We asked a couple of GLAMR colleagues to peer into their crystal balls and share what they think might face the future of GLAMR. To get a bit more context, please check out our contributor’s bios, along with their social media links here.
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This is an area we’ll update as we get more responses.
What do you think are some of the biggest issues facing GLAMR?
I believe the biggest issue facing GLAM is a lack of financial support. Whilst this is not a new issue, cultural institutions continue to receive less and less funding and resources from our government. I believe that if we do not begin to see more generalised appreciation from the government, as well as the public, the industry will be forced to adapt and radically change its operations. The industry could change from facilitating education and cultural learning, to a focus on exhibitions and acquisitions based solely on the accrued revenue potential. The lack of funding has already brought some indications of the changes to expect, especially in relation to job descriptions and security, as well as new styles of exhibitions.
One of the biggest challenges facing GLAM institutions is digital collections and content. How do we collect and store it? What are the best formats? How do we use it? How do we share it with others? With the advent of digital media and communications, there are a whole host of new content that requires new processes and standards. For example, photographs are no longer print or negative based, but digitally made, stored and shared. Also emails and social media have largely replaced written communication, and are read, dismissed and/or deleted instantly. As collecting institutions, responsible for collating history, stories and objects, how do we capture the world in this current situation? These are a lot of questions that the GLAM industry is facing, and finding solutions where they can. As a lot of this is new ground, however, the necessary solutions will only be tested and proven successful over time.
Wow. There are so many things facing the GLAMR industry, from (lack of) funding to digitisation and obsolescence of formats and generally staying relevant with how quickly things change around us. For me, the diversification of GLAMR workforces and inclusionary museological practice is a really big issue. A big issue in that while there’s certainly been progress, I can’t help but be worried if this will continue, stagnate or regress. Cultural institutions are inherently political and hold power to affect and change society. Tuning into 24hour media, the world we live in currently is pretty scary, pretty uncertain and can leave us feeling disempowered and disenchanted. Perhaps this is where GLAMR can find its strength over the next few years, by realising how empowering we can be (and are) and apply that soft, and not-so-soft power, to re-strengthen our communities, advocate for and have representation of marginalised peoples by them. I keep holding on to this as a hope, that progress regarding these issues will continue, that in 10, 20, 30 years time, these hopes will be realised, or well on their way to being so (and that I’ll still be around to see these changes and reflect on how far we’ve come!).
What do you think will change in the Australian GLAMR sector over the next 5 years? Are these positive or detrimental changes?
I think many changes will be related to implementing new technology and the continued emergence of the ‘BLOCKBUSTER’ exhibition. Technology is still an area which is yet to truly be used in the GLAM sector. Art galleries have been the first to break into this area in a range of ways, but more for the use of artistic expression than for audience interpretation or involvement. I believe our museums are the ones who will truly make waves with this resource in the coming years, bringing history to life with new innovations such as virtual reality and interactive displays.
The emergence of the blockbuster exhibition is no doubt an attempt to combat the lack of funding as experienced by certain institutions. However, I wonder whether this can truly be maintained for the benefit of all our cultural institutions, especially the smaller ones, and for GLAM visitors. No doubt these exhibitions bring new and exciting treasures to Australia, but how do we maintain interest in our permanent exhibitions?
In single word – TECHNOLOGY! While this covers a vast, almost indefinable scope of possibilities, there is little doubt that it will impact our GLAM industry over the next five years and beyond. It is already happening, with new procedures, products, software, equipment being implemented across all facets of front-of-house and behind-the-scenes operations. Even without going into specific examples, things such as interactive gallery spaces, digital exhibitions, audio guides, phone applications, 3D capture and printing, etc. have changed the manner in which visitors, staff and researchers engage with collections and spaces. Curatorial and collection research is becoming more and more in-depth and available for all audiences due to online resources, which is definitely a positive. While I, nor anybody else, can possibly anticipate how the various upcoming and developing technologies will impact the gallery, library, archive and museum industry, there is absolutely no doubt it will, for better and maybe for worse. We will just have to wait and see!
I have been in the GLAM sector for over a decade now, and in those years I have seen a huge change in the use of technology. When I started in the Memorial’s History section, I was the only one who could use the flatbed scanner – now every printer has a scanning function! Technology is a game changer, and I can only imagine how this will continue to progress over the next 5 years. We all know that social media interaction, immediate responses and answers on tap are what people expect these days – and that is no different for those wanting to engage with the GLAM sector. The speed at which the general public want answers or want to see things online means that as curators, historians, conservators we all need to be tech-savvy. It can certainly be a positive change – people who aren’t able to visit institutions can still engage with them, our objects and research can be seen around the world, and there can be much greater collaboration. However, the danger is that speed will surpass quality – if the expectation is to just ‘get things out there’ there is a chance that the level of research and the interpretation of historical material could be compromised. We have to strike a balance.
If you could change one thing in the GLAM industry what would it be and why?
The GLAM industry is a diverse and progressive environment, where there is much acceptance and positivity. However, the new generation of museologists and curators find it difficult to breakthrough with new ideas that challenge traditional concepts and practices. It would be incredible to see the industry further challenge the environment, thereby encouraging individuals to be innovative and attempt exciting and experimental practices.
Access for marginalised groups to get involved with and have representation (on their terms) in cultural institutions. This is a bit of a tricky one, that is more of a long game and very intertwined, but I really do feel like there are actions we can be taking now to address this. From having greater cultural representation in our institutions in terms of exhibitions, content and programs so people can see representations of themselves in our museums, galleries, libraries, to diverse and welcoming workforces in these institutions by facilitating accessible tertiary/required learning (this also feeds into a bigger issue of sustainable workforces and succession planning!).