At the recent EcoDistricts Summit, Future Cities met with Sam Aquillano, cofounder of Design Museum Boston, to talk about why a mobile museum makes sense in today's cities, and the complications of running a museum, or any organization, that doesn't occupy a fixed space.
Re: How clever is this?! Nicole, Rich, and all — happy to be part of the converation, thank you for your interest and questions!
Regarding a mobile app — absolutely, it's something we're working on, and I think it will change the game as far as people being able to interact with the mobile/distributed museum. We did a test mobile app for our Street Seats outdoor exhibition and it was really well received. Stay tuned for more mobile stuff from us.
Re: How clever is this?! Sam, thanks for joining the chat board and answering questions about Design Museum Boston.
In reading your reply to Rich, I'm thinking that having a mobile app would really be key here -- something that could use members' location to let them know where Design Museum Boston's exhibits are on any given day, or even to ping them and let them know if they're approaching such an area. Do you have any plans for something like that?
Re: How clever is this?! Love the idea of being nimble enough to change as you like, @Sam! I can't wait to see how time helps you to focus on a variety of interesting and unusual things or move in different directions. What a great benefit of your model. Right on.
Re: How clever is this?! Thanks for your interest Mary! Evolve we do — one of the nice things about not having a physical building is that we can be more nimble. Just as we're not tied down to a specific content area (we can do exhibitions about pretty much anything since everything is designed in one way or another) so do we also have the ability to have almost limitless gallery space — there is so much unused or under-utilized space out there! It's over choice in terms of content and context, which allows us to be really clever and intelligent as far as which programs we do and where we do them to maximize our donor's investment and make a huge impact.
Re: How clever is this?! You're absolutely right, richheap — one of our biggest challenges is keeping a level of awareness that's high enough so that people always know where we are at all times. Part of it is having a lot of offerings available from week to week, part of it is marketing so that people know the latest at all times.
My hope is that by exploring what Design Museum Boston has to offer (and where we're offering it) people aren't only exploring and discovering the museum, but they're also seeing parts of the city that they've never seen before. We've seen this with a few of our outdoor exhibitions, they end up pulling people from all over the city to a new area — in that way, Design Museum Boston creates place and community city-wide.
Re: How clever is this?! Right on Susan! People are so busy these days! I love museums and I often reflect on how rare a trip to a museum is for me. Most people never make the trip, so if we can put exhibitions where they already go I think it's a win. It's not an approach that is appropriate for every museum — a fine art museum can't just put priceless works out on the street. But for a design museum it's perfect — our permanent collection is literally everything that's all around it — it's just up to us to put different lenses on it to give people a behind-the-scenes look at how the world around us is designed.
Re: How clever is this?! Hi piratejulie! Yes — you nailed it, entrepreneurial with a capital E. We're a startup in our 4th year of operations and growing fast. We've received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the City of Boston and have great sponsors like Microsoft and Steelcase. We'll always be an entrepreneurial museum, taking advantage of opportunities and creating our own, in that way we'll always be a work in progress! : )
We just launched another location in Portland, OR: Design Museum Portland, so that we can pop-up on the west coast and have an impact nationally, educating everyone about the importance of good design in our lives.
Re: How clever is this?! Thanks kq4ym! Nicole invited me to hop on and answer some questions, so here I am! I hope you are well. I think the big difference between us and a traveling exhibition is that we have many exhibitions, events, and offerings throughout the year. While a big part of our approach is popping-up exhibitions in different places, we pay just as much attention to thread that keeps the whole network together, this comes from consistancy of brand, programming, and overall presence in the city.
We're funded through a variety of sources, mainly membership. We have a really amazing members! Most people become members of museums so they can support the organization and get in for free — but our exhibitions are all free! So I believe our members really, simply want Design Museum Boston to exist and have an impact. It's a special group of people, and I'm thankful for their generosity every day. We also have awesome corporate sponsors who help fund our major programs and we go after a lot of grants — we're a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Funding is a challenge, since traditionally museums are funded through capital campaigns and naming rights, we have some ideas to tap into that kind of legacy fundraising. Stay tuned. : ) And I hope you can visit us!
Re: How clever is this?! Very true. In retail now, there are kiosks and pop-up stores that operate in and around demand periods. Certain offerings are not feasible year-round for museums, and I would think the ability to do smaller scale presentations is an asset.
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