The Museum of the Future Is No Longer a Museum
Two women with VR glasses stand in front of a graphic landscape
Impetus for Innovation Conference
Fri, July 03, 2020 5 pm – 7 pm CEST, Conference

The pandemic has made everything look different: museums have become TV studios, lecture halls, cinemas, and concert halls. We built an exhibition on a virtual platform and filmed tours around it in a building empty of people. We were at once closed and open, analog and digital, a museum and a TV studio — the museum of the future is no longer a museum, but then what is it?

For some years now there have been calls for the renewal of the museum in the digital age. Now the Covid-19 pandemic has made it crystal clear to us that the museum, which up to now has been conceived as a physical entity, cannot exist on its own. The great social experiment in which we find ourselves since the outbreak of the pandemic forces us to rethink our culture. We have been forced into the digital age and no forms of production or reception will remain unaffected by this. The relocation, or rather the expansion of culture into the virtual realm is unavoidable and irreversible.

With the exhibition »Open Codes« in 2017 the ZKM expanded the definition of a museum to a place for communication, integration, and knowledge transfer, taking up Alexander Dorner’s concept of a »social powerhouse« which he had already formulated in 1949. In the twenty-first century a museum must be conceptualized not as a collection of objects, but rather as an assembly of people. When in the 1999 exhibition »net_condition« the ZKM showed that artists had already moved into the digital realm, recognition and acceptance of this development had little significance for cultural institutions. But at present cultural institutions are trying to outdo one another by offering digital initiatives — driven by the fear of losing touch with their audience. Belated insight is better than ignorance, but these »projects« are in no way sufficient.

The museum of the future must be conceptualized holistically: to fulfill its mission to educate, the museum, as an intelligent hybrid of analog and digital, must open as many doors as possible to enable its public to take a critical approach to social developments. A smart museum must engage directly with new developments, test handling them and their acceptance; it must experiment to create platforms for confronting such developments using technological intelligence. It must manage the balancing act between the physical and virtual worlds in order to reach the public of the twenty-first century.


5 pm CEST | The Museum of the Future Is No Longer a Museum

How should museums position themselves in the twenty-first century, and which challenges confront them? How can analog experience and digital learning be envisaged that involves people, for the purpose of facilitating widest possible access to culture, and that fosters critical engagement or even forces it?

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Heckl, Director General of the Deutsches Museum, Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, founder and chairman of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation (TBA), Markus Reymann, Director of the TBA21 Academy, and Prof. Peter Weibel, scientific-artistic director of the ZKM, will discuss visions, concepts and realizations.

5.45 pm CEST | From Emulation to Interaction – Cutting Edge ZKM Projects

The ZKM has worked for many years on arts-based and applied research concepts that open up new perspectives on society and thus also on cultural education. Possibilities of digital reconstruction, exhibitions with the objective of facilitating reaccess, digitally enhanced communication formats extending beyond the local, the smart or intelligent museum — the ZKM develops and realizes these concepts. Their range of content and the external funding used for them has resulted in establishing a core area of R&D at the ZKM for the digital museum of the future, which at the same time formulates a dynamic strategy for the future.

Together with the project leaders Yannick Hofmann, contributor at ZKM | Hertz-Lab and responsible for the project »The Intelligent Museum«, Lívia Nolasco-Rózsás, contributor at ZKM | Hertz-Lab and responsible for the project »Beyond Matter«, Margit Rosen, head of department ZKM | Wissen and responsible for the project »Data: the ZKM Chatbot« and Dominika Szope, head of department ZKM | Communication and Marketing, responsible for the project »smARTplaces« and co-organizer of the livestreaming festival »Critical Zones«, Prof. Christiane Riedel will introduce the current projects:

6.30 pm CEST | Polity, Politics, Policy – Digitality and Cultural Policies

Structural changes in institutions require an adjusted agenda for funding, and at the same time flexibility and agility on the part of cultural policy. For digital strategies to be at all possible new possibilities must be created for examining the effects of digitality.

Lavinia Frey, managing director at the department of program and projects Stiftung Humboldt Forum and Prof. Christiane Riedel, chief operating officer of the ZKM, will discuss new museum structures and the demands involved for cultural and educational policy.

The event was accompanied by the Telegram Group The group persists for such subjects, issues and events. Please feel invited to join, ask questions and share your thoughts.

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ZKM | Center for Art and Media