Organizing museums in digital cultures

A European Haniel Program Winter Academy

7.–12.11.2021, Zurich (Switzerland)

Course content

Besides the university, the museum is one of the oldest forms to think about and effectuate the organization and representation of knowledge, its history of ideas and its repertoire of artifacts and objects. The museum is currently undergoing an enormous shift in how it performs its own functions, propelled by the ubiquity, everydayness and agencies of digital infrastructures, information technologies and media platforms.

These socio-technical conditions are closely related to a broader societal shift towards an experience economy and the culturalization of urban life. They turn museums into exemplary sites of organizational change through and with digital media. Encompassing yet going beyond phenomena such as the digitization of »analogue« collections, online appearance, cultural marketing and museum pedagogy, today’s technological and cultural transitions call for a deeper exploration and reflection of the museum as key organizational site of knowledge, experience and sociality.

This Winter Academy will investigate the organizational challenges that museums face in digital cultures, and reflect upon responses and new practices of organizing. Students will have the unique opportunity to empirically engage with selected Swiss museums, e.g. their curators, technicians and managers. Joined by researchers of all participating universities as well as guests, we will jointly work towards an exhibition of the students’ findings on the museum as organizational site for, and in, digital cultures.

Therefore, the course “Organizing museums in digital cultures” has as learning goals, 1) understanding the changing positions and approaches of contemporary museums and how they relate to digital technologies; 2) setting up and implementing a field study of/in an important museum; and 3) constructing an exhibition experience (that exhibits the museum in the museum).

General Information

The European Winter Academy, enabled by the German Haniel Foundation, brings together MA students from five different European business schools and universities: the University of St. Gallen, the Copenhagen Business School, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Ca’Foscari University of Venice, and Paris Dauphine University.

The Academy is organized in conjunction with the »Sustaining Digital Cultures for Museums« project supported by Engagement Migros, and will be carried out in cooperation with leading Swiss art museums as well as Leuphana University Lüneburg’s Centre for Digital Cultures.

The Academy will have its base in Zurich, Switzerland. Thanks to the generous support of the Haniel Foundation, we can offer free accommodation as well as covering (train) travel to Zurich and back.

 

Course content

Besides the university, the museum is one of the oldest forms to think about and effectuate the organization and representation of knowledge, its history of ideas and its repertoire of artifacts and objects. The museum is currently undergoing an enormous shift in how it performs its own functions, propelled by the ubiquity, everydayness and agencies of digital infrastructures, information technologies and media platforms.

These socio-technical conditions are closely related to a broader societal shift towards an experience economy and the culturalization of urban life. They turn museums into exemplary sites of organizational change through and with digital media. Encompassing yet going beyond phenomena such as the digitization of »analogue« collections, online appearance, cultural marketing and museum pedagogy, today’s technological and cultural transitions call for a deeper exploration and reflection of the museum as key organizational site of knowledge, experience and sociality.

This Winter Academy will investigate the organizational challenges that museums face in digital cultures, and reflect upon responses and new practices of organizing. Students will have the unique opportunity to empirically engage with selected Swiss museums, e.g. their curators, technicians and managers. Joined by researchers of all participating universities as well as guests, we will jointly work towards an exhibition of the students’ findings on the museum as organizational site for, and in, digital cultures.

Therefore, the course “Organizing museums in digital cultures” has as learning goals, 1) understanding the changing positions and approaches of contemporary museums and how they relate to digital technologies; 2) setting up and implementing a field study of/in an important museum; and 3) constructing an exhibition experience (that exhibits the museum in the museum).

 

Course structure

After an introduction/preparation session, the course is organized in five parts and runs over 5 days, which consist of thematic discussions, museum‑visits, guest speakers, preparatory exercises and project work. Part 1 consists of exploring themes as part of the transformation of contemporary museums and forming groups around a specific theme. Part 2 consists of field work and empirical research based on the themes and exemplary museums chosen. In Part 3, we develop empirical findings through literature research. Part 4 is for preparing and executing the exhibition of one theme, while Part 5 is setting up the exhibition and presenting the findings.

 

Exam: Individual preparatory paper and exhibition

The students are asked to identify a key concern of museums in digital cultures and to write a preparatory paper on how this concern affects organizational forms and processes.
In groups that intermix participants from the five universities, students will devise, prepare and realize an exhibition of their findings presented at the end of the week.

 

Course literature

A compendium of journal articles and book chapters will be made available online.

Indicative list of texts:

Timon Beyes/Jörg Metelmann (eds.): The Creativity Complex. A Companion to Contemporary Culture. Bielefeld 2018.

Clare Bishop: Radical Museology, or, What s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? Cologne 2013.

Douglas Crimp: On the Museum’s Ruins, Cambridge, Mass. 1993

Boris Groys: In the Flow, London 2016

Boris Groys: »Curating in the post-internet age«, in e-flux, October 2018, https://www.e-flux.com/journal/94/219462/curating-in-the-post-internet-age/

Kevin Hetherington: »Museum«, in Theory, Culture & Society 23(2-3), 2006: pp. 597-603.

Christoph Michels/Timon Beyes/Chris Steyaert: »Another new museum? Imagining the space of art in the creative city«, in Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration 18(3), 2014: pp. 9-28.