We are looking back at a year full of challenges, uncertainty and change but also full of hope, new chances, and creative ideas. And we are looking ahead to something we call the “new normal” without really knowing what this will even look like.
To find out how we can transfer the cultural sector into this new normal we brought together representatives from culture, business and politics to discuss what the cultural scene of tomorrow could look like. Here is a summary of the main discussion results of our webcast with participants:
- Matthias Rebellius, MBM Siemens AG, CEO Smart Infrastructure
- Prof. Dr. Stephan Frucht, Head of Culture and Sponsoring Siemens AG
- Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation
- Minister Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, Minister for Culture and Science of North-Rhine Westphalia
- Anna Weber, General Manager, Artistic and Operations at Carnegie Hall
- Florian Wiegand, Director of concerts at the Salzburg Festival
Making houses of art smart
Cultural buildings need to be made smart in order to be prepared for the future and any upcoming challenges. Smart infrastructure technologies can play a significant role here. To enable a safe return of visitors to museums, operas and theatres, Thermal Imaging Cameras, for example, can be used to monitor visitors’ temperature at the entrance and thus manage access. Furthermore, IOT sensors can help to regulate the flow of visitors in a museum and to monitor and adjust airflow as well as improve the air quality in various cultural buildings. Smart technologies cannot only make cultural institutions safer, but also better. Incorporating technology into concert halls can improve the experience for the audience and the staff. Besides, equipping cultural buildings with technology can allow artists to incorporate it into their own creative process. And looking at the requirements of the future and the new normal, smart infrastructure solutions can help to make a building more sustainable.
Cultural institutions are often accused of being old-fashioned, rigid and entrenched. But with the start of the pandemic they showed and proved that they can react very flexibly and quickly – which would not have been conceivable in the past. Museums, operas and theatres managed to find new formats and shifted to digital content in a very short period of time. Without relying on existing platforms, they tried to create something of their own, independent of others, in a simple and very personal way. By fully bringing culture to the digital world, its perception was fundamentally changed. Through the crisis, institutions have learned to go with the time and need to seize their opportunities now to develop the cultural scene of tomorrow.
Digitalization: an addition instead of a substitution
After a crisis, it is always important to reflect
, what actions and ideas were successful, what has proven itself and what we want to keep for the future. Digital content and formats allowed a new way of communication: artists could share their stories and thoughts very personally on social media. The audience could experience concerts and exhibitions in a very intimate way. And the personal approach as well as creative, improvised content took people along much more. With this type of content cultural institutions could not only connect with their current audience but also broaden their appeal to other demographics. Nevertheless, there is the strong desire to open museums, operas and theatres again since the digital experience can never replace the real-life experience. But keeping a complementary digital program in the future allows the cultural sector to position themselves and their values, while offering cultural experiences in a different way.
The educational mandate of cultural institutions
Museums and concert halls offer more than just entertainment. They fulfill an important role as keepers and sharers of knowledge. The new normal provides an opportunity to strengthen this educational role: thanks to digitalization, new ways of communication have opened up and cultural institutions can reach a larger audience than ever before. Now is the time to take advantage of these new platforms and find creative ways to provide information, keeping in mind that cultural institutions can also serve as educational facilities.
The power of networks and solidarity
While this pandemic has forced us to practice social distancing, it has also highlighted the power of networks and collaboration. The cultural sector has experienced the value of high functioning teamwork firsthand and the relationships between artists and institutions, as well as amongst museum and concert hall employees themselves, have grown stronger. The word collaboration has almost taken on a new, deeper meaning while solidarity has become increasingly important. This phenomenon goes beyond the cultural sector. It stretches into economics and politics, bringing to light how interconnected these were all along. Even though cultural institutions are struggling, this situation has increased their visibility in politics as more and more people became aware of how essential they are for us as a society.
Albeit this pandemic continues to be a great challenge for everyone, it has also taught us what we can achieve if we all work together. It has forced us to think out of the box and to recognize that we need culture as much as it needs us.
In this sense, we have learned that the new normal means being open and accepting of new technologies and different ways of living and experiencing culture. Most of all we have learned that there is a lot to gain in changing our old ways and that we are not going through this experience alone.