Recapping Our Favorite TrendsWatch 2015 Topics


We’ve been road-tripping and storytelling and celebrating summer. Yet its also already over halfway through 2015 (we know, right?!). Summer is always good for embracing nostalgia. Where have we been? Where are we heading? With these questions in mind we revisited the Center for the Future of Museums TrendsWatch 2015 report this week. The report, released earlier this year, is one of the museum field’s greatest resources. It’s a fascinated touchstone for those of us imaging the future.

The trends CFM identified for 2015 were open data, ethical consumerism, personalization, rising sea levels, wearable technology, and slow culture. They are all super exciting and worth reading about in full detail. As technologists and museum lovers we are especially jazzed about open data, personalization, and wearable technology. Here’s a summary of the report’s ponderings on those:

Open Data

According to the report, there is “a fundamental cultural shift from the assumption that information should be tightly controlled to the presumption that content should be made available to everybody.” Institutions like governments and big business are making data sets, and licenses readily available.  Museum data, “especially operational,” has traditionally been closed or kept secret. “In a world pivoting towards open, can museums afford to be left behind?” CFM asks.  Examples of inspiring ways museums are exemplifying this trend included Tate Modern’sHack the Space and The Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt’s Github database release.  

The report recommends museums:

  • Conduct a data and assess challenges 
  • Decide what should be made open
  • Create a timeline and budget for opening the data


One size no longer fits all. The report identifies three ways this trend is playing out: “the creation of personalized goods”, “the filtering of personalized content” and “the creation of personalized experiences.” “Audiences of the future, shaped by the broader marketplace, may expect museums’ products, communications and experiences to be tailored to their interests and needs,” CFW says. Miranda July’sSomebody app exemplifies the origin of this trend. Netflix and Amazon has proliferated it. In an increasingly digital world we are craving authenticity…defined on our own terms. Customization can save time spent searching for someone else’s ideal as well as help us express ourselves (win-win!).

Museums examples of this trend include themed events and individual art coaching like that offered by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’YBCA:You. We’d add Museum Hack – each of their tour guides offer unique takes.

To be on-trend here the report recommends museums:

  • Respond to individual preferences by restructuring membership programs
  • Consider what customization looks like in your space
  • Tackle the challenge of recommendation algorithms by working with partners or keeping it simple

Wearable Technology

As we recently wrote about, the world is a canvas and we are the paintbrush. “Wearable tech is about seamless integration, invisibility and blending technology into everyday life,” CFW says. Today technology, especially wearables, blur the lines between the digital and physical worlds. It’s becoming less of a distraction and more of an infusion.

Museums are becoming powerful mediators between the emergence of new technologies and their applications for society. The Powerhouse Museum hosting Sydney Design 2014 is one such example.

Wearables also compel us to look inwards. For example, TrendsWatch recommends museums:

  • Develop proactive policies regarding use of wearable tech by visitors and by staff
  • Monitor what technologies visitors are using and incorporate them in to the experience
  • Support the use of technology including offering free Wi-Fi and charging stations

We’re inspired by these trends. Recent events like the National Day of Civic Hacking this past June show they’re not slowing down, either. We also understand the challenges and are here to help. For a museum to put its data out, for example, comes with risks and costs. We also believe, though, that the way forward is collaboration and collective problem-solving. Together we can create something bigger (something really cool).

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