The Future of the Museum

Principal Investigator: Dr Harriet Harriss

Year: 2017

Type: Clore Leadership Programme

Partner: Design Museum

Theme: The Future of the Museum


Envisioning the future of the museum is popular but problematic pursuit. Independent of age or agenda, Museums positioning upon polarising fault lines provokes stubborn questions. Should the target audience be populist or specialist? Should the first priority be to predict or to preserve? And should the programme be prescriptive or participatory? Fuelling these tectonic conflicts are technological shifts that disrupt and redistribute traditional forms of display. The podium has been abandoned in pursuit of play: the age of the selfie signifies that there is no such thing as the passive gaze. Added to this are new political dynamics that redefine civic imperatives. What then are museums narrative obligations? Are curators’ the creators of content or the custodians of narrative? In a world where fake news is driving seismic global change, are museums one of the few remaining institutions where ‘truth’ can be found?  

This Clore Fellowship funded enquiry, requiring a period of immersive engagement at the Design Museum in London, resulted in two core outputs: a strategy event for the Design Museum directors and a provocation paper on the future of the museum. Due for publication in November 2017.

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