MuseumNext Indianapolis's Themes of Inclusion

Last week, we attended yet another marvelous museum conference; MuseumNext, hosted at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.


The core themes of the conference were inclusion and audience engagement. How do we include our audiences? How do we drive new, diverse audiences? How do we attract millennials?

Here are a few of the highlights:

Nina SimonLike many in the museum space, we are avid fans and followers of Nina’s blog, Museum 2.0. She’s a thought leader who brings tremendous vision and intensity to her work. For Nina, inclusion isn’t merely a buzzword or a box you check-off—it’s a vital piece for building a stronger community, which is a part of Santa Cruz Museum of Art’s mission statement. And a stronger community results in a stronger museum. Check out the slides from her presentation: “Fighting for Inclusion.”

It may seem like Katie Hillat Minneapolis Institute of Art and Scott Stulen at IMA (both formerly of the Walker Arts Center) wrote the playbook on doing lots of different (cool) things to bring in new audiences and keep the museum fresh, dynamic, and relevant. They include Internet Cat Video Festivals to pop-up museums and everything in between. Check out the rest on Slideshare: Katie Hill’s “We Are Throwing A Party And Everyone’s Invited”

Adam Reed Rozan spoke about the rapid transformation of Worcester Art Museum through its desire to become a place for the community and its neighbors. Like many cultural institutions, WAM had the perception of not being welcoming to everyone. Adam argued that museums must metaphorically move away from their traditional “don’t touch the art” mentality, which has been invaluable for the museum.

Colleen DilenschneiderWe love data, she loves data, we all love data. Colleen took a very research and data-driven approach to the importance of new audience development. The future and sustainability of most institutions will depend on its ability to cultivate new audiences, members, and patrons. Reaching millennials and traditionally underserved demographics is key, not just for the obvious reasons of it being the right thing to do, but also for business reasons.

Some of her millennial-oriented research mirrored some of the findings of our friends at LaPlaca Cohen, whose Culture Track report reveals, that for millennials, going to the museum is a social experience.

During the spare moments outside the presentations, we had the opportunity to enjoy the collection at the IMA. Our favorite works of art at the museum included:

We also got to check out the uber-cool Test It Lab, and IMA Lab (thanks Kyle), and play games (who would have thought?) near Roy Lichtenstein’s Five Brushstrokes.


But back to the conference: in addition to themes of inclusion, it seemed that every other presenter encouraged the idea of being open to failure: fail fast, fail often, fail forward. This mantra is common in the startup world and has also made its way into the corporate and culture sectors. If you’re not failing, you’re not taking enough risks.

The aforementioned phrases are short and sweet. Maybe Thomas Edison said it best: 


We learned a lot from our time at MuseumNext and are always eager to learn more. For a recap of the conference in 140 characters or less, look back at #MuseumNext.

So, what things are you experimenting with? Thinking of taking a digital leap? Does digital align with your goals to reach millennials? Let’s chat at or on Twitter at @Cuseum.

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