Who is going to be at #MWF2014: three questions to Theodorus Meereboer

As a ‘museums internist’ and social innovator, Theodorus Meereboer likes to turn organizations inside out and outside in.
Theodorus will be joining MWF from the Netherlands. He is the founder of Erfgoed 2.0 (heritage 2.0), a social network for (Dutch & Flemish) heritage professionals, founder of E30 Foundation, as well as guest-lecturer at the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam and the Fontys University.

He will share his expertise with the MWF community on new engagement processes and strategies that generates sustainable models. Interested? Join us for the Masterclass “Relevant Forever: Business models and (digital) tools for sustainability” during the afternoon of Friday 21st. Take a look at the program and register here.

Theodorus was so kind to share with us a few thoughts on the Conference, the Masterclass and the networks that move around the heritage world in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

What are the keywords that better describe your expectations and thoughts for Museums and the Web Florence?
The Museums and the Web conference in Florence is important because it not only focuses on the Web, digitization or mobile tools, but also connects with the community, the city and society. Maintaining relevancy and sustainability are currently the biggest issues for cultural institutions.

After Weinberger stated that the Internet is small pieces loosely joined, we now face an era in which all ‘parts’ (data, things, locations, people and opinions) will be joined. Where technology enables us, museums (together with archives and libraries) should be the hubs that will reflect on and act upon these possibilities with meaning and conscience.

Considering this, what word would describe my expectations and thought for the conference best? Importance? Meaning? Interest? All three are true, but I am also curious about the people that will be attending the conference. So network is also a description.

How do you think organizations and professionals in Europe create networks to share knowledge and innovation, as opposed to the USA, and why do you think this is important?

It’s just my impression, but I think in Europe there are big differences in the tendency to share knowledge and the levels of cooperation that exist, due to differing cultural and scientific backgrounds. Still we can see a great effort to build networks or make use of existing networks in each country and currently more and more of these networks get connected.

In the Netherlands, we started a network for heritage professionals (Erfgoed 2.0) about 7 years ago. From the start we not only built an infrastructure, but we considered the networks as a kind of ongoing conference, wherein actually meeting people and exchanging experiences and opinions was just as important as sharing knowledge. After that I coordinated two other, quite similar networks (but with different topics). Although the Dutch language area is very small (and therefore there is a significantly smaller group of people who would possibly want to use it), the network grows relatively quickly and remains important for most professionals. Maybe that’s because we linked these networks with a diverse use of social media and a growing offline presence (workshops, conferences, lectures etc.).

Gradually the network became a knowledge ecology, or a ‘sharecology’ (not only knowledge but also experience, activities, opinion, passion, enthusiasm, etc.). I hope that we can also add to the network a bit of ‘Good old European socialism’.

In that case, we can also support connected professionals by giving mutual training, providing job opportunities, mediating internships, facilitating labor mobility within Europe, or even influencing (local) politics for example by working together with schools and after-school care in the area of heritage education and literacy. This development, in which museums are actively involved in societal developments (for example smart cities) will emerge, in my opinion, especially from the bottom up, from the heritage professionals themselves.

The Masterclass you will be chairing at MWF deals with strategies that can help museums engage in sustained relationships with their audiences. Could you share a few thoughts about how you think institutions could stay “relevant forever” in the rapidly changing environment they live in?


B Tal/CC BY-NC 2.0/Flickr

The relevance of museums strongly depends on their ability to communicate with their audiences (communication = education = literacy = experiencing = interaction, etc.).
According to Rich Cherry, most museums are mainly driven by the question “how do I get money?!” The answer may be in the combination of these two propositions. Finding money starts with knowing and sharing your identity as a museum: ‘why are we here and for whom’.

We talk a lot about engagement nowadays, funding by friends and fans. Museums are therefore in search of the attention (and money) of fans, friends and visitors. To get attention, museums should pay attention to topics and issues that are important for their audience and in society. That leads to a dialogue, which leads to added value and accompanying propositions. Participating in a sharecology and making valuable contributions is a prerequisite.

In the Masterclass, we work step by step to a basic plan for fangagement and associated revenue models. We do this by understanding what business we are in, by understanding the identity and brand values of the organization, by personifying this identity, by getting an understanding of the assets, the main activities, relationships and distribution channels (“venues or meeting places”) of the organization, to find out who to follow and who to involve using social media. Which all together will lead to a sustainable business model.


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