Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
I continue to be gratified by the feedback on our "future" issue of Museum magazine. (Your digital copy available here.) Comments coming in through Twitter, email, and text message include "weird and wonderful," "inspiring," and (most frequently) "thought-provoking." A few people were concerned to see an obituary for Cecelia Walls, the Alliance's content and editorial strategist. Rest assured that Cecelia is alive and well, and had a blast writing her own obit. (I do confess to having suggested that the mechanism for her demise be a morally-challenged self-driving car.)
As promised, we are extending this exercise in future-fiction by publishing additional essays and responses here on the blog. Today's post is by Rich Faron, president of Museum Explorer. Rich expands a story thread that Museum 2040 touched on briefly: the future of museums in space.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
|Southern Museum of Food and Beverage, interior|
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Thursday, November 9, 2017
|Meaghan Patterson, CEO, Alberta|
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Joy's law: no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else. (Attributed to Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy.)
| Nien-hê Hsieh, |
assoc professor of business
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
- The US population is older and more diverse than it is now. The ratio of retired people to people of working age (so-called “old-age dependency”) has climbed to 38% from 25% in 2017.
- Economic stratification has continued to grow in the past few decades. The top 10% of families now hold 85% of the wealth in the US, while the bottom 60% hold 1%.
- In education, there has been significant growth in the number of private schools, and charter schools now serve 15 percent of the public school population (triple the number in 2014).
- Impact philanthropy has become the dominant guiding principle of individual and foundation funding, and nonprofits are expected to provide concrete, measurable data of how they have improved the environment, or people’s lives, in order to secure support.
|Congratulations to the newly accredited museums|
Friday, October 20, 2017
Why museums should care: disruptions to labor and increasing economic inequality impact our communities and our audiences, as well as museums' own financial bottom line.
Many researchers predict that automation will result in massive labor displacement over the next couple of decades. According to researchers at MIT, each robot added to US workplaces reduces the workforce by 5.6 humans, and every robot that is added per 1,000 human workers results in wages dropping by as much as 0.25 to 0.5 percent. Many of these robots are used in industrial manufacturing--making automobiles, manufacturing electronics or producing chemicals and plastics. Now artificial intelligence (AI) is fueling a new round of labor disruption in fields ranging from manufacturing and retail to law to medicine. A widely cited study from Oxford University projected that automation powered by AI will contribute to the loss of up to 47% of all jobs in the US in the next 20 years.
As we contemplate a future with fewer solid blue collar manufacturing jobs support a middle class, the spread of small scale, distributed, digital manufacturing has been hailed as one potential producer of new jobs. Digital design plus maker-friendly technologies such as 3-D scanning and printing fuel the creation of small businesses--and small businesses account for almost fifty percent of employment. But as the following video demonstrated, these small businesses are not immune to robotic labor disruption.
Payroll can account for thirty percent of a small businesses gross income--what small business owner could resist the prospect of a robotic employee that can work 24 hours a day (supporting so-called "lights-out manufacturing"), doesn't require health insurance and doesn't take sick leave?
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Or, “when ethics statements are not enough…”
I’m working on the agenda for a convening hosted by the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture, December 14-15, at which participants are going to try to come up with early warning systems and practical interventions for instances in which museums are being pressured to sell collections in order to balance the books.
Today’s post is a heads up about this gathering: if you are interested in helping tackle this challenge, put the dates on your calendar and watch for an announcement about registration, which will open later this month. I’m hoping you will comment on, share, and tweet about this post (use this link: http://bit.ly/AAMCookieJar) to help my colleagues and me gauge how many people may be interested in attending.
There is already a clear consensus in our field that it is ethically wrong to use collections as a cash reserve (raiding the “deaccession cookie jar,” as Stephen Weil dubbed it in 1992). Field-wide standards codify Weil’s position, and the field has created a framework to support nuanced, ethical decisions regarding the use of funds from deaccessioning.”
But despite this consensus, every year it seems we read about a museum using or being pressured to use the sale of collections as a way to address financial needs. This happens for a variety of reasons. Some people simply disagree with the ethics standards. Some agree philosophically but feel they are faced with the choice of selling collections or closing the museum. How can we as a field provide museums with other, better choices?
That’s where this workshop comes in.
The Alliance is partnering with AAMD, AASLH, AAMG and NEMA* to bring folks together to frame out a practical toolkit that would help associations and peer institutions head off or intervene in such situations. How can our field create an “early warning system” to detect potential crises that might lead to inappropriate sales? What resources can we provide to help museums find other options to address their financial needs?
Here’s what we won’t do at this gathering: Revisit the ethical or legal strictures regarding the use of funds from the sale of deaccessioned collections. That topic was comprehensively reviewed by the Direct Care task force in 2015-2016, and continues to be addresses in sessions at various professional meetings.
Here is what we will do: Get people talking together and working together to create practical interventions that help reduce the instances of museums selling collections to meet financial needs.
We will prime our discussions with remarks from a few speakers from inside and outside the field, but the focus of this meeting will be on doing real work. Participants will split into small groups to generate ideas, and come together to share, discuss, and critique our compiled list of possible actions.
The Alliance will compile and share the outcomes of the convening—ideas for toolkits, scripts, or interventions—to help ensure museums have other, better financial options than selling collections.
See you in Cambridge?
*Association of Art Museum Directors, American Association for State and Local History, Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, New England Museum Association
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
|We've been envisioning driverless cars for decades--see this ad|
from the 1950s, for example. But now they've gone from the realm of fiction
to real world use.
Cities are already thinking about how to use the bounty of space no longer devoted to parking. According to the research firm Gensler, the US has about 500 million parking spaces to serve 326 million people. Parking infrastructure covers an estimated 3,590 square miles, which as Gensler's researchers point out, is an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. What will we do with over two state's worth of newly available space, much of it in land-hungry urban areas?
Recently over 600 people gathered at the Skirball Center for the Driverless Future Challenge awards. A panel of New York City commissioners bestowed first place on Public Square--Reclaiming the Street, an entry submitted by FXFOWLE with Sam Schwartz Engineering. This concept (illustrated in the video below) proposes a modular system that can be used to convert parking spaces into green spaces, recreation spaces, retail, seating and other uses that suit the needs of particular neighborhoods. The architects describe this "plug-and-play" system as a way of enabling the public realm to be responsive to the ways we drive (or don't drive) in the future.
What are the implications for our field? I venture to say that the rise of self-driving cars will affect most, if not all our institutions in one way or another. My thinking on the topic is shaped by the fact that two of the museums I worked at, early in my career, inherited freakishly large parking lots from the historic structures they colonized. The Children's Museum of Dartmouth, MA lived in an old dairy barn and previous owners, who had converted it to a restaurant, paved over a good acre or so for parking. Cincinnati Museum Center moved into that city's historic train terminal. Take a gander at THIS lot.
|(Cincinnati's historic Union Terminal,|
For scale, notice the teeeeeeny cars in the foreground)
It's worth spending some time envisioning how a car-free-ish future may change the landscape of your community, your museum's own campus, and who visits your museum.
- What will you do with the space formerly devoted to cars waiting for their owners' return? You might follow the lead of the Driverless Future Challenge, and invite your community to help re-envision your space. Think about other transportation trends as well--is your city adopting commercial bikeshare stations? If so, maybe you want to house a docking station on your grounds.
- Do you currently depend on parking fees for part of your income, and what is the net profit, when you factor in the operating costs? You may want to find new use for the space that generates at least enough to cover this lost income.
- How should you take autonomous driving into account in the long term plans for your campus, factoring in the uncertain timeline of adoption for this technology? You might want to focus on surface parking, which is relatively easy to redevelop. (Personally, I like to think that one day Union Terminal's lots will return to the verdant beauty of the gardens originally occupying this space.) Garages are more expensive to demolish, or convert, but architects are beginning to create parking garages designed to transition to other purposes--such as apartments. Maybe museums can design new parking structures designed to facilitate conversion for other use.
- Driverless cars will increase the mobility of people who don't or can't drive--not only Millennials, many of whom already don't bother to get drivers licenses, but also people with mobility impairments, seniors who have stopped driving for health or safety reasons, and people too young to get a license. Museums may need policies, procedures, and staffing to accommodate unaccompanied children ("hey kids, you're driving me nuts. Call a car and go to the museum for the afternoon.") Ditto for visitors young or old with significant cognitive or mobility limitations. We already receive such visitors, of course, but autonomous transportation may amplify their numbers to the point where our response needs to be significantly different as well. Maybe museums will shift some staff displaced by automation over to visitor services, and provide personal escorts for anyone, young or old, who requires personal assistance.
And a further futurist note...
The Driverless Future Challenge was organized by Blank Space--an online platform dedicated to "challenging architecture to rethink its role in society." I commend Blank Space's Fairy Tale Challenge to your attention as well. This annual competition solicits short stories and artwork that explore the power of architecture to shape the future. The entries are often surreal, provocative, and inspiring and serve as wonderful illustrations for the Cone of Plausibility encompassing our future cities.