Museums must fundamentally change to become more inclusive

Simon Stephens, 09.11.2012
Mark O'Neill gives keynote at MA conference
Museums need to fundamentally change the way they work if they are to become truly inclusive, Mark O’Neill from Glasgow Life told the Museums Association conference in Edinburgh today.

“We have reached the limits of the adding-on approach and need to make changes to the core,” said O’Neill, the director of policy and research at Glasgow Life, which has responsibility for museums in the city.

O’Neill argued that there is plenty of evidence to show that people’s well-being is improved simply by visiting museums and galleries. But he said that there were limits to what could be done by outreach programmes and museums needed to find ways to increase visitor numbers from deprived communities.

He pointed to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation report Whose Cake Is It Anyway? and said that access will be one of the key issues in forthcoming years.

O’Neill emphasised the importance of the social experience of visiting museums and said that museums “will have to learn to engage with mixed audiences at their core. That will require a change in visitor expectations and a change in the skills in museums.”

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