I recently chaired a session at the American Association of Museums Annual Conference, which is the national organization for museum professionals. My session, “Beyond the Party: Continuing Engagement with Young Cosmopolitans,” dealt with some very cool programs that museums are doing to attract younger audiences. Museums are making a huge effort, and in doing so are becoming more attractive to us, the “Young Cosmopolitans.”
The session was great, mostly because of the panelists, each of whom was amazing. Julie Crites, Director of Program Planning from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum shared details about Gardner After Hours, arguably the coolest party in all of Boston. Where else would you find the most popular DJ’s spinning in a former mansion, with world-class art to heighten the atmosphere? Crites shared how participants can create their own masterpieces with skilled art teachers, and how participants blog, tweet, and tag themselves online when the party’s over, which gives the party even more exposure.
Sarah Stifler, Acting Director of Communications from UCLA’s Hammer Museum redefined the very idea of a museum. The Hammer sees itself as a part of the greater conversation and social scene in L.A., and it is! The Hammer is known for hosting greats like Kara Walker, Ani DiFranco, Matt Groening, Michael Gondry, Henry Rollins, Danger Mouse, and many others. When the movie “The Wrestler” was released, Daron Aronofsky and Mickey Rourke held a screening and Q & A with the museum’s audience. The Hammer uses programs as the primary way to fulfill its mission (a museum’s DNA). For the museum literature, movies, activities, conversations about current events are as important as paintings and sculptors.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Hammer Museum are two very different museums, but both are doing their own thing at attracting younger audiences and doing it very well. It’s interesting to look at these two museums and compare and contrast them. What matters the most is that both museums are attempting to evolve with the times and make a stronger connection between you, their visitor, and their museum.
Thanks – and if you make it to Oakland, please visit the Oakland Museum of California! Thank you to Stephanie Downey, Managing Director of Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., for her participation in Beyond the Party: Continuing Engagement with Young Cosmopolitans.