Museums Association Conference: Tomorrow’s World; Futurology

Tomorrow’s World; Futurology


Nick Price, director, Of Things Immaterial Limited

John Orna-Ornstein, director of museums, Arts Council England

This session looked at how ‘futurologists’ forecast alternative futures and what place museums will have in these futures.  The two panellists looked at difference aspects of how we imagine and plan for possible futures not just in 5 or 10 years’ time but what the museum sector might look like in 100 years’ time.

We were urged to plan for our futures and warned that if we don’t, someone else might impose their idea of the future on us.

If this is an area that you’d like to consider further, John Orna-Ornstein suggested some useful points for preparing our museums for the future that we want.  Factors that will affect how museums work in the future are:-

  • The age demographic of the population
  • The diversity of the population
  • The increasingly divided nature of the population (rich v. poor)
  • The permanent revolution in communication (social media; mobile technology)
  • Needing to adopt a more localist & globalist view (moving away from nationalism and fixed national boundaries).
  • The contract of audiences wanted individual and tailored experiences but one which they can then share via Twitter, blogs, facebook

In preparing our museums for this future we will need to focus on:-

  • Having a clear purpose – your museums mission and what it hopes to achieve.
  • Ensuring your staff understand and are passionate about that mission.
  • The power of the ‘real thing’ – telling stories of real human experience with real objects.
  • Your audience – who they are and what they want.
  • Working with others – looking both inside and outside the museum sector – with an emphasis on dialogue and creativity
  • Being ‘fleet of foot’ and risk-taking.  Be able and willing to change quickly and respond to contemporary issues as they arise.