Making limoncello out of lemons – an Italian museum facing the challenges of the future

Exhibitor Briefing
James Bradburne, Pinacoteca di Brera, Italy

Museums today are being confronted with what could be called ‘the perfect storm’ – a combination of pressures – falling revenue, changing audiences, invasion of mobile technologies – that threaten to consign the museum and its collections to irrelevance or impotence in the coming decades. This presentation argues that museums should shift their focus away from temporary exhibitions – the foremost response that has been embraced since the genre was pioneered by Thomas Hoving in the 1960s – and explore a variety of ways to encourage visitors to return to permanent collections, by creating what could be collectively, and ironically, called ‘inhibitions’: interventions in the permanent collections themselves that do not require massive investment in new display, labelling or installation. Specifically it looks at the adoption of open platforms as a way to engage a broad and heterogeneous public in telling the story of museums’ permanent collections.

In this presentation the Director General of the Pinacoteca di Brera and the National Braidense Library (Milan, Italy) and Alex Tourski, the founder and Director of the open storytelling platform izi.TRAVEL will describe their collaboration which aims to create a powerful city-wide eco-system to involve and engage residents and visitors to Milan. The session will present concrete examples of the application’s potential, both in Milan and elsewhere, including audio-tours aimed at encouraging return visits to permanent collections; user-responsive quests which draw visitors out into the city; and city-wide storytelling collaborations which create synergies between smaller museums. Furthermore, we will argue that these same culture-rich initiatives are powerful tools for winning the support of local businesses as well as local, national and European funders.