An exhibition is a mixtape

The best mixtape is made with love and care.
The best mixtape requires deep knowledge and skill to make.
The messages contained in a mixtape are simultaneously opaque and clear.
A mixtape is an invitation.
A mixtape is not a compilation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about exhibitions recently. They are expensive beasts and tend to still be produced with the same models of high risk cultural production as cinema.

As the museum educator has risen in prominence and institutional power over the last three decades, exhibitions have been challenged by the ‘event-driven museum’. So much that exhibitions, themselves, have become ‘events’ – in the most contentious and problematic form of ‘blockbusters’.

At the same time we’ve seen the spread of the verb ‘curate’, and the noun ‘curator’. Some people even want appropriate credit for their online ‘curatorial’ skills.

Researching and then assembling a narrative told by music selections to communicate messages of love, hate, ambivalence, or just to assert your superior (sub)cultural capital – that’s what making a mixtape was all about. Exhibitions, in their most primal form, are not that different.

The mixtape is dead.
The mixtape died with MP3.
The mixtape died with iTunes.
The mixtape died when it became an ‘unconstrained’ playlist.

So where is the new model for exhibitions in a world where mixtapes have been replaced by iTunes and now Spotify?


Museums and making the ‘digital shift’

I’m mid-way through writing a number of articles that explore the challenges for museums in pulling ‘digital’ into their core operations. As a result I’ve started to formulate this idea –

museums will not be able to properly understand and integrate ‘digital’ into their organisational DNA until they have substantial born-digital collections.

Libraries have had a significant head start, I’m beginning to think, because of their ever increasing digital holdings. Not to mention the acceleration of their shift to being ‘service-oriented’ which had its seeds in the 1980s.


(Regular readers will know that I’ve discussed digital experiences, augmenting physical objects, visitor engagement etc, as well as the organisational change aspects at length before. This idea is additive to those pre-existing conversations. If you are new to this then have a read of my summative post from Web Directions a few months ago).