Sustainability Of American Museums In The 21st Century: The Many Uses of Scientific Advancement and New Media Technology
Sklar, Rory H.
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Many museums across the United States have felt the economic burden of the 2008 financial collapse. Decreased funding from Federal and State governments along with quickly vanishing endowments are putting so much strain on many institutions that they’ve been forced to reduce staff and hours, deaccession collection pieces or even close down completely. Increasing admission rates is already a well-known solution supported by substantial research, but many different opinions have appeared about how best to produce results. I believe that, in a world surrounded by quickly advancing technology, incorporating some aspects of it into a museum can help better engage an audience and increase visitor traffic. Ultimately, this adoption of “New Media” technology can ease the financial burden museums are still recovering from and ensure they maintain a relevant and purposeful place in the future. The Cravens World exhibition at the UB Anderson Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY is an ideal example of how technological installations on a small, simple scale can affect visitor interest even at a lesser-known gallery. A pair of custom designed touchscreen websites available for use by visitors help keep students, staff and guests engaged for far longer periods than they otherwise would have been. The Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in Manhattan, NY is, by contrast, an excellent model of a large institution that has decided to completely reconstruct its exhibitions from the ground up. Focusing on visitor engagement, directors and engineers designed multiple unique displays that have successfully increased the museums overall visitor attendance by 33%. Adapting to these changes may be both difficult and expensive to achieve, but doing so will boost visitor attendance, create incentive for reinvestment, and produce environments institutions may find useful for their educational and conservational needs.