Friday, March 7, 2008

CAM 2008 Session: Re-imagining the Museum in the 21st Century, Museums as Nodes

Vanda Vitali, Executive Director of the Auckland Museum, spoke about the importance of museums in the 21st century becoming nodes rather than centers. This idea is central to the strategic and information plans of Naturalis, the natural history museum in Leiden, Netherlands. According to Dirk Houtgraaf of Naturalis, in the past, Naturalis has been "a building with a collection and a network built around it," but in the future, it will be "a network organisation with a building and a collection."

The point that both Vitali and Houtgraaf are making is that museums need to focus less on what goes on within their own walls and more on what society needs from the resources and information that museums have to offer. As part of vast networks of information sharing, museums can do more to fulfill their missions and meet the needs of their communities--and the world--rather than as single, insular, individual institutions.

Similarly, museums in the 21st century should focus on concepts rather than exhibits. Too often exhibits are seen as end-products in themselves, rather than the concepts and information that they convey. If museums focus more on exploring the most effective methods for sharing the information that they hold rather than on how to turn information into exhibits, museums will serve an increasingly vital role in society as a whole.

Vitali and Houtgraaf have collaborated on a recently published book that addresses some of these ideas entitled, Mastering a Museum Plan.

No comments: