Art insight #19: Jim Richardson
Founder of MuseumNext
Here is an event where experts of museums all around the world gather to share their experiences and to find answers through lively discussions: MuseumNext, an international conference that successfully held its ninth edition last April in Dublin, Ireland. This event invites the world’s most prominent art institution experts to evaluate the quality of exhibits through programs such as presentations, workshops, or tours. The result of the event is also applied to art scenes around the world to elicit tangible changes.
Throughout history, people have sought out the advice of fortunetellers to assuage their fears and satisfy their curiosities of the unknown future. In every field, people have raised concerns on imminent crises, put their heads together, and found solutions. The field of museums is no exception. In the last few years, a significant topic among museums has been the adaptation to changing paradigms and transformation of their identities from a space for collecting, keeping, and displaying artworks, to an active venue for digital media. Our interview with Jim Richardson, founder of MusuemNext, may provide a glimpse into the future art museums.
A core keyword of MuseumNext is a question: What's next for museums? - Jim Richardson -
Q. I would like to ask about the beginnings of MuseumNext. What did you have in mind when you started this conference?
In July 2009, a small workshop was held in Newcastle upon Tyne in the Northeastern England. This workshop saw an outpouring of expert opinions on innovation for art museum audience and how art museums are going to provide more creative experiences to them. From establishing a brand new museum in the U.S., to creating a digital collection in a museum in Manchester, the subjects were diverse. After 8 years, this small gathering developed into MuseumNext, a conference of art museum experts working across the globe.
A core keyword of MuseumNext is a question: What's next for museums? This relayed international conference aims to function as a platform that enables presentations, case studies, and various cooperation. Our event is based on the technological terrain that has changed during the last 10 years of the 21st century. Digital media has changed societies and made it hard to expect responses from the viewers. We think that art museums should accept changes, or put up with the fact that they can disappear.
Q. What is the main philosophy that made MuseumNext possible?
MuseumNext is built very much around a community of like-minded people; museum professionals who are shaping the future of museums. Our conferences bring together this community to talk about the best practice today to shine a light on the museum of tomorrow.
Q. MuseumNext first started as a small workshop that grew into a massive conference in less than 10 years. What was the key to this success?
I think that the growth of MuseumNext represents a real hunger for innovation in museums. The people who attend our events are hungry for new ideas and by bringing together our international community; we share what is working and what isn’t for the benefit of everyone.
Q. The conference which used to be held once a year has been held semiannually since 2015.
MuseumNext has always grown with the help and encouragement of the community that attends the event. Last year, we were invited to hold a North American edition in Indianapolis and we thought it was a great way to reach museum professionals who aren't able to travel to the European edition. It proved a huge success and we'll be returning to the United States in November for a conference in New York City. That organic growth continues, and we'll be announcing our first event in Australia very soon.
Q. How is the venue selected? Is it co-managed or sponsored?
We are invited to bring the conference to many cities every year, but it works best when we are working with people who’ve attended MuseumNext and understand what makes it unique. Working with members of our community means that the conference attendees really see the best of what a city has to offer, from behind the scenes tours of museums and historic sites to visiting the restaurants and bars. It also means that we can highlight the best practice from that country or city.
Q. I heard that the committee of museum specialists select participants. Can you tell us about the selection process? What is the most important factor when selecting participants?
MuseumNext uses a call for papers to find the majority of the speakers for each conference, these are reviewed and presentations are chosen by members of our community. We receive upwards of 700 proposals every year, and the standard of presentations both in terms of delivery and content is extremely high.
Q. You mentioned earlier that the most valued keyword is "What's next for museums?" What are the sub-themes that were discussed in each conference, and how do they help answer this question?
The conference started with tech at its heart. But now in the post-digital world where technology is very much a tool of innovation rather than driving change, we focus on a wide variety of issues.
The role of museums as activists is a theme that is very strong this year, looking at the power that cultural institutions have to inform the public about challenging issues; how museums add to the political power of a city and how we can ensure that culture is open to all.
Q. There has been 9 events, and as far as I know, there has been no Korean speaker. Do you have plans to encourage more participation from Asian speakers?
We've had a Korean museum speaker at the conference, but this is an area that we need to improve. So much exciting work is happening in Asia and it would benefit our community massively to have more input from Asian Museums. I am hoping that our new conference in Australia can be a bridge for us into Asia, but I’d love to hold a MuseumNext in Korea.
Q. Do you see the debates and presentations that have happened in the conference leading to real changes in the future of museums?
The museum leaders who come to MuseumNext are reshaping the sector through their work and we are a platform that brings these exciting individuals together.
What MuseumNext really excels at is being a catalyst for these people to collaborate. People who met at the conference have produced exhibitions together, and built technology and collaborations between artists and museums. With delegates from more than forty countries, these collaborations span the globe.
Q. What is the ultimate purpose of MuseumNext?
MuseumNext is a catalyst for inspiration, innovation and collaboration. Our conferences cover a broad range of subjects, including audiences, design, technology, skills, collections, conservation, purpose and leadership, showcasing the best museum practice today to shine a light to the museum of tomorrow.
Q. Do you have any message to potential speakers in Korea?
MuseumNext brings together those who are shaping the future of museums, with participants from more than forty countries. Korea is a country that is massively underrepresented in our community. We know that fantastic work is happening in museums in your country and we’d encourage you to engage with us and share what you’re doing. ■ with ARTINPOST
Registration for MuseumNext Dublin 2016 at the National Gallery of Ireland
Museu Nacional d'art de Catalunya which was one of main venues in MuseumNext Barcelona 2012
MuseumNext Edinburgh 2011
MuseumNext Edinburgh 2011
MuseumNext Geneva 2015
Opening reception at Musee d'art et d'histoire de Geneve in MuseumNext 2015
Lunchtime at the Indianapolis Museum of Art - MuseumNext Indianapolis 2015
Zachary Kaplan, Director, Rhizome - The Born Digital Art Institution at MuseumNext Indianapolis 2015
MuseumNext Indianapolis 2015
audience at MuseumNext London 2010
Jim Richardson is the founder of MuseumNext, a conference of experts of museums and art museums, established in 2009, England. Starting his first career as a designer, he created MuseumNext to share visions on the future through keywords of “art museum” and “new technology.” Richardson himself contributes to this scene by giving new presentations at each conference. Based on the experiences from MuseumNext, he established a new company named NXT in 2015 and started another event, Culture Geek, where culture and technology experts, startup business owners, and highly creative individuals hold discussions that are geeky and full of insight.