We can re-code our audiences’ understanding of the depth ofinteraction we can offer.
  37. 37. ‘Your Paintings’ tagger – Public Catalogue Foundation
  38. 38. The Economic MuseumAnalysed as a business, a museum makes very little sense.Why do we duplicate functions such as conservation,documentation and interpretation in many places?If a museum’s primary motivation is economic, then the basis ofprioritisation will change – conservation, acquisition,presentation will all be driven by ‘what will sell’Can we keep the economic and cultural instinct in balance?
  39. 39. The Sacred MuseumMuseums contain objects of great cultural, social, aesthetic andreligious significance, including physical remainsIf we approach collections primarily from an art-historical idea,do we risk missing other perspectives?If someone asked to pray to an object in your collection, wouldyou let them?
  40. 40. Sand Painting, Horniman Museum, London
  41. 41. The New Collections ManagementThese roles must be powered by a new Collections ManagementSystems that were built to publish facts now need to supportconversations across multiple platformsKnowledge previously held in silos must flow across the organisationPolicies for acquisition & disposal, as well as priorities forconservation & digitisation must reflect the democratic principleRepresentation & relevance must become the business of allemployees, from documentation to directorate
  42. 42. Towards Strategic Collections Management Users Politics Funding Culture External factors Organisation’s Mission Statement Strategy Collections Management Policy Policy Care Use Learn Develop Activity People Processes Systems Info Resources Evaluation & improvement Evaluation Rich, meaningful experiences for users Outcome
  43. 43. The museum is an endlessly adaptable canvas on which you canexplore the full range of human, social, personal and emotionalperspectives.A museum is not neutral – collecting, interpretation, display areall political and directed acts.The principle of free cultural expression is like freedom ofspeech. The curator must be like a journalist – pursuingobjectivity and balance.Our custodianship and management of the Collections must beopen and fluid, able to adapt to the ever-changing role of ourmuseums.
  44. 44. “A museum must serve a public purpose”
  45. 45. “A museum must be relevant”
  46. 46. “A museum must be unafraid”
  47. 47. Nick PooleChief Executive, Collections TrustChair, ICOM UKBlog: http://openculture.collectionstrustblogs.org.ukEmail: nick@collectionstrust.org.ukTwitter: @NickPoole1
  48. 48. Workshop Question1. What is your museum’s Mission Statement?2. What is the most important indicator of success for you/your museum? Are they the same?3. How can you make your collections work harder across the whole organisation?4. How would you improve your museum’s relationship with its audience?
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