The future of museums will or won’t be digital… but it won’t stop being “face to face”. This is the main conclusion reached by two senior directors of the Thyssen Museums, Evilio Acebido and Lourdes Moreno, in the “Dialogue” on the effects of the pandemic on the cultural sector organized by the Ernst Loch Ivy Foundation in Valencia.
But beware, this already “unstoppable” process of digitization will consist not only of “moving what we have from the room to digital, but also creating new activities for new formats and new audiences,” warns Moreno, Artistic Director of the Museum Carmen Thyssen of Malaga. Acebedo, Managing Director of Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, added: “The museum should remain a museum with its own museum model, but with a broader concept in which the digital is a lever that enhances presence.”
At the presentation of the event, which took place at the Bancaja Foundation, Ivie’s director of research, Joaquin Modus, spoke about the double pressure – that is, restrictions imposed and technological change – that has caused the epidemic in the cultural sector, but also on “new opportunities” and “new needs”. appeared in these months.
“When the pandemic and confinement happened, it was thought that the change would be more sudden and decided than what we face,” Moreno added. We have seen that there is a coexistence of face-to-face and digital and an acceptance that the digital will have increasing importance, but will gradually adapt.”
For the Artistic Director of Thyssen in Malaga, this mod is not just about displaying museum work on the web. “Experience in the room cannot be replaced,” he declared. Digital content must be released “explicitly” with the ability to connect with new and “more diverse” audiences.
Acebedo recalled how the pandemic, and above all confinement, had forced ThyssenKrupp to “immediately tackle” the digital transformation that had already begun but whose trajectory had to change at this time. “We realized that digitization was not just about uploading lectures and content to the web because some things work better than others. Digital requires a specific language.”
In light of this, the Madrid Museum has already set up a technical team specializing in digital content to work on a gift in which an international “physical” exhibition would be, according to Acebedo, “increasingly difficult and expensive” due to the cost of transportation or insurance, among other reasons. For this reason, museums “must adapt to the new reality, so digital exhibitions, even purely digital, will become increasingly important,” declared the director.
Moreno added that it will be a slow transformation and it will not be easy, added Acebedo, who also talked about how to benefit from these “digital fairs” economically. According to the organization’s director, the content provided via the web must be of sufficient quality and originality to justify charging visitors and monetizing an initial investment that will not provide imminent income.
For this, it will be necessary for cultural institutions to have capitalist partners – or sponsors – and teams of specialists. “I’d love to see Thyssen’s content on Netflix and HBO, which is where we have to go, but that requires an investment.”
Not worth the video
On how niche digital content should look, both Thyssen Artistic Director in Málaga and Economic Director of Madrid insisted that “it is not enough for you to record space with a video, but to go to products that make you feel as if you are in a museum and that plus They enrich your visit with documents, videos or testimonials.”
Acebedo gave as an example the virtual visits that the institution already offers on its website where, in addition to displaying the collection or temporary exhibitions, content such as base images of the paintings that the visitor will present “face to face” is presented not found.
But, as Moreno warned, the number of museums that can present their collections with digital content of this type is currently “very low”. In fact, if you take a look, for example, on the website of the Fine Arts of Valencia, you will be able to see many pieces from its collection and videos of professionals talking about recent works or exhibitions. On the IVAM website, we do not even find videos of this type.
In conclusion, the pandemic has prompted the need to digitize museums and, according to the speakers, it has also demonstrated the resilience of Spanish cultural centers, although some have had to close. However, Acevedo criticized the “nineteenth century architecture” of cultural management in Spain and demanded institutions “to think about the needs of the public, so that employees with profiles are more adapted to the new era”. Moreno insisted that the state should honestly consider culture to be one of the country’s major industries and generates much wealth. “It’s our biggest joint venture,” he said.
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