As museums navigate uncertain times, we might ask whether museums can morph into genuinely democratic, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical conversations about pasts and futures. We could also question whether museums can ever be fully integrated within communities, acting as co-catalysts for radical changes in ways of seeing and living. Indeed, will a human-centred museum, in harmonious existence with the natural environment, ever see the light of day?
This conference sought to present the latest thinking, actions and initiatives that modestly or radically depart from the traditional museum idea, to rethink the museum of the future. We showcased the latest developments in the museum landscape, be they reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic, conceptual initiatives that have been in the pipeline for a while or tangible projects happening and evolving in the now, and which may well inform, influence and define the museum of the future. We are particularly keen on showcasing the lessons learnt over the past year and the ways and means how these have been overcome. Yet, we ae also eager to create spaces for critical reflections that can help shape museum futures.
The conference explored three possible strands of museum futures. The first concerns technology and online, as museums seek to transit into a new mode of relevance. We are curious to learn how this might be taking shape and how the possible equilibrium between physical and online can be achieved. The second concerns the democratisation of access, and how the museum can become a public space, be it physical, virtual or both, welcoming a polyphony of voices. The third was about climate change and how museums are, can or may rise to the challenge. We consider the three as being inextricably intertwined, with each informing the other.