What makes a good We Are Museums presenter? Passion for museums, expertise in the digital field, the desire to learn as much as possible from our speakers… and of course the ability to share energy with the audience. We found all these qualities - and much more - in Thibaut Thomas for WAM16. In addition to having been a great We Are Museums audience member for several editions and an amazing panel presenter in 2015, Thibaut Thomas is a consultant who has worked for private companies as well as for major cultural institutions like the Parisian Palais de Tokyo, the Fondation Galeries Lafayette and the Gaîté Lyrique, a center for digital cultures for which he launched the social media strategy and presence. He shares with us his opinion about our post-internet world, bridges between corporate and cultural and how WAM changes the participants’ view of their job.
WAM: You’ve worked with both corporate and cultural organizations. What can these two worlds learn from each other?
TT: It’s a good question, because I love working with both, as they share the same basic issue: they both have to deal with people in the end! I love the care and the passion for visitors and audiences that one finds in cultural organizations. Whole departments of cultural mediation are committed to creating meaningful experiences, and for most cultural organizations, there’s the utmost importance, every morning, to be able to open the doors and welcome visitors, whatever trouble there may be with the exhibitions…
On their side, corporate organizations sometimes lack this level of passion, but they often adopt a customer-oriented approach that informs every decision. I’ve met some marketing people who understand so much about their customers, their needs, desires, and how to fulfill them... The ability that corporate organizations have to reframe their mission toward customers and audiences should be an example for cultural organizations who feel sometimes “tied up” to a collection or a theme, and lack freedom of mind to develop new programs for their visitors, especially online.
WAM: Last year, you hosted a panel titled “Museums after the internet”. What does it mean to you? How do you see the future of museums, digitally speaking?
TT: I means that the internet is here, it has arrived, and now we have to deal with it. We already live in a post-internet world, and that means that the primary mode of access to information - and culture - is the internet. I believe that 100% of the people in Europe who will still be going to museums in the next 10 years are already online, on mobile devices or computers. Think about that for a second, and you’ll understand that the internet shouldn’t be an afterthought for cultural organizations, but it should be integrated deeply in their practice, probably as deeply as defining operating hours and managing collections. It also means that cultural organizations should enthusiastically tap into the society-changing internet culture (unlimited access to content, sharing, conversation, remixing, participation…) to fulfill their mission even better. I’m very excited about the future of museums that are going to be able to benefit from the internet to be even more relevant to us all in the XXI century.
WAM: You will be our presenter at WAM16. According to you, how have museums changed since our first edition? Do you see an “after WAM” effect for museums?
TT: Definitely. WAM is a great moment to share experiences between organizations and people. It puts the people first, and it gives the energy to bring change. I remember fondly an early WAM14 moment in Warsaw when all the conference erupted in laughter when one of the speakers mentioned that it was sometimes difficult for communication people to work with curators. It was a relief: Everybody in the room understood that even in big museums, whose digital practice sometimes feels unattainable for smaller organizations, face the same universal cultural organizations struggle. “We Are Museums”, after all 😉