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Should museums be more like magazines?

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 20 Dec 2011

Is the magazine approach to content production a useful model for museums?

Kermadec - Mark sorting

Mandy Reid © Mandy Reid / Australian Museum

Thinking recently about the approaches museums take to content development and publishing as well as reading various reviews of the Walker Art Centre’s new website, has got me thinking about the magazine model and what relevance that has for museums. Seb Chan first raised this idea this on a post I wrote about what we'd learned from developing our DangerOz app (scroll down to the discussion). His blog post The museum website as a newspaper – an interview with Walker Art Center outlines the philosophy behind the redesign and it's importance to our sector as "... it represents a potential paradigm shift for institutional websites", and for content development overall I would add.

I'm increasingly of the view that our jobs are now all about content production, and we have the luxury of so many exciting publishing formats to choose from. This has the potential to release us from the often 'exhibit-led' approach to program development. Exhibitions can be an expensive investment with an often immovable infrastructure, which I also believe are environmentally unsustainable in the long term (unless the content is repurposed in different ways as we are trying to do via our website).

This article, Inside Sports Illustrated: Building a Magazine for the Digital Age, has many lessons for museums in thinking about content production and publication. As stated:

It became clear that Sports Illustrated has alighted upon the best model for a print magazine in the digital age, not only in terms of content and design (i.e. the product itself), but also in the way the publication has organized its staff and workflow to produce consistently top-tier products across multiple platforms.

So, should museums become more like magazines? And if so, what will our organisations look like in the future? And what skill sets will we need?