Thursday, June 26, 2014

And off to marketing we go

Is there a groundswell against regional museums? Feels like it. With art institutions trapped between trying to offer a satisfying experience and entertaining the hell out of everybody there're going to be some victims. One of the first has been the Hawke's Bay Museum and Art Gallery now relabeled MTG Hawke's Bay. Ostensibly annoyed by 'performance issues' (i.e. that the number of visitors hasn't gone up despite a major redevelopment) the City Council reached for consultants McDermott Miller Strategies. Oh, oh.

McDermott etc. have savaged the place. Has any local museum ever been kicked so hard? Could the politicians of the region have seriously invested $18 million in the project and had no idea about what was being planned? And then when it won awards but wasn't a raging success at the ticket office they've felt free to throw up their hands and unleash the dogs. Everything about the place is subject to snarky commentary and you really get the sense that the consultants were encouraged to hit hard. Maybe it's payback for the embarrassing miscalculation of how much storage space would be required.

And it gets amazingly personal - there's non of that old school loyalty and 'stand by your man' stuff here. The senior staff it turns out are out of touch by virtue of their expertise. "We understand the MTG Hawke's Bay director [Douglas Lloyd Jenkins] is from an academic background and his deputy, [public programmes team leader Eloise Wallace], has a postgraduate museology diploma plus five years' experience in the exhibitions department of a London museum," Oh, oh again.

But thank God McDermott M. have the solution to all this pointy-headedness. Marketing. How do they think of this stuff? According to McDM it’s marketers who best understand how to pick the best shows, placate snubbed audiences,
build numbers, bring in the locals and make up for the limitations of connoisseurship. And they have a plan. Focus on on World War 1. That should do it.

If you wonder how much worse things can get for art museums and other cultural institutions you can read the whole report (well given that it’s 139 pages long you might want to skip a few of them) here.