Michael Edson, Co-founder and Associate Director, Museum of the United Nations – UN Live (Denmark)


Michael Edson is a strategist and thought leader at the forefront of digital transformation in the cultural sector. Michael is co-founder and Associate Director for the Museum of the United Nations – UN Live, a new institution currently being envisioned for Copenhagen, Denmark and locations throughout the world. He was formerly the Director of Web and New Media Strategy for the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex, based in Washington, DC.

During 25 years at the Smithsonian (where his first job was cleaning Plexiglass for exhibitions), Michael worked on numerous award-winning projects and was involved in practically every aspect of technology and New Media for museums. In addition to leading the development of the Smithsonian’s first Web and New Media Strategy, first blog, and the first Alternative Reality Game to take place in a museum, Michael has been a forceful advocate for open content and the cultural commons.

Michael is a Salzburg Global Fellow; a Fellow at the Getty Leadership Institute; a Presidential Distinguished Fellow emeritus at the Council for Libraries and Information Resources (USA); and the founder of the Openlab Workshop initiative, a solutions lab, convener, and consultancy designed to accelerate the speed and impact of transformational change in the GLAM sector. Michael is an O'Reilly Foo Camp alumni and he was named a "Tech Titan: person to watch" by Washingtonian magazine.

"A bridge from awareness to action"

Lightning talk part of the session "What’s on the agenda for museums in 2019?" on Monday 27 May

Credits: Meredith Hutchinson/International Rescue Committee, 2015, via http://unlivemuseum.org

In this time of rapid change, ‘engaging audiences’ is not enough. To live up to their missions, and to the social contracts that give them trust, relevance, and resources in communities, museums need to take responsibility for building a bridge between awareness to action.

Climate change isn’t going to solve itself. The crisis of refugees, migrants, and displaced people is not going to solve itself. In this time of rapid change, decreasing trust in public institutions, and numerous existential threats to our societies, museums need to do more than ‘engaging audiences’. To live up to their missions and to the social contracts that give them visibility and resources in communities, museums and institutions of all kinds need to take responsibility for building a bridge between knowledge of difficult challenges and action towards overcoming them. Action, and positive change, are central to the concept for the Museum for the United Nations — UN Live, a newly forming global institution headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. The museum’s mission, “to connect people everywhere to the work and values of the United Nations and catalyze global effort towards accomplishing its goals”, was deliberately composed to ensure the institution places people and outcomes  — particularly those related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — at the center of its work and responsibility.

Read this article to understand better his vision.