All over the world, as people flock towards the cities at a speed unprecedented in history, our quality of life and wellbeing, needs to be studied, planned and implemented to be significantly improved and safeguard the environment.
Museums are cornerstones of our society and highly revered and relevant institutions, every day more so. As most are located in city centres, I would like to give you a compressed outline on my thoughts about museums of the future in the cities of the future.
Cities are ultra high-speed growing urban structures where people with a large variety of backgrounds, move to in order to develop projects, learn, enjoy culture, spare time activities and even nature. But cities today are not prepared for that nor to absorb all the other changes we are undergoing globally too. Four main problematic areas are identified, which are: water (lack of or dangerous abundance), migration, inequality and infrastructures. These four -economical-political- factors are shaping the new model of cities right now. The key elements of economic prosperity, social stability, justice and cohesive communities are meant to be integrated between them but also with all other elements and agents a city is composed of, so as to offer that life quality museums also strive for.
Technology and its multiple applications (from data to sensors, from biometrics to led information systems, from IoT to social media diffusion) to absorb high numbers of new urban residents providing better and improved lifestyles while protecting environment and improving sustainable and even circular economy models, are the answers to many dilemmas. Forecasting necessities but also shooting potential problems and solving these before they occur.
Museums likewise undergo quite radical changes related to parallel developments, insofar internal but also external factors. Externally, new museums are built by architects who have researched how citizens behave on and off-line, creating structures that allows digital technology overtaking learning processes seamlessly offering better visitor experiences. These smart and green buildings are the core that foster our deeper observation by facilitating these processes. Museums do attract visitors virtually by having collections online before even visiting the museum. Once at the museum, these visitors are offered manifold options, such as guidance with digital applications on their smartphones, making use of interactive and immersive available tools, being monitored by beacons all of which collect data interpreted to improve and refine how museum audience employs all that a museum has to offer. Internally, museum’s departments undergo changes too, having to collaborate intensely sharing information, as opposed to being separate compartments protecting their work. Stakeholder’s relations are collaterally changing too with the worldwide withdrawal of public funding.
In relation to cities, museums act as social cohesive factors opening up to all types of public allowing for study, research and learning of cultures, histories, customs and origins. Observing an immersive 360º video screen as introduction to an exhibition or having the liberty to choose the artifact or period you want to delve deeper into with AR and VR and having the real object to observe too, or perhaps chosing a curator’s ‘private virtual’ tour with a holo-lens, or wearing smart glasses, all of this is possible as we speak. Museums become part of cities experiences and allow for pre-and post communication, which helps the entity to further analyse data on visitor’s demands. The figures for employment of digital technology and allied applications are staggering, with video, for example, accounting for 60% of data traffic in 2017 going up to 80% in 2021.
Museums are landmarks offering so much more than just a visit, offering ‘real’ views on the century’s past but also projecting and questioning future models of life, involving ethics, integration, sustainability and health with the help and input of citizens. The future cities and museums may be uncertain, but it is not beyond our influence.
Excerpt from a research article by Christina de Vreeze-Cabrera.
Monday, the 24th of April 2017
This article has been edited and condensed for copy-write reasons and brevity.