Introduction

Museums 2015: The Agile Museum brought together museum practitioners, leaders and policy makers, researchers, academics and students from around the world to explore the idea of ‘museum agility.’ The timing and subject of the conference were immensely significant. We live in times of deep social, demographic, cultural, technological and environmental change. The museum finds itself in a landscape in which audience literacies are evolving, age profiles are shifting and professional skills sets diversifying. Culture is increasingly experienced through multiple channels, with expertise and interpretation negotiated and distributed in ever more complex ways. In a context of continual change, Museum 2015 asked how can museums embrace this change, stay relevant and flourish? How can museums be nimble, assume change, and be flexible by design?

Museum 2015 was an opportunity to look at how change happens within museums, how museums can challenge their traditional values and what we can learn from museums that have been led through significant processes of organisational change. It provided a forum to reflect on how museums can maintain their relationships and partnerships with communities at times of uncertainty and change, and how museums can respond to changing audience needs. Museum 2015 challenged us to think about alternative models for collecting, and for managing collections, as well as what part traditional exhibition and communication methods might continue to play in the future programming of museums.

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The spirit of the conference

The spirit of Museum 2015 was one of learning from each other, of supporting colleagues and understanding new contexts, in a spirit of mutual generosity. It brought together people from different professional backgrounds and stages of their careers, countries, and viewpoints. Delegates included museum practitioners, academics, researchers, policy makers and students.

Museum 2015 featured different types of interactions to engage delegates and enable the sharing of ideas. Alongside keynote speakers – which included Professor Yoshida from the Japanese National Museum of Ethnography, Tracy Puklowski from Te Papa Tongarewa , New Zealand, and James Davies of Google – and conference papers, there were a series of panel discussions, through which all delegates could share their views, questions and reflections, and workshops on varied themes such as working with communities, museum leadership, design and post digital museums, which provided opportunities for active learning and discussion. A visit to The National Museum of Emerging Science and Emerging Science and Innovation, Miraikan, gave a concrete example of museum ‘agility’ in a real context.

Delegates were encouraged to be actively engaged with the issues, to debate, discuss and participate, as well be inspired by keynotes and speaker presentations. There was a strong ethos of enabling new voices to be heard, as well as those who are more established in their careers.

The international aspect of the conference was also enormously important, as bringing together people from different places and contexts provided a unique opportunity to understand museums in new, and diverse, ways.

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A history of collaboration

Museums 2015 is the fourth in a series of international conferences which collectively stand at the leading edge of museological research and are informed by the latest museum practice. The conference series developed from an initial collaboration between The National Taipei University of Education in Taiwan and the School of Museum Studies, at the University of Leicester, UK. The partnership has been highly successful, resulting in Museum 2010, Museum 2011 and Museum 2012: The Socially Purposeful Museum. Museum 2015 is the first time that the conference has taken place in Japan.

The conference would not have been possible without successful collaboration between the following partners:

School of Arts and Letters, Meiji University

The Museological Society of Japan

Tokyo National Museum

National Museum of History, Taiwan

Otsuma Women’s University Museum Facility, Otsuma Women’s University

National Taipei University of Education

School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester

The conference oganisers would like to thank their partners and sposors for making Museum 2015 possible. Their professionalism and dedication helped to continue an on-going international conversation about what museums are – and what they need to be.

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