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A New Museum Format

Designing a New Operational Profile for the 21st Century Cultural Institution

A culturally significant mediator between objects and people, the museum offers itself as a reader of complex phenomena occurring in the continuum of time and space. Despite embodying the utilitarian role of conservator and protector of heritage, the museum is an institution that communicates and interprets, seldom in a neutral manner. Because of its power and public role, it should address ethical and social issues, not only in relation to the truthfulness of the content offered but with respect to the opportunities for access and inclusion that it generates or denies. The museum often finds itself imagining the visitor as a passive receiver of predefined content rather than an active member of its constituent body. It is fundamental for a public institution like the museum to become aware that people visit with diverse needs and expectations connected to their identity and that often these needs are disregarded or ignored due to political or economic considerations. Furthermore, the neoliberal critique of education as a form of one-directional knowledge transfer, in unison with the emergence of professional figures such as artist-researchers and artist-educators, has given rise to an interesting set of contradictions and paradoxes, especially in relation to the assessment of the long-term institutional effects of these experimental educational practices within museum contexts. 

This research paper intends to analyze core issues of contemporary museum participation and involvement through the development of a multi-step proposal for the articulation and deployment of a new museum tailored to the needs of the 21st Century. Whilst attempting to avoid “radical” clichés, which often characterize current discourse on the re-shaping of cultural institutions, the paper's content aims to critically examine this proposal both from a conceptual and physical point of view, assessing its strengths, weaknesses and limitations for actualization.

The goal of this proposal is not to produce a fully formed guidebook that allows for a new institutional model to be crafted and deployed in a checklist format, but rather to provide starting points for conceptual and practical conversations that engage in a multi-faceted analysis of current case studies (representative of museum successes and failures) alongside new proposals for museum fruition.