Taja Vovk Čepič, Director, City Museum of Ljubljana, Slovenia
The speaker will present focal points for understanding the attitude of contemporary Slovenian society to museums at the beginning of the new millennium. The nature of the small, young country, its diverse past, the rich cultural heritage and the realistic economic frameworks also define the ambitions, demands and strategy of the future development of its museums, faced with tectonic shifts in previous years and new challenges today. The brief review is aimed at supplying those participating in the conference with the basic parameters for generating their own opinions on the possibilities of shaping the museums of the future in Slovenia.
Some Reflections on the Future of Museums
Patrick J. Boylan, Professor of Heritage Policy & Management, City University London, and
Chairperson, ICOM International Committee for the Training of Personnel - ICTOP
The last two decades or so of the 20th century saw major, often fundamental changes, in both the policy and management of museums and similar cultural institutions and organisations. These include new approaches to their perceived aims and objectives, with a new (or re-discovered) emphasis on their social and community role and potential, on professional ethics, the largely enthusiastic adoption of new information and communication technologies (ICT) in relation to most areas of museum operations, from collections documentation and management through general and operational management to public and educational communication, and extensive changes in the traditional approaches to their organisation and management, including new constitutional structures and policies at the institutional level, and the rapid expansion of professional education and training at the level of the individual museum professional.
The next two decades are likely to see a continuation - indeed in many cases an acceleration - of all of these trends. In particular, there will be further transfers of public museums from direct control and management as part of the State or other public service, to potentially (at least) more democratic self-governing foundations or similar bodies, or decentralised to regional and local public authorities in accordance with the principle of "subsidiarity".
In the same way there is likely to be a further extension of the subsidiarity principle within museums themselves through the internal democratisation of policy and the decentralisation of management of operations and activities. With the continuing exponential fall in the cost of computing and communication systems coupled with a parallel increase in the power and speed of such systems, there will be a continuing major growth in the use of ICT within museums, and these facilities will become more or less universally available and affordable in all parts of the world.
However, there is no sign yet that the predominant economic and political doctrines of the 1980s and 1990s, heavily promoted in many Western countries lead by the USA and UK, and enforced by bodes such as the International Monetary Fund the various international and national development banks and ministries,and commercial banks, with be reversed in the immediate future. Consequently it seems inevitable that museums, and the wider cultural sector, will continue to be faced by national and international policies that regard the reduction of taxation of all forms, and hence of expenditure on public services, as one of the highest national and international priorities.
Therefore, unless they are to descend into a slow decline and perhaps a lingering death (as happened to a significant proportion of the museums established in previous boom periods for museum growth in the 18th and 19th centuries), the museums of the 21st century are going to need to look for an
ever-larger proportion of their expenditure from their own financial resources, such as commercial activities, fund-raising and membership schemes.