Revolutionizing museums in Zagreb: The future of audience development and cultural participation

On Thursday, February 22nd, Zagreb's renowned AMZ Gallery was the vibrant host of an influential panel discussion titled "Museums for the Future: Audience Development." This significant event delved into the pressing challenges and innovative strategies within the cultural sector, focusing on key questions: How can museums attract and retain a diverse audience? What methods strengthen cultural participation? And how do cultural institutions maintain audience engagement in a rapidly changing world?

Museums, galleries, and cultural entities, spanning the spectrum from private ventures to public institutions, are finding themselves at a crossroads. The need to constantly innovate and self-reflect is imperative to sustain and amplify their societal roles. In today's digital age, the power of effective communication is paramount. These institutions are exploring novel ways to not just exist but to resonate with their communities. A prime example is how permanent exhibitions are transforming into dynamic spaces of interaction and dialogue.

The "Museums for the Future: Audience Development" panel brought to light the concept of audience development as a strategic tool for cultural organizations. This innovative approach is essential for broadening and deepening the relationship with their audience. Esteemed panelists included Wilhelmina Zelić Debeljak, on behalf of the Zagreb City Museum's director Aleksandra Berberih Slana, along with Daniel Tomičić and Tina Marković from the esteemed Zagreb Design Week. Additionally, Laura Orlić and Mate Marić from the cutting-edge Artivist Company, shared their insights, with the session moderated by the insightful Marija Jurić from Brodoto.

The Zagreb City Museum, a beacon of cultural heritage, highlighted their diverse array of activities designed to bring the museum's treasures and narratives to a wider audience. Among these, the "Living Pictures" educational program stands out, having garnered acclaim for its interactive portrayal of Zagreb's rich history. Another notable initiative is the "Third Saturday" program, catering specifically to students - a demographic traditionally underrepresented in museum visitors.

Representatives from Zagreb Design Week illuminated their journey in establishing what is now celebrated as Croatia's premier design festival. Their commitment to understanding and responding to audience needs has been a cornerstone of their success. Alongside the main exhibition, a variety of complementary events have transformed the festival into a pivotal cultural hub in Zagreb, attracting a dedicated following.

In a compelling showcase of technological innovation, the startup Artivist Company unveiled a demo of their "My Museum Experience" app. This groundbreaking application employs digital technologies and storytelling to forge stronger connections between museum collections and visitors. "My Museum Experience" is poised to revolutionize audience engagement, offering personalized, emotive experiences that encourage return visits and provide museums with valuable insights.

The event concluded with a robust discussion among the speakers and attendees. Central to this dialogue was the importance of democratizing museums - both physically and socially - and the role of cultural education in fostering new audiences. Emphasis was placed on understanding cultural heritage as a shared treasure, integral to shaping our collective and individual identities.

The panel was graced by numerous dignitaries from various cultural institutions and initiatives, including the Archaeological Museum Zagreb, Travno Cultural Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, among others.

This landmark event was part of the EU's Erasmus+ program, under the project COOLTOUR - Millennials for Cultural Heritage (2021-1-IT03-KA220-YOU-000029203). Furthering the project's impact, a toolkit for heritage managers is available at COOLTOUR Project Toolkit, offering valuable resources for those in the cultural heritage sector.

The full recording of this event can be viewed below, offering insights and inspirations for anyone interested in the future of museums and audience engagement.