Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Miscellany for the Masses

Okay, the tabs are getting out of control--again--so it's time to write a blog post! Not necessarily a coherent or cohesive one, mostly just a post to remind myself of some of the cool, thought-provoking items that I have been meaning to think about for the last little while.

First off, wish I'd known about the Pepsi Refresh Project sooner than 4 days before it ends. Probably would have if I'd been paying better attention. Ah well. While it is most likely too late to submit an idea for funding, it is not to late to vote! So go. Check it out and vote for a cool idea that needs some funding.

I don't doubt that in the not-too distant future I, too, will be able to be like Tom Cruise in "Minority Report"(minus the being framed for a crime I haven't committed yet part, I hope). In some ways, I think this is what some iPhone apps and possibly the Microsoft Surface are trying to achieve. But what I want to know is: so what? Other than no longer requiring proficiency with a mouse for computer-based interactives in museums (and many systems have already managed to do away with the mouse), what real substantive changes and value will this technology be bringing to museum visitor experiences? How will this significant change in interface affect the kinds of content that we can offer?

I will be the first to admit that performance artist Marina Abramovic's $460 Energy Blanket sounds pretty off-the-wall--and yet I really, really dig it. But then again, I am a fan of usable art. That's why I was a subscriber to The Thing.

I love this for so many reasons. A) I like the idea of recreating art--especially when it involves elaborate photo shoots in museums (so long as they are done safely...) B) Flavorpill is a great group that let's folks know about fun, cool happenings C) I'm a sap and I like the idea of love in museums.

Still need to digest/think about this one a little more. Sure, it sounds very reasonable that there exist three basic types of social media for museums: content-sharing; internal (ie Basecamp or yammer for project management) and social networking (Facebook etc)--except that it also sounds rather simplistic. I remember a couple years ago when I was trying to categorize types of online philanthropy and came up with a whole bunch! So, for example, where *does* development/online giving fall into these three categories? Anyway, like I said, needs more thinking.

To file under my growing list of "democratic" exhibitions, there is the Museum of the Bohemian. One of these blog posts I should really share that growing list.

Oooh, this is a fun little article: museums--known, loved and praised for authenticity and authoritative imparting of knowledge--basing exhibits on *not* knowing--on guesswork and on objects that may be the real dealio or may not be. Cool.

This is aimed at marketers, but it is very relevant for museums. The five future trends listed here are: 1. the changing demographics of the US 2. the necessity of understanding culture beyond ethnicity to remain relevant 3. gaming, gaming, gaming 4. micro--micro-actions, micro-loans, micro-donations, micro-support, etc. 5. a revival of humanist spirit. Not sure about that last one, but I feel pretty confident that the other 4 are right on, so who knows?

The fact that Virginia Homes is marketing their homes directly and specifically at women--almost exclusively--is fascinating to me for a couple of reasons. 1. This points to a serious shift in both our nation's demographics and division of labor--clearly, women have been breaking through the glass ceiling because they are the primary home-buyers now. 2. What, if anything, does this mean for museums--both in terms of visitorship (and appealing to audiences) and in terms of staffing? We are already heavily populated by women in the museum field--even at executive levels. Are men a dying breed in our field? 3. I think it's amusing that they call themselves Virginia Homes and call themselves the first home designers for women--weren't Virginia Slims the first cigarettes designed for women?

Not surprising, in fact, to me this almost doesn't count as news, but it is still sad to hear conclusively that yes, the economy has been hurting us, continues to hurt us and is forcing nonprofits to close or merge.

Two points of interest for me in this article. First is that, despite the fact that many of the larger museums that lost a lot of principal in their endowments in 2009 have regained that money, they are not returning their budgets to pre-economic downturn levels and are instead continuing to budget conservatively. Is this economic prudence, or is this an instance of management taking advantage of the fact that they were able to make their employees do more with less--less staff, less funding, less pay? Second is that I find it very interesting that, while its colleagues were suffering, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco had a good year--largely thanks to John Buchanan and his love of traveling blockbuster exhibitions--in this case, King Tut. Once again I find myself asking: are blockbusters the savior to museum financial woes?

Okay, those tabs are closed now. I know I got some of them from the Center for the Future of Museums and I suspect that at least one or two came from Art Wolf as well. Can't remember where the others came from, but thank you to all for sharing these with me and making me stop and think a moment.

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