Rethinking the Museum

We need leadership now more than we ever have, and the coming years will see new museum leaders emerge. They will be those who were prepared to stand up and be counted when times were really tough, who didn’t take budget cuts lying down, who communicated a clear narrative on behalf of museums, who fought on behalf of their local communities. NML will endeavour to work with and support museums across the region where there is a commitment to using museum resources as an instrument of social justice. David Fleming, National Museums Liverpool

If ever there was a time for radical thinking by museums, it is now. In partnership with Renaissance North West, MLA and National Museums Liverpool, the North West Fed has commissioned a series of essays to set out the bold steps that museums must take to show they have the understanding and capability to deliver to local and national government priorities.

If museums are to survive it is not an option to stick with traditional ways of working and these explicitly radical documents challenge our thinking at this critical time and encourage a management culture that embraces change rather than accepts decline.

The opening thinkpiece Rethinking the Museum looks ahead to 2030. Informed by futurology and some genuinely inspiring work overseas, it is intended to help break us out of pondering an immediate and uncertain future to undertake that most vital of tasks, long range thinking and a willingness to take a few risks.

A series of commissioned essays adds depth and practical insight, drawing on good practice and charting the new agendas and language of the time:

A toolkit of case studies, research and weblinks have been made available for each piece, and uploaded as a resource library.

Most importantly, our future will be about listening as well as telling, it will be a conversation. In that spirit, I’d urge each and every reader that has made it to the close of this introduction to read our insights, and share your own visions of where our future lies. Each section includes questions to kick-start what we hope will be a dynamic debate. Join our discussion threads now.

Piotr Bienkowski. Chair, North West Fed. January 2011

with thanks for concepts, research and writing to Alex Saint; Creative Concern: Steve Connor & Jillian Platt; and Catriona West .