Why Museums Must Have a ‘Cool’ Quotient

Museums play an important role in enhancing one’s understanding of history, but typically they attract only the cultural elite. The Louvre Abu Dhabi wants to transcend that barrier. Its vision is to become a global platform that brings together people from different countries, cultures, religions, across various age groups and from all walks of life. From a Knowledge@Wharton conversation with  Saif Saeed Ghobash, undersecretary at the department of culture and tourism in Abu Dhabi you can learn about the changing role of museums in the 21st century and why they must have a ‘cool’ quotient if they want to attract young people. Here are five takeaways.

The museum is for everybody

Our vision is that any visitor to this museum should be able to find a bit of their home in it — whether you come from Asia, Africa, or from South America and whether you are a Buddhist, a Muslim, or from any other religion. You will find a part of your culture or your background or your history in this museum. This is a global stage where we are going to showcase you.

How to talk about the past for the future generations

All museums face a paradox. They are dedicated to preserving the past, but at the same time they must also prepare audiences for the future. Museums play a very important role in augmenting one’s understanding of history through presenting incidents, tales, facts, etc. in a manner that is enticing, exciting, and easy to comprehend. We also work hand in hand with the ministry of education in mandating the visit of every student to the Louvre Abu Dhabi at least once every two years.

How to communicate effectively

Museums across different regions face the common problem of attracting only a narrow cultural elite and not a broad audience. Your product is not only your permanent and temporary exhibitions. It is also your programming, your workshops, your events, and so on. You need to understand your audience better and cater to their needs.

How to connect with younger generations

All teachers are invited to the museum before they start the academic year, we brief them on the content and we prep them. The journey begins in the classroom when the schoolchildren are prepared for the visit. And they are debriefed after the visit. That creates love, respect and appreciation.

How to be cool

Whatever exhibition we do, there is always an element that caters to children. For example, when we had an exhibition on Japan, we infused the experience with Manga lab workshops with Japanese animation. We flew in world-class animators and artists from across the world to interact with kids. You have to be “cool” as a museum, or you will miss out on attracting children. We are also able to interact with people of determination. We have placed various multi-sensory works across our galleries that people can touch and feel. We want to speak to everyone.

The story of a successful campaign

A highly successful marketing campaign — which won a lot of awards — was the Highway Gallery which we launched last year. It was the first of its kind. We took over dozens of billboards and we worked with the local radio stations. So as you were driving on the highway, you could tune into a defined radio station, and there would be a narrative telling you about every art piece that you drove past. The idea was to increase people’s awareness and knowledge about the art and also arouse their curiosity and attract them to the museum.