Not so long ago, we were in Latvia to help launch the first edition of Museum Tomorrow, Latvia’s new network for museum professionals who want to exchange and collaborate with a focus on innovation. We helped with the idea but this has been the work of the Latvian National Museum of Art and the Latvian Association of Museums. Museum Tomorrow is for all museum professionals and aspiring professionals who want to be in the know of what is going on in Latvia right now, share their ideas, challenges, questions.

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We very much hope it will continue and blossom post We Are Museums Riga in June 2017. The first edition took place last 5 October 2016 at the LNMM and we were very happy to meet with about 50 professionals as most of our work is to source knowledge for our primary audience next June. This was a really enriching afternoon, which featured 3 case studies :

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The Latvian National Museum of Art on rebranding after its very recent and successful reopening, creating new tools like their mobile app, communication supports and embracing their new audiences seeking unique and aesthetic experiences within the museum.  Have a look here for more.

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The Literature and Music Museums on travelling across Latvia to select songs for its permanent exhibition. The museums was conceived as a memory box  and a learning experience. The experiment gathered so much enthusiasm that some serious curation had to be applied to the selected songs supposed to embody the spirit of Latvia.

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The Raina Tadenava Museum of Childhood all the way from Dunavas pagasts. This is one of the four museums dedicated to the national poet and has a specific focus on children. To engage them, it has relied on eco and wooden objects to develop intelligence and emotions.

We then followed up with a short workshop that helped trigger the conversation. Below are 3 real good takeaways from it.

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1. It is ALWAYS well-advised to make a workshop

You think everyone does it? You see it coming from miles away? No matter what you think, when you want to have an audience really talk to you and share what they know about themselves (disclaimer, they always know better), put some drawing, everyday life and group work in the mix.

Workshops are engaging, they are good for not taking yourself seriously, for brainstorming and for de-stressing after work when there is no direct stake. They are little moments of truth. Ours was fairly simple: portray the Latvian museum professionals and the Latvian visitors with 3 questions concerning their daily habits: what do they do first when they enter a museum? What does their workspace look like? The contributions we had were spot on, funny, witty. It’s not just about stating facts. As event organiser, you learn as much with the little jokes and the footnotes.

2. Latvian Museum Professionals are quite the hipsters

Granted, the room was quite filled with professionals on the younger side. Our typical Latvian professional ended up being very fond of their bike, a little ill-favoured when it comes to money, so looking for good deals food and culture-wise across town and spending all their free time outside of the workplace in search of free wifi. And, of course, they were glued to their smartphone from the first to the last hour of the day.

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And that’s good. In all fairness, who would not want to have a room full of young professionals?

One of the biggest, if not the biggest challenge coming for museums is to be able to retain talented, creative individuals while competing with creative economy, startups and other coworking-space related jobs. So, people, how do we make museums cool and open enough?

3. Museum professionals (may) know better than their boss how they work best

Perhaps the most striking sentence of the night was: “My boss thinks he needs to see me for me to work well. I could do the same job, if not better if I was away from my desk.” This is essentially the definition of a full-blown digital native. This should resonate with all museum managers and Directors. Staff does not have to be at their desk to be good staff. The same way freelancers increasingly move into museums for temporary missions, young and aspiring museums workers will increasingly expect to work in a more agile way, making space, and physicality all the more relative and highlighting the sense of individual performance and motivation instead.  Food for thought? We certainly think so!

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