This month we have chosen "The Audiences on Culture" as main topic for our Talks on Culture .
We have invited two professionals who know very well the situation and the challenges that both public and private institutions are facing today, and how they manage the new requirements of their audiences, who are changing in an increasingly fast way. We met Jaume Colomer, a true benchmark in Spanish and Latin performing arts, who kindly answered our questions in a video interview that we will upload shortly. Later, we were glad to have a short talk with Lina Ubero, Public Programs Chief in Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona, who helped u understand how a big museum like Museu Blau, a doyen of the Catalan museums, has reshaped their strategy to reach their audiences in the best way.
We met Lina in a room in Museu Blau, a building that is a lightspot in the middle of the nest of the emblematic constructions raised in Fòrum, Barcelona. From the main entrance, the famous whale that atranded 150 years ago in Llançà beach, named Brava in a popular vote, is presiding the stairs and welcomes us. This is a tradition shared with many other science museums around the world. Brava plunges us in the different stories to be discovered in Museu Blau, an adventure for kids and families!
1. The Natural Science Museum of Barcelona is one of the few institutions to have a specific department for Public Programs so it is possible there are people who do not know what they do from there...Tell us a little bit about that.
In fact there are other museums with a department like ours but maybe they use another name. In our case, we are in charge of every field and topic related to the public attention, so we have different areas: communication, activities, exhibitions and public attention. This team collects and receives all the information to send it off tho the other departments which, after a period of reflexion, will stablish the programs that will be developed for the publics but also for the non-publics.
2. In 2006 you were in a work group about Heritage and Culture Plan in Barcelona where one of the main conclusions was that 'we do not know our publics. There is a lack of serious studies'. Has the situation of the public museums been improved, after 10 years?
Fortunately, we have a complete diferent scene. There is lots of information and we have collected a huge amount of knowledge, but now the problem is what to do with all this data in order to be able to extract relevant conclusions we can use to elaborate the museum programs. Nowadays, we are equal to any other European institution in the way we collect info. Although I think it is common that most of the knowledge public departments have doesn't arrive to the rest of departments. Decisions are taken without taking that all into account because the structure of the museums is not working in cross cutting manner. The challenge is now how to put those exhaustive studies into practice.
3. The Museum Blau is defined as a 'local institution located in the fringes of the city'. As you have three locations, the Botanical Garden, the Historical Garden and the Museu Blau, do you find different visitors profiles?
We are lucky to have a great diversity of visitors. In addition to the paying visitors, there is an important number of reserchers and collaborators in Ciutadella, where we have the Documentation Center and a big part of our main collection. These scientists are not included as 'public' but they provide a really significant amount of knowledge, and are considered a main role players for the museum objetives.
Futhermore, 68% of the visitors in the Botanic Gardens are tourists, people not living in Barcelona, adults traveling alone or with no kids. This figure is completely different in Museu Blau, where we have a 72% of family visitors with a high cultural level looking for quality and excellence. They want that 'something more' that an amusement park cannot bring them.
But we are also a local museum located in the northern area of the city, where there is a great diversity of nacionalities, a high rate of unemployment and a slightly high average age. Besides, this area of Barcelona didn't have any cultural facility, no public libraries or civic centres until 1995. And obviously no museum either, until Museu Blau opened its doors. It was a slow process to arrive to the people in the neighbourhood, who started to arrive mostly in the weekends. And finally, we have many school visits from Monday to Friday.
4. The Natural Sciences Museum is more than 130 years old so you have faced many changes in response to the challenging new requirements of a society in continuous evolution. How did you manage the digital challenge?
We didn't have this building four years ago. When we moved here, we decided to use technology in a rational manner: we thought we should use the resources to help our reserchers to have instant updates of the scientific data, so now our visitors have the same complete access to that relevant info than the scientists.
As an example, our exhibition 'Planeta Vida' which can be thought of from thousands of diferent points of views, uses technology in this rational way that I just described. We know that the most engaging way to get to our visitors is using an emotional approach, so we consider media, objects or even the empathy of the mediator to achieve some kind of connection.
5. The young and family audiences are one of your strongest target. Tell me about the way you motivate them.
When we opened this museum four years ago we created a new project called 'Science Nest' to improve the access of children under 6, who are not well attended in museums. We imagined a space which would work as an activities generator, a tool for the youngest audiences that has become one of the strongest points in our cultural offering, as it is growing with the suggestions and ideas of the kids themselves. As a living project it may include new activities or pedagogical sources together with the museum discourse: Science Nest is growing thanks to the work developed by the museum and the children, as a team. We are really proud of this project 'Born for Science'.
6. This year you are opening a new webpage and a new global app, CloudGuide. Which are your expectations for every media? Are you thinking of the different users each of them will have?
I Think CloudGuide is a great project because of the institutions connecting through it, but also because audiences are able to link us leaving comments in social media, tagging and so on. An app is a young channel for digital communication and we have more than 379.000 online visitors per year. This is a very important figure.
7. The last question is made for you as a user... What do you expect from CloudGuide?
I'm not a good model I think (laughs). When I download an app in a museum, I do it as a professional, from a technical point of view. I personally love audioguides, but also apps, because I'm interested on how they approach their audiences in a different way. That is why I welcome the apps which go beyond audioguides. I think millenials would change radically the cultural scene , as they are demanding gamification, augmented reality, beacons, image recognition and so on. It is true that our context is quite different to the anglosaxon scene and may be we need to grow more in that way...I have collegues that are in love with apps, as they know the future will go in that way.
8. Would you like to add something else?
I would remark on how important are the audiences. We must let them know that they are essential, that their participation and collaboration is imperative. And our constant requirements for them to fill the form are a must to help our programs to get better. We are committed to them, and to achieve a living museum for the common heritage of the comminities.