The Future of the Museum in the Twenty First Century Recent Clues From France

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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Museum Management and Curatorship ISSN: 0964-7775 (Print) 1872-9185 (Online) Journal homepage: The future of the museum in the twenty-firstcentury: recent clues from France Xavier Greffe, Anne Krebs & Sylvie Pflieger To cite this article:  Xavier Greffe, Anne Krebs & Sylvie Pflieger (2017) The future of the museumin the twenty-first century: recent clues from France, Museum Management and Curatorship, 32:4,319-334, DOI: 10.1080/09647775.2017.1313126 To link to this article: Published online: 19 Apr 2017.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 1032View Crossmark dataCiting articles: 3 View citing articles  The future of the museum in the twenty-first century: recentclues from France Xavier Greffe a , Anne Krebs b and Sylvie Pflieger c a Centre d ’ économie de la Sorbonne, University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France;  b Head of Studies andResearch Division, Research and Collection Department, musée du Louvre, Paris, France;  c Centre de recherchesur les liens sociaux, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France ABSTRACT The vast majority of public funded museums are suffering severeand continuous declining resources. But we can wonder whetherthe economic crisis explanation is the sole credible culprit or if thecurrent situation reveals a more fundamental disequilibrium. Thetraditional tripartite basis of the museum  –  the collection itself, itseducational function, and the professionalisation of competences –  is increasingly destabilised, and an increasing number of museums are asked to become  ‘ cultural centres ’  and social capitalproducers. Considering the recent evolution of French museums,we describe three main economic models that can sometimesoverlap. The  ‘ Branding Museum ’ : in this case museums areincreasingly looking for new kinds of income-generating activities,such as the merchandising of by-products, publication of writtenor audio-visual materials, research and consulting servicesoffering, and more broadly, exploiting their intellectual propertyrights. The  ‘ Event-driven museum ’ : such museums organisecultural events, exhibitions, concerts, conferences, and so on inthe hope of attracting both faithful and new visitors, and thusremaining financially sustainable. The  ‘ Empowering localcommunity museum ’ : resource-poor in tourism and funding, suchmuseums are seen at best as public spaces for local meetings anddebates, or as hosting places for art events of purely local interest,on the increasing basis of voluntary work. ARTICLE HISTORY Received 29 August 2016Accepted 27 March 2017 KEYWORDS Financial crisis; structuralcrisis; business model;branding museum; event-driven museum; empoweringlocal community museum Of all the cultural and heritage institutions we have inherited from the past, the museumcontinues to generate the most attention. The importance of this institution, still recog-nised today, has a tripartite basis  –  the collection itself, its educational function, and theprofessionalisation of competence in the areas of inventory management, conservation,and exhibition  –  although the importance of each of these elements can vary from onecase to another. Museum economics are thus similarly affected by three issues: the factthat highly professionalised work is specialised and expensive; the fact that museums ’ educational purpose raises issues of accessibility (physical, intellectual, and financial);and last but not least, the difficulty of demonstrating the value of the services providedby the museum to the general public and to businesses (a difficulty shared by many cul-tural facilities). © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group CONTACT  Xavier Greffe University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France MUSEUM MANAGEMENT AND CURATORSHIP, 2017VOL. 32, NO. 4, 319 – 334  Depending on our understanding of the key challenge facing museums today, we mustfind a corresponding solution. If we believe that the challenge is an economic one, whatwe need to do primarily is to adapt the business model to a new environment and seek toreturn to the canonical model over the long term. However, if we believe the challenge isstructural, then we need to ask what are the true functions of museums today, how thesefunctions are valued by different members of society, and, of course, whether these func-tions are compatible with the canonical model of the museum (Grenier 2013). At thatpoint, changes in the economic model of the museum can no longer be confined to differ-ent weightings of their traditional resources, namely subsidies, income from activities, andpatronage. Rather, the changes sought must highlight strategies for capturing economicvalue which bring other social triggers into play: the production of an image or even a ‘ brand ’ , the regular creation of   ‘ events ’ , and the generation and consolidation of socialcapital. While the economic-crisis explanation suggests that we can identify museums ’ problems and find solutions to them by performing variations on the canonical model,in which case the logic of the market may destabilise that canonical model but notdestroy it, the structural-crisis explanation leads us to ask what novel factors the logicof the market is introducing today, resulting in a discussion that is complicated in otherways.To demonstrate this, we focus here on the case of France, 1 where museum creation andexpansion date back a long way and clearly exemplify the canonical tripartite structure.The French museum system is strongly influenced by the norms defined by the stateand its system of subsidies (Krebs 2014), although in recent years we have seen the intro-duction of various incentives and some decentralisation. We thus start from a situationthat could almost be called extreme, in the sense that the canonical model and its econ-omic implications were firmly established from the beginning (Greffe 2010, 2011; Greffe and Pflieger 2015). 1. From cyclical to structural instability 1.1. Funding for museums: a nagging question Let us first remember that museums faced financial challenges as soon as theyexisted, which means that we have never known a financial  ‘ golden age ’ . From theearly nineteenth century onwards, museums under the control of the state or of local authorities suffered from the uncertainties of public funding and the repercus-sions of periods of recession in successive economic cycles. This was particularlytrue in Europe during the Great Depression (1873 – 1896), after each world war, andduring the first major financial crisis of modern times in the 1930s. One symbolicallysignificant example is that of the Louvre: in 1793, the curators responsible for the cre-ation of the  Muséum Central des Arts  were forced to act urgently to claim the fundsneeded to pay current expenses and the stipends of the two custodians who wereto open the new museum. 2 Similarly, at its opening in 1905 the  Musée des Arts Déc-oratifs  in Paris introduced an entrance fee, and in 1908 four of the City of Paris munici-pal museums began to require payment so as to ensure continuation of their income.In other words, from the time museums were first established, public subsidy wasinadequate to ensure their management and operation. 320 X. GREFFE ET AL.  A combination of three funding sources was thus brought to bear during the nine-teenth century: public subsidy; private resources in the form of donations and bequestsof money or works of art; and the sale of ancillary cultural items, which very quicklycame to enrich the museum ’ s cash registers (from 1797 onwards at the Louvre, onecould buy a  ‘ record ’  of the visit, as well as prints, copperplate reproductions and castsof the works in the collection, catalogues and tour guides, soon to be replaced by thesale of photographs and postcards) (Krebs 2016). 3 Also during the nineteenth century,important  ‘ Friends of the Museum ’  associations were established with the primary goalof enriching the collections, since museums lacked the resources to acquire works ontheir own. 4 Thus, as early as the nineteenth century, we have an economic landscape,which is largely familiar in the present day (Pflieger 2011; Vital 2011). 1.1.1. Uniform solutions despite heterogeneous socio-economic situations What is the current situation? Museums are extremely diverse in size, resources, catchmentarea, and attendance figures (Labourdette 2015). We can point out that, in France, about1% of the museums open to the public in 2013 accounted for 50% of total visits and hadmore than 500,000 visitors per year, while 80% of them had fewer than 40,000 per year(PATRIMOSTAT,  Direction générale des Patrimoines  2016).Moreover, while their attendance figures have increased overall during the past tenyears, major disparities exist between some regions or museums and others (Gaillard2014). New models thus seem to be essential, but in a context which has also changed,marked by the globalisation of museums ’  reach (new audiences and new practices on aworldwide scale) and by the effects of the  ‘ digital revolution ’  on the behaviour of museums and their visitors alike, in the form of the digitisation of collections and the  ‘ vir-tualisation ’  of the museum. Virtual networks and systems are changing the expectationsand practices of visitors, and serve as a sounding board for museums ’  performance  – althoughthisshould notovershadowthefact thatthe availability ofthese digital resourcesand systems also remains highly unequal, in that smaller museums typically have little orno access to them. 1.1.2. A chimera: growth in visitor numbers A mirage has to be dispelled  –  that created by the seemingly endless lines of peoplewilling to pay increasingly large sums to get into world-famous museums. The situationswe studied in fact describe extremely disparate attendance levels: in 2013, there werefewer than 5000 visitors a year to the museums of Saint-Flour, a town in Auvergne, andnearly 7.6 million to the Château of Versailles (Île-de-France region). By placing theresults of this research in the overall context of attendance figures for the  Musées deFrance  (see Appendix 1), we find first of all that museums nationwide recorded a substan-tial increase intheirtotalattendance (+63.31%) over the lastdecade(2001 – 2013),withtheaverage total number of admissions per year going from 38,856 to 63,509 in this period,while thenumberof museums open tothe public went from 992 in 2001 to958 in 2013  – anumber which marks a sharp decline compared to the immediately preceding years (therewere around 1030 – 1050 museums open to the public for the years 2007 – 2011). Thisdecline means that the average number of visitors per museum has experienced evenstronger growth, from 39,000 to 66,000, an increase of 69%. Growth was particularly MUSEUM MANAGEMENT AND CURATORSHIP 321
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