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How can museums reinvent themselves and become drivers of urban revitalisation?

Museum. The Power of Place, our joint program with the SKOLKOVO Moscow School of Management becomes the finalist in the 2020 Excellence in Practice Awards

(en) Текст новости

The main question faced by a museum today is how to transform from an institution for the conservation of heritage into an inclusive space that combines a variety of resources with the ability to nurture resilient and entrepreneurial communities, exert positive social impact and provide unique knowledge and experience that protects and promotes regional identity.

The educational initiative “Museum: The Power of Place” (more information is available in Russia here) is aimed at helping Russia’s regional museums unlock the potential of such transformation, provide the necessary tools and support from municipalities, as well as show the possible positive long-term economic effect on cities.

Museum as a driver for local sustainable development

Many regional centres in Russia have inherited the results of Soviet unified, industry-oriented urban development policies. They lack their own individual design and miss a unique local identity that would help them stand out and become a driving force for development.

Considering the enormous distance between Russian cities, and the fact that many are located in completely different historical and climatic regions, treating local cultural legacy in such a homogeneous way has led to extremely negative consequences, such as rapid loss of the historical, architectural and cultural appearance of the city and the poor integration of distinct urban cultural policies.

Museums, while being cultural organistions with a long and high-impact history, are today being forced to redefine themselves in a rapidly changing sociocultural and economic situation.

Besides competing with offline offerings, museums face fierce rivalry with online products — social media, streaming platforms, podcasts, MOOCS and so on.

The fundamental purpose of change in this sector is not just to survive and increase attendance but rather to re-invent the museum as an essential and relevant centre of cultural, social and economic development in its region and for its constituencies.

Partnership with purpose

The purpose of the educational programme: “Museum: The Power of Place” was to develop the necessary skill-sets for museum leaders that are vital for the implementation of pioneering projects at the intersection between museum activities and territory development—the so-called “cultural revitalisation initiatives”.

It is a cross-disciplinary programme designed to bridge the gap between territories, communities and cultural organisations by incubating a new generation of museum projects contributing to the cultural, social and spatial revitalisation of cities and regions.

“Museum: The Power of Place” came about as a result of joint efforts between the Vladimir Potanin Foundation and Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO.

The Foundation, as an initiator of systematic sustainable changes in the cultural field of Russia, has been an active participant in these efforts to assist Russian museums. The goal of the Foundations’ activities in this field is to provide long-term support for museums as drivers of local socio-economic development.

“The Power of Place” was first presented at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum in 2018. Its first stage comprised research conducted by the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, which revealed some of the Russian cities that had the highest potential for development through cultural means. The participating territories were then determined.

The next stage was a “foresight session” held by SKOLKOVO, which brought together 96 representatives of regional institutions from 21 Russian cities and helped analyse the surrounding museum environment, frame key challenges and propose the paths for the optimal development of a modern museum. The results of the foresight session later laid the groundwork for the educational programme design.

Creating impact

Employing a three-step selection system, 10 museums from 10 regional centres were chosen. During the last stage of the selection process,
one of the basic criteria for being accepted to the programme was the ability of the museum industry leader to find collaborators from other urban projects interested in the cultural revitalization of the city. The finalists were personalities ready to solve the current issues of the territory through cultural instruments, which formed 10 teams consisting of museum representatives and urban cultural leaders. The teams were supported by the Foundation on a competitive basis and successfully completed their studies in June 2019.

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