The Museum Computer Network (MCN) has partnered with NEW INC, the New Museum’s innovation incubator, to unveil the online platform, Cultural Futures. Designed to foster communal support between museums, the portal arrays institution-submitted case studies of digital projects, accompanied by relevant information such as goals, budget, and durations. Cultural Futures was made possible through a Knight Foundation grant. 

As of November 8, Cultural Futures’ case studies feature established institutions like the Lowe Art Museum as much as smaller organizations such as Space 1026, with each offering in-depth detail and reflections. A submission from design studio Synoptic Office, for example, documents its Microstories project, which uses and adapts short pieces of written content for digital storytelling, and how it was put to work for the San José Museum of Art and Opera Philadelphia. The case study, like others on the site, is followed by a questionnaire that fills in the project’s outcomes and future plans.

For Salome Asega, Director of NEW INC, these submissions will hopefully contribute to a resource featuring best practices and toolkits that cultural organizations can reference. According to MCN’s Executive Director, Eric Longo, Cultural Futures is also gathering feedback to improve the platform’s user experience. 

Why it matters

Each case study on the platform includes key information from budget to lead times, as well as reflections from project leaders. Image: Hidden Stories, New Voices by the Lowe Art Museum

As larger cultural institutions increasingly digitize or launch tech-enabled programs, so has interest grown among smaller museums in how they too can adopt and deploy technology in their collections and operations. But for newcomers to the space or institutions lacking relevant expertise, digital and creative tech can be intimidating.

By inviting museums to submit information and knowledge that comes along with their digital experience, Cultural Futures makes these digital projects more transparent and ultimately, less daunting. And in line with the missions of MCN and NEW INC, the platform is further aimed at encouraging community sharing and open exchange to nurture and grow the cultural sector.

What they said is intended to become a go-to-resource destination that brings together project-focused stories from across the sector as a way to foster an open exchange of knowledge and to support the entire field to learn from each other’s challenges and successes, and grow into the future.” — Eric Longo, Executive Director, MCN

“I think it’s been illuminating to see what organizations of various scales and regionality have been able to do, especially in this past 20 months or so during the pandemic. Museums took risks to ensure they could still work remotely with their teams, maintain relationships with artists, and tell meaningful stories to their communities. Cultural Futures is a repository that captures some of this wonderful risk-taking.” — Salome Asega, Director, NEW INC


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