How will the museums of the next decade 2020-2030 look like?

What responsibility do these institutions assume towards society?

Which is the value of the number of visitors? Are the citizens clients?

Do we know the impact we have on the public that visits us?

Have they acquired knowledge, have we sown curiosity, new concerns, desire to know more?

 Vasa Museum, Estocolmo
an example of a museum of the next decade
Vasa Museum, Estocolmo.
Photo Alejandro Elexpuru

The museums of the next decade must avoid approaches more appropriate to institutions of past times:

. Passive visitors strolling through its halls. Unless they experts, their ability to learn and understand is very limited.

. Audio-guides with encrypted language for the general public. It is difficult to learn when the academic level of narration is very high, because the public is unfamiliar with the subject.

. Long texts printed on the walls. An exhibition in which visitors must read while standing is tedious. Certainly long texts are more appropriate for a digital media, users can sit and enjoy a leisurely reading.

. Long audiovisuals that must be viewed standing up. The comfort of the audience is related to their level of attention. If the length of the film is less than 1 minute, however, it can be viewed standing up. If it reaches 10 minutes, it is necessary for them to be able to lean on some support and, if it exceeds this time, we must have access to comfortable seats.

. Absence of a narrative script that gives coherence to the visit. The visit to a museum or exhibition must be guided, therefore the contents must be presented in a logical sequence that evolves throughout the visit, for this reason it will allow the visitor to perceive it as a coherent whole.

Long texts in the walls and endless audiovisuals, absense of museum script and Lots of repetitive objects are the most common mistakes

. Audiovisuals with intrusive sound that invade several rooms. In any exhibition it is essential to take care of the quality of the sound by directing it appropriately. If the audio is poor, it will affect the visitor’s perception of the whole exhibition. A sound that invades different places to the one that should be perceived, contaminates other spaces, therefore ending up with the surprise effect and distracting the visitor.

. Uniform lighting in all the rooms. Lighting is a tool that, when used properly, can have multiple uses. It can be used to capture the visitor’s attention on certain details that we want to highlight. Likewise, it can be used to separate different spaces, as well as to recreate a certain air of mystery, also to accompany certain sound effects and to carry out sequential lighting as we advance in the visit. There are examples of the dramatic value of light in other disciplines such as film, theatre or opera, which the museum can borrow.

Uniform lighting in all rooms leads to monotony and a lack of surprise.

. Exposing a large number of repetitive objects without adequate selection criteria. The exhaustive exhibition of the same or very similar objects makes the visit very monotonous. For this reason the pieces on display must serve the script and not the other way round. If repetition does not add value.

. Lack of any contextualisation criteria aimed at understanding the contents. We must assume that the visitor does not know the subject. We we should start from the simplest concepts and move little by little towards the more complex ones. That will facilitate understanding to relate the contents to everyday concepts.

. Approaches for experts, without considering the rest. This is clearly a nineteenth-century conception, a time when knowledge was the preserve of a minority. Today, therefore, museums must be accessible to all citizens, so that each group must be able to find its own space.

 Museum of the next decade will have computer spaces for further knowledge
Spaces with computer equipment.
Ideal for deepening the different subjects
Photo Alejandro Elexpuru

Every exhibition should have a educational approach

Every exhibition should have an educational approach, to fulfill its social function, the cultural diffusion, even more, those projects that have a large budget, which forces them to justify it by a great success of public.

In the age of the Internet, information is more accessible than ever, but information and knowledge are not synonymous, without tools to support that process.

Information and knowledge are not synonymous

Knowledge fosters the critical spirit of the environment and therefore creates free citizens who are more difficult to manipulate, and culture and its institutions have a great responsibility in this.

When we propose the creation of an exhibition or the renovation of a museum, we must think of the average citizen, who comes to our claim and to whom we must contribute value with our proposal. That value is called knowledge, curiosity to discover, desire to know more through informal learning that provides a positive experience.

The museums of the next decade have a social responsibility that they cannot evade, the diffusion of culture.

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