“To have meaning, it must be relevant! To must be relevant, it must include me”! Nancy Proctor
I’m here for the third session of Meet The Media Guru, and this time the guest is Nancy Proctor. Director of MuseWeb Foundation, she’s led the digital area of the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution, which support more than 19 exhibition spaces and various research centers between Washington and New York. This event was especially intriguing for me because it dealt with a key concept for a country like Italy: is there a connection between culture and innovation? How can culture, which can seem like different dimension – ethereal and removed from reality – interact with a concrete reality that’s closer to people’s lives?
And in addition to the topic, I was blown away by the location. Palazzo Pitta in Corso Magenta is one of the greatest examples of Baroque architecture in Milan. I took pictures from just about every angle.
Opening the event as always was Maria Grazia Mattei, who immediately highlighted the key goal of the evening. We need to raise awareness and make institutions understand how important it is to take part in the process of innovation. “Digital is like air. It pervades every field and sector of our lives.”
Italy and culture: Italians don’t go to museums
Nancy Proctor began her speech by discussing the immense beauty of her current host country. All you need are a few figures: there are 5,000 museums and 25,000 performance spaces in Italy. It’s a great stat, it’s just a shame that 70% of Italians don’t go to museums! The figures are astonishing, and we’re wondering why. Maybe it’s that element of snobbery that’s hard to shake off – how art is seen as enigmatic and detached from the context where it was created and developed. How even today, it’s thought that institutional buildings can’t somehow use space to communicate the culture that’s all around it. And it’s right here, as Nancy emphasized, that a Digital Transformation can start. We need to think of museums as a distributed, shared network.
The new role of museum visitors
Let’s reimagine the museum, along with the role of visitors. Let’s aim for inclusion, and transform residents into storytellers, letting them tell the stories of the places they live.
The goal of MuseWeb Foundation is to create a business out of culture, and enable direct communication between institutions and people. How? By giving them an active role in the creative process. Nancy said something revolutionary in its simplicity: the starting point is people and their stories. Those stories need to be at the local level, but with a global spirit. That’s what social tools are for. This may be a disappointment for anyone who expects to uncover a new trick, but according to Nancy, the only trick to having a social strategy that involves young people and makes them into participants is to be sincere. Social channels can be an added value within a communication strategy, but only if that value actually does exist.
MuseWeb’s pilot project
Be Here: Baltimore and Be Here: Main Street are two pilot projects by MuseWeb, both focusing on narratives and participation in Baltimore. Through stories, they create connected and geolocalized digital tourism, by developing an “urban experience” that doesn’t just tell a story, but also enhances and changes the actual space it’s in.
The session closed with a quote from Lao Tzu, which completely captured the spirit with which we should approach innovation. Only by immersing ourselves in the context of the stories we want to tell, only by interacting with the users that we want to involve, can we help the evolution process along.