TrendsWatch 2018: annual report by the Center for the Future of Museums


This instalment of the Alliance’s annual forecasting report takes a break from the usual format and presents four stories of the future, designed to strengthen museum planning.

  1. Our Bright Future, which might be summarised as the best of the possible worlds shading towards Utopia – A positive view. 

  2. Fragmentation: a look at those things that can go ‘wrong’, spreading into Dystopia – A negative view.

  3. A new Equilibrium: a more likely scenario, if a straightforward extrapolation from the present-day state of play is assumed – a mixed bag of effects, some good, some not so good. 

  4. Wild Times – invites us to think of a scenario and game it, make some assumptions and play the possible consequences out in the Museum sector.

These scenarios do take a US view (it is a US article) so some scenarios need modification if they are to be applied in an international context. For example, Europe has Universal Health Care (UHC) so the next item on its agenda is Universal Basic Income (UBI), rather than Universal Health Care. There are plenty of cross overs between the four scenarios, a reminder of how it’s best not to think of anything involving the future as nice and neat. Extrapolating some of the more unpleasant trends of the present day into the future makes for a lot darker ‘new equilibrium’ than is suggested if indeed it can be called an ‘equilibrium.’ Finally, Museums will need to train people in the sector to think this way. We will need to free the Museum mind from the reality of the Museum day to day if we are going to get anywhere close to the best of all possible Museum worlds.

What do you think? Please do post your comments below.


Ian Duckworth
Associate Director of Research, Barker Langham Recruitment

Ian is experienced in Human Resources and Recruitment, where he has planned and delivered his recruiting services for clients such as the British Museum, Tate, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Imperial War Museum, National Museums Liverpool (all UK), the Cradle of Humankind and De Beers ‘Big Hole’ (South Africa).

Ian has 15 years of public and private sector experience in global (including USA and Russia) Museums and Galleries across Nationals, Internationals, Local Authorities and Independent Trusts. His most recent projects at Barker Langham Recruitment has been providing human resources consultancy services and staff recruitment for the Strelka Institute in Moscow, Russia; recruiting a senior staff member for a new national museum in Oman; providing organisational, training, and human resources consultancy work for Shindagha Museum in Dubai, UAE; and also delivering human resources, organisational planning and human resources consulting services to Japan House in London, UK. 

Ian has published global research and development work including Museums and Heritage training, competency frameworks, skills transfer and recruitment trends analysis. He holds a Diploma in European Cultural Studies from Warwick University, a Diploma in Art Gallery and Museum Studies from the University of Manchester and a BA History (Hons) from King’s College London. Ian is fluent in English and Catalan.

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