Interview with policy grouping chair Anne Krebs, Musée du Louvre
What is the rationale of your policy grouping?
Our policy grouping is involved in understanding the new responsibilities and the new management rules of museums. Traditionally regarded as the custodians of rare or precious objects, and analysed as driving forces for local tourism, museums are today viewed as places where people and communities come together, and also as production centres and drivers for goods and services of all kinds, ranging from cultural products to hospitality services.
They even serve as symbols for regions seeking to emphasise their vitality and attractiveness. This is borne out by several things: the number of visitors they draw in and events that they organise; the size and the nature of the investments they attract; the exploitation of the intellectual property rights of their own assets; the message conveyed by their architecture, which combines a desire both to improve the quality of life and to communicate something about the town. Furthermore, this movement – for a long time restricted to a few old or dominant countries – is spreading throughout the world, as testified by the large number of museum projects in Asia and the Middle East. Europe has to a large extent been at the forefront of the emergence of this “cultural facility”. We are witnessing the creation of emblematic architectural monuments in parallel with an increase in small society museums. The traditional function of receiving visitors is being eclipsed by policies that are centred on cultural marketing and mediation. Safeguarding of intellectual property rights is becoming all the more important now that collections are serving as the source for new references, services and products. The functions of the building are being redefi ned, with the museum becoming a venue for events that are increasingly varied in nature.
The transformation in the status and role of museums has obvious consequences for their management and governance. The multiple functions fulfilled by museums, whatever their location, urban or rural, are forcing them to innovate in terms of the wide range of services they offer and in terms of creating new business models.
On the light of this new scenario professional and academic stakeholders need to develop new skills. Educational programmes dealing with audiences’ policies and mediation are to be permanently updated. Abalance must be found between theoretical and practical approaches.
What have been your activities so far?
Three meetings were organised in 2008 and 2009 – in Paris, Lyon and Venice – involving representatives from Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom. The meetings focused on the analysis of the general frame of audiences’ policies, questioning territory equipment, education or pricing policies.
The first meeting in Paris introduced French audience policies and the “democratization” concept. The second one compared and discussed the Italian, Dutch and Spanish audience policies’ models. The last one took an interest in the Venice audience policies’ model: confronting public and private museums’ policies presented and analysed by representatives from the Fondazione Museo Civici di Venezia, the Peggy Guggenheim museum and the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Which audience segment has to come fi rst is a recurrent question in the European debate: Who has to be reached? What are the eff ects of public policies in terms of enlargement and access to culture? Do European policies have common stakes and results? The working group gave prominence to the lack of relevant academic works and literature on audience policies, conversely to the numerous discourses produced by museums themselves to legitimate their actions, because of their specific identity of non-profi t organisations producing experience goods.
Some specific tensions and constraints were clearly identified: to categorize audiences and establish the prior segments; the lack or drop of financial and human support in medium and small size museums ; to elaborate programmes adapted to the segments, particularly those with a low level of education or a low level of taste for the museum experience ; to build a clear and efficient pricing policy ; to inform and attract new visitors, due to the huge competition between cultural off ers and the strong changes in social uses and practices.
Two topics were particularly in debate: the relevance of a classification of audiences which would be identical between all museums; and the fact that cultural audiences are usually observed – and scarcely evaluated – by cultural institutions, but almost never by their territory of belonging and uses, which leads to over represent the most faithful and frequent attendees and to under represent the “non users”, occasional and potential visitors. Finally, I am very proud to say, that in 2008 our policy grouping has been selected by the European Commission to be a member of the European Platform Access to culture – working group “Education and Learning”. We took advantage of this honor for actively contributing to the shaping of a European position paper which clearly formulates priority areas for actions to develop the conditions of creation, education and participation across Europe.
Whom do you target? Who are your policy grouping’s members?
Any ENCATC member, and also non-ENCATC individuals with relevant expertise can join in. We have a core group, of course, in particular Fondazione Fitzcarraldo. Overall, our policy grouping members represent educational and training institutions, professionals from museums, experts on audiences policies, researchers, policy makers at international, European and local level, in addition to representatives from UNESCO, Council of Europe, the European Commission, ICOM, and organisations dealing with museums’ audience policies issues.
What are the expected results? What the major challenges?
As most ENCATC policy groupings or thematic areas, we want to create a multi-stakeholder platform for education and training institutions, museums, policy makers and researchers. And we want to raise awareness among policy-makers for the fact that the renewed economic and social context is redefining local and global audience policies for cultural infrastructures. Needless to say that good practice and innovations in policies have to be identified, collected and documented.