Monday, January 2, 2012



2.  Marketing For Sustainability ... CLICK HERE

3.  Sustainable Cultural Enterprise in a 21st Century Context ... CLICK HERE

4.  Shifting Paradigms ... CLICK HERE

5.  Intellectual and Cultural Property and Other Inhibitions ... CLICK HERE

6.  The Issue of Intellectual and Cultural Property ... CLICK HERE

7.  The Marketing Dimension of Photography in Museums and Art Galleries ... CLICK HERE

8.  21st Century Communication Paradigms and Cultural Institutional Marketing  ... CLICK HERE

9.  Participatory Programming and Photographic Imagemaking in the 21st Century ... CLICK HERE

10.  Social Networking, Photography and Cultural Institutions' Marketing Paradigms  ... CLICK HERE

11.  CONCLUSIONS: 11 Things to Consider  ... CLICK HERE

Watch This Space 


Marketing, in museum cum art gallery terms, is best understood as the process by which museums and art galleries produce, impart and deliver ‘value’ to the institution’s Community of Ownership and Interest (COI).

Importantly, ‘marketing’ is the tool set used by institutions to maintain their layered relationships, and shared ownerships, with their COI – acknowledging that its COI itself has layered interests and ownerships.

More broadly, marketing is the key mechanism that enables the generation of a 'brand identifiers' and audience development strategies. Most importantly, marketing is an integrated strategic process that enables the building of stronger relationships with the institution’s COI and that are at the same time marketing strategies that are typically designed to generate value for the COI – and the institution itself as an integral part of that COI

The marketing process is the means by which museums and art galleries can best: 
  • Identify their COI and proactively engage with it; 
  • Satisfy COI members’ needs and aspirations; 
  • Grow their COI base in multiple ways. 
All too often marketing is envisaged primarily as advertising but the two activities are distinctly different endeavours albeit that they may well interface quite closely. In order to market anything effectively it is important to identify the purpose of that which is being marketed – be it a screwdriver or an art gallery.

In the way that there are a myriad of purposes for the multifarious manifestations of screwdrivers there are a multitude of museums and art galleries serving a multitude of purposes. So, it is vitally important for a COI to either know or to identify its gallery’s ‘purpose’ – its purpose for being

Likewise, it is important for a museum’s/gallery’s marketers to know and understand its purpose. Without knowing this none of its marketing can be truly effective in a way that is relevant to the institution’s COI.

In a 21st Century context it is important to use the full set of communication tools available and increasingly the 'photographic image' – static & moving – is superseding text in marketing the ideas museums are engaged with.

Marketing For Sustainability


Museum visionary, Nina Simon, reports: “I once asked Eric Siegel, director of the New York Hall of Science, why museums are rarely innovative shining stars on the cutting edge of culture. He commented that as [publicly funded] nonprofits, museums are built to survive, not to succeed.” ...     Museum, Sept/Oct (2009) 

Nina Simon is the author of The Participatory Museum and she regularly contributes essays to her BLOG – museum two – as she flags the shifting paradigms in the 'museumworld' – at least in the USA

Paraphrasing Eric Siegel, unlike new companies of almost any kind, rock bands, orchestras, theatre companies, etc. typically, museums and art galleries are not (rarely?) designed to excel and reach the heady heights of innovation and awesomeness. 

Rather, they're all too often designed to plod along and maintain the status quo. ‘Heroic’ efforts are likely to threaten comfortable understandings and possibly jeopardise secure employment opportunities. 

Generally such museums/art galleries can take this stance because they are either far removed from, and functionally unaccountable to, their COI – or established as imitation self regulating fiefdoms of a kind

Given the current questioning of fiscal imperatives it is possibly time for a paradigm shift and one that enables museums/art galleries to be more proactive in their engagement with their COIs. A strong indicator of a museum or art galley’s sustainability or otherwise is it seeing itself as something akin to a ‘cost centre’ dedicated to the maintenance of the status quo rather than as being an enterprise of some kind – community enterprise, community cooperative, cultural enterprise, etc. – aspiring to succeed and meet purposeful performance goals.

Sustainable Cultural Enterprises in a 21st Century Context

His whiteness: The young Rauschenberg
before his canvas. Interesting to note how
the gallery chose to blacken the walls behind
the piece, perhaps to louden up the silence some
Globally, the current financial crisis demonstrates what happens when companies establish, and rely upon, artificial life support systems to prolong themselves beyond their ability to provide sustainable and relevant products and services. In the end they will only exist as long as they are relevant and are delivering ‘the goods’ – however that is contemporaneously understood. They will eventually close up shop when the excellence ends. It's incredibly rare for an organisation or company to aspire towards deliberate unsustainability as their shareholders, and their COIs, generally will not countenance the concept. Deliberately pouring funds and resources into fiscal ‘black holes’ is not only unsustainable but also a purposeless folly – something that cannot be tolerated for very long

 Most companies/enterprises/institutions want to provide consistent employment in order that employees can deliver their best work – and so that their families can be secure and as a consequence be available to deliver. They are purposeful enterprises that aim to provide quality products that are reliable over the long run. They aim to deliver consistent services that consumers, their COIs, can depend upon and reliably engage with. When and where they can, they will innovate and analyse for as long possible in order to be sustainable – to keep on keeping on. In the case of museums/art galleries the alarm bells should ring loudly when the desire to simply ‘continue’ overcomes the desire to be remarkable and extraordinary, indeed be awesome, and when more resources and effort is directed towards surviving rather than succeeding. 

This has become abundantly clear in the case of the failures of the USA’s ‘automobile industrial model’, and likewise their finance and banking system. The arguments for financial support rests on the model’s/system’s self asserted need to survive, rather than its ability to succeed. 

A like scenario is being played out in Europe as the sustainability and credibility of whole economies are being increasingly questioned – and as a consequence looking less and less sustainable. All this is possibly true of your museums and/or art galleries too. The arguments that it seem are being run here is that these ‘first world institutions’ are too economically important – albeit they are demonstrable failures – and thus culturally and socially too important to be allowed to fail. 

There is no hint of an argument that these institutions/nations are viable yet there is an almost unspoken economic edict being promulgated that they exist in a space that is beyond criticism and critique. Nothing should be! 

Sadly this trust in 'the system' has been proven a folly as we watch the knock on effect felt in the almost relentless devaluation of everyone’s superannuation accounts post the late 2000s financial crisis – often called the global recession, global financial crisis or the credit crunch. For all too many museums and art galleries, being at the cutting edge of academic endeavour and research has not really been part of their aspiration nor is it likely that you will find such a sentiment reflected in their purpose statement – primarily for the reasons discussed above

Elizabeth Merritt from American Association of Museums wrote a provocative article about the financial future of museums in which she suggested, among other things, that 20% of museums should be allowed to fail in the coming decades.

 As Elizabeth Merritt puts it: “My observation, after thirty years of working in the field, is that museums have an amazing ability to survive in the most adverse environments. They are the cockroaches of the nonprofit world--sometimes it really does seem like you can’t kill them with an atomic blast. Most of the time some improbable deus ex machina saves the day: for example an unexpected cash gift or a free building. Mind you, this often only saves the distressed museum from closure – it does not cure the underlying dysfunction. The museum may simply struggle along for another ten years before the next potentially fatal crisis.” 

The underlying dysfunction that is being pointed to here demonstrates an inability to focus on anything but survivability. Clearly, museums and art galleries need to both survive and succeed. Apparently this is less of an imperative if they deem themselves to be unsustainable. 

Unsurprisingly, Nina Simon advocates that museums need to submit a reality check that looks at two sets of issues: 

1. Core services that people in a community that it depends upon and needs in order to survive. These include employment and income opportunities for staff and service providers plus programs and projects that address social and cultural issues not provided by other organisations or businesses. For example, possibly a museum may provide job training and supplementary employment for at risk youth, emerging and other cultural producers that the community relies upon – and needs to have consistently available. Likewise, in a cultural tourism market, museums need to be relevant in every aspect of their operation in order to survive and to allow ‘the industry’ to not only survive but flourish. 

2. The services that they provide and that make museums and art galleries awesome remarkable and outstanding places. Those things that drive people to and through their door, gets them excited, and that engages them passionately with their projects and programs in multidimensional ways. 

A sustainable museum/art gallery must be able to point with some self-assurance and pride to the ways it supports its COI with reliable and consistent services as well as outstanding program delivery. Irrespective of an institution’s size, the imperative to survive will be omnipresent. Keeping, your job and keeping on doing what you're doing is not irrelevant. The challenge is not to make it an institution’s raison d’ĂȘtre or its primary goal. To do so would be a perverse reassignment of its purpose.  

All this points to a need for paradigm shifts towards many museums’ and art galleries’ purposeful sustainability. Likewise, it points to the need for innovative and purposeful marketing strategies to facilitate the paradigm shifts in play across the current institutional landscapes. Museum and art galley policy sets are the indicators of their intended sustainability. 

Interestingly, it turns out that ‘photography policies’ are indicators of not only an institution’s intended purposeful sustainability but also its social cum cultural relevance not to mention its credibility in a 21st Century context –  this idea will be developed later in the paper.

Shifting Paradigms

Museum and art galley policy sets are the measuring sticks of their contemporaneous relevance. So it is no surprise that it may turn out that ‘photography policies’ are indicators of not only an institution’s intended purposeful sustainability but also the extent to which it is up with the game internationally.

In a little over 170 years photography, along with the technologies that facilitate it, has evolved into perhaps humanity's most dynamic communication device. Its social cum cultural relevance is no longer seriously questioned and its credibility in a 21st Century context is now well understood.

Photographic imagery pervades almost every aspect of current communication strategies. Imagine a newspaper without photographs. Likewise, imagine the level of your comprehension of world events without photographic imagery – static & moving.

Since post WW2 in particular photographic imagery has struggled to win a place for itself at the high table of cultural production. At the same time photography became increasingly pervasive and an omnipresent element of popular culture. That is so albeit that there may be something of a smell of illegitimacy in the air when it turns up in mixed company. 

The paradigm shift that seems to be close to being realised is for almost every technosavy person to be bionically equipped with a photographic device that enables the telepathic communication of ideas. If this point has not yet been reached the analogue precursors for it are there and in use.

Intellectual and Cultural Property and Other Inhibitions

Most experience based museums like children's and science museums have unrestricted noncommercial photography policies. Conversely, and sadly, many collections based art galleries and museums continue to maintain highly restrictive photography policies. Typically there seems to be five main arguments for these restrictive policies: 

1. Intellectual Property: Museums are obliged to respect the diversity of intellectual property rights of artists and agreements with donors and lenders. In institutions where some objects are 'legally'(?) photographable and others not, administratively, it's easier to use the most restrictive lowest common denominator blanket agreements as the basis for institutional policies. The negotiation of an alternative ‘worldview’ in a 21st C context is nonetheless a possibility. 

2. Conservation: Objects may be damaged by flash photography. Some conservators argue that if non-flash photography is permitted, light levels in the galleries may be increased to accommodate visitors' cameras, which indirectly damage works in the collection. Or perhaps it may bring pressure to bear on relaxing restrictions on using tripods etc. that in turn may put works at risk of damage. 

3. Revenue Streams: Institutions want to maintain control of sales of ‘officially sanctioned’ images of objects via catalogues and postcards. The claim here is that if people can take their own photos, they won't buy them in the gift shop. Notwithstanding this, most institutions using the “no photography” paradigm to protect revenue stream actually exploit their revenue option in a minimal way and sometimes hardly at all given the resources available to them. 

4. Aesthetics of Experience: Photography is distracting for other visitors. Looking at artwork through a lens means you are having a less rich experience. Visitors may make ‘inappropriate’the new illegal – gestures in photographs with museum/gallery content, thus distorting institutional values and intent. The institutions using this argument apparently wish to control the ways their collections can be – should be (?) – read and understood. 

5. Security: Photographers might take photos with intent to do harm; for example, with plans to rob the museum or stalk another visitor. 

In respect to the first and second arguments there are issues that need to be mitigated. Nonetheless, there are ways that this can be done and increasingly institutions are finding ways to do so. 

In regard to the third argument, there are good arguments to be put that discredit it and render it as an almost totally unfounded and/or misguided policy. Furthermore, some institutions deem themselves to have intellectual property and other rights – sometimes largely untested – to back up this kind of claim. At the very least an institution’s authority to invoke this kind of restriction on an audience’s ability to use museum collections needs the both questioned and tested. 

As for the fourth and fifth arguments, the kindest thing to be said about them is that they are bizarre and that they exude idleness – not to mention ungenerousness. Aside from any of this such arguments are a demonstration of a level of intellectual dysfunction and indolence. It is also possible that they are put forward to reinforce the bureaucratic imperative to ‘say no first’ because it is easier and possible with the consequential benefit of requiring less effort to enforce. 

For the most part, the 'say no' policies generally fail any reasonable and intelligently applied credibility test that might be applied to a cultural institution worthy of the name. It would be especially so for one that is proactively working towards being sustainable and engaging with its COI.

The Issue of Intellectual and Cultural Property

The Issue of Intellectual and Cultural Property The intellectual property and cultural property issues can be as complex as they may be contentious. To add another layer to the contentiousness, intellectual property (IP) and cultural property (CP) sometimes coincides with common law property rights and conventions as if in isolation there is not enough contention already.  

With the advent of the Internet and new(?) digital technologies, information, images and ideas flow, and some contexts traded, more freely than ever before and often at the speed of light. Unavoidably these now blurred older understandings put the circumstances in place for new paradigms to be exercised. Consequently, museums as the custodians of cultural and intellectual property, currently operate within cultural parameters almost totally unfamiliar to museum and art gallery trustees, directors and curators of 20 or so years ago. 

All too often, the conventions and regulations invoked by a great many cultural institutions were put in place decades before the advent of the Internet thus rendering them passĂ©, outmoded and largely inappropriate in a 21st C context. What was once impossible is now possible and what was once appropriate may longer be so or visa versa. Options change and grow over time – and accordingly paradigms shift. 

Photography has been with us for over 170 years and for a large part of that time it has often carried the baggage of being not quite legitimate. At the same time it has been seen as being somewhat ubiquitous given all that it can and has delivered in a cultural context – not to mention the current almost universal access to photographic technologies. Photography simultaneously presents threats and is a liberating force that is facilitating the more effective communication of ideas. Interestingly, the language that surrounds photography bears all this out somewhat. 

For example, when one “takes” a photograph there is a subliminal subtext of less than totally sanctioned legitimacy. “Take” carries layers of contextual meaning. “Take” can be taken to mean, obtain, steal, filch, get, seize, win, conquer, pinch, lift, embezzle, rob, receive and more still depending upon the context. Meaning is always found in the context and there is perhaps no better word than “take” to demonstrate this.  

In some cultural contexts ‘taking a photograph’ of someone is tantamount to stealing their identity, or a part of it at least, and in another it may be taken to be an invasion of their privacy. In another context, the photograph may be seen as the preservation of a moment – variously significant. In yet another context the same photograph may be seen as a constructed image and one that is not by necessity entirely truthful.

The claim that a camera cannot lie is serially disproved. The taking and making of photographs, in actuality and in all contexts, is not a simple matter and always dependant upon context. Therefore, it goes almost without saying that the taking and making of photographs/images of objects in a museum/art gallery collection is in some contexts always contentious in various ways depending on the context. 

Adding to the contentiousness here comes the kindred issues of IP and CP rights and conventions. Legally photographers have IP rights plus moral rights in the photographs/images that they take/make. This is so in much the same way as the cultural producers do when their work is the subject of and/or the object of a photographer’s imagemaking. 

Little wonder that photography is a contentious technology and cultural pursuit given the slippery social and cultural contexts within which photography takes place. Nevertheless, Australian copyright law – section 40 of the Copyright Act 1968 (as amended) – allows for certain ‘fair use’ exemptions for the non-commercial use of an authors’ IP

They are for the purpose of: 
  • Research or study; 
  • Criticism or review; 
  • The reporting of news, and 
  •  The giving of professional advice by a lawyer or a patent or trade marks attorney. 
In all cases there is an obligation on the part of the photographer/researcher/reporter to acknowledge the authorship of the cultural producer and most often the photographer as well. 

In a museum/gallery context the institution has a moral obligation to supply details of copyright holders where possible. Likewise institutions have an obligation to alert the users of their collection to cultural property issues and sensitivities – particularly in the case of Aboriginal cultural production

However, it is the sole responsibility of the photographer/publisher to gain copyright and other permission to reproduce an image in a commercial context from the copyright holder – not always the museum/gallery, indeed infrequently so.

This is also true for the museum/gallery when it is using such images for a commercial purpose where and when it has not made other formal arrangements with the author/s. Clearly the purpose of these copyright exemptions is to allow for the free exchange of ideas within certain contexts – research and review broadly speaking

The kinds of blanket restrictions imposed by some institutions stifle the kind of interrogation and examination of cultural production and property held in public and other collections. Wherever this is the case such restrictions need to be challenged and vigorously.

The Marketing Dimension of Photography in Museums and Art Galleries

The Visitor Experience of museum goers and photography visitors in particular enter public collections with a mindset that we may not be able to imagine. We expect that they go with all kinds of aspirations and expectations – but we might reasonably assume to participate in the muse

Increasingly it seems that they wish to contextualise the meanings and cultural cargo the cultural production in museum/gallery collections carry – and beyond the visit.

The growing number of independent Internet facilitated discourses available to emergent idiosyncratic audiences, via BLOGs in particular, evidences this. They are networking ideas that are not being explored by the 'official' cultural critics. These ideas are sometimes outrageous but so be it.

These discourses are reaching wider and wider audiences in multiple contexts and arguably from an enormous array of cultural perspectives informed by a diversity of sensibilities and sensitivities. Increasingly, the primacy of ’text’ is being challenged given the advances in technology that allow for the relatively easy transmission of imagery – static and moving – often supported by sound – spoken language, music, soundscapes, etc. All of this facilitates nuisances of a kind difficult or impossible to achieve via text alone. 

Furthermore, images – photographic and other – transmit ideas more quickly and more effectively than large slabs of text. In the light of this, restricting museum/gallery visitors’ experiences is arguably inappropriate given the array of options and opportunities notionally open to them in a contemporary context. Indeed, there is good case for the bureaucratic naysaying to be regarded as being excessive and reactionary. 

Rather than controlling the free flow of knowledge, museums/galleries need to be facilitating it – and especially so in publicly funded institutions. Restrictive and repressive ‘photography policies’ are at best inappropriate in the context of a 21st C museum/gallery. 

They represent a kind of blatant disservice to its COI and oftentimes an insult to the intelligence and cultural sensibilities of COI members – visitors, cultural producers, researchers et al

Museums/art gallery’s deliberately aspiring towards accountable sustainability need a full set of tools in order to be able to meet their own expectations let alone those of their COIs. In this, and a 21st C context, photography policies move from being in some assumed discretionary context to one that is ‘marketing based’. Sadly sometimes marketing people imagine that they are gatekeepers of some kind, often with little or no DOMAINknowledge, trying to second guess what people want.

21st Century Communication Paradigms and Cultural Institutional Marketing

Imagining that currently it is either possible stop people taking/making photographs in a museum/art gallery approaches being a bizarre idea. The ubiquitous iPHONE and BLACKBERRY et al. have brought about the kind of paradigm shift that is world changing, ground shifting, whatever. But some curators haven't noticed it seems.

Demanding that people stop taking photographs in art galleries in a 21st C context is as much a folly as asking King Canute to demonstrate his power by turning back the tide. Stopping to really think about it, attempting to control how people use their cultural landscape is more than folly. The effort needs to be invested in using it responsibly!

iPHONES have played a part in the ARABspring and much more still mostly facilitated by iPHONE social networking. A cursory tale:
"A social networker from the artworld visits MONA in Hobart on the off chance that he'd find something interesting maybe. Well to cut a long story short he took a series of photos on his iPHONE and sent them to his network saying that they needed to get down here quick smart and look for yourself. Well they did and some now several times. Judging by the ques of people with a broad demographic, so too have others!"

Where can you buy marketing like that?

Participatory Programming and Photographic Imagemaking in the 21st Century

It turns out that participatory programming and photographic imagemaking in the 21st Century museum/art gallery context is a marketing winner. It also turns out that rather than wanting to "copy the art" visitors want to document their visit and muse photographically. Where is the harm in that?

Yet again the bureaucratic naysayers have been found out for being the aspirational THOUGHTpolice they evidently imagine themselves to be. They should take note of Carlos Castaneda who it seems once said ... "I told you once that our lot as men is to learn, for good or bad ... I have learned to see and I tell you that nothing really matters; now it is your turn; perhaps someday you will see and you will know then whether things matter or not. For me nothing matters, but perhaps for you everything will."

The Bonnefantenmuseum has taken a lead here by introducing the Bonnefantenmuseum app Just add art! Its a simple and fun app where you get to play with art like  never  before. You get to use your imagination and your creativity. How you say? ... well in 3 simple steps!

1. Choose an artwork;
2.  Picture yourself and everything you like with it; and
3.  Share the newly created photo around !
Have you got the MARKETINGimperative at work here yet?

Once the naysaying mindset has been put away, and the museum/art gallery visitor experience has been democratised, we just might be able to look forward to a more inclusive ARTexperience in an art gallery near you. The Bonnefantenmuseum inititives in one sense are just a start. What might be ahead of us?

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes." 

Social Networking, Photography and Cultural Institutions' Marketing Paradigms

Social networking and 'photographic imagemaking' have added a new dimension to cultural institutions' marketing paradigms. In a way its all to do with the most powerful marketing tool of all time ... WORD OF MOUTH.

Would you automatically believe the self serving assertions – typically one dimensional by nature – of some far off museum asking you to part with your hard earned $s to visit and spend more? Not bloody likely we hear you say! But somehow the 'marketing people' seem to think you might or is it hope that you will – even if what they tell you has all the credibility of a snake oil advertisement

Maybe theses marketing types do not really care so long as their salaries arrive and super accounts grow .... maybe?

Back to the cursory tale from MONA, that cultural phenomena in Hobart devised to give the artworld the shits, and the story goes, let's call another 'punter' Bea, visited 'the place' on the chance of seeing something interesting. Surprised that it was all free Bea noticed that it was also OK to take photographs – not that she wouldn't anyway if the spirit moved her ... she's a lot like that as are the ARTdudez she hangs with.

Moving right along, Bea came across a whole lot of dripping raw meat hanging on hooks playing an art role so she got out her iPHONE, took a picture, and sent it, and a message in her vernacular WESTIEartspeak, to all and sundry saying "get Ur f@^#'n arsez downear this f@^#'nstuff is weeeeely weeeeely keeewel dudezzz" Then she came across that now famous C%@TZcollection and she got out her iPHONE again and well, you can guess what she did and over and over as she found more and more KEWELstuff.

Now back in Sydney, Belinda gets pictures on her iPHONE from Hilliary, Jo Lim, Robert, Taro, Lam, Pete, Jill, Mejia and THEartgang telling her this and that about their MONAexperience and Hobart and the ferry ride and and and how she was wrong about this and right about that and so on and so on. AND so too it seems that this story repeats itself over and over while the ques at MONA persist ... and there are lots and lots of marketers trying to work out why and what the secret is. 

The marketing moral here is clear ... "open up the opportunities and stand back!"

CONCLUSIONS: 11 Things to Consider

11 Things to Consider

1. Encourage people to take photographs in art galleries without flash, with available light, without a tripod and without annoying other visitors.

2. License people to take photographs in art galleries and collect their eMAIL address and street address for marketing purposes.

3. Inform people who wish to take photographs in art galleries about how they can use their images and under what conditions.

4. Reward people who take/make interesting/challenging images in art galleries with something that brings them back with friends.

5. Publish the images that people take/make in art galleries on the museum's/art gallery's walls and Website plus elsewhere – postcards, posters, eBOOKS, etc

6. Engage the people who take photographs in art galleries in museum/gallery projects – both in the galleries and elsewhere.

7. Enlist people to take/make images in art galleries as CITIZENcritics and cultural commentators via social networking.

8. Enable the people who engage in IMAGEmaking in art galleries on the museum's/art gallery's to become associate and adjunct researchers and CITIZENcurators attached to the museum/gallery.

9. Encourage the institution's guides/guards to actively assist people who wish to take/make images in art galleries.

10. Facilitate the IMAGEmaking in art galleries on the museum's/art gallery's by allowing people who wish to, to do so after hours under supervision. 

11. Proactively advertise the institution's inclusive policy towards photography and IMAGEmaking in the museum/gallery.

Watch This Space