The MuseWeb Foundation
Transforming the Business of Culture
MuseWeb formed in 2016 with the clear conviction that somewhere, somehow, culture and business had been separated from each other in the great American experiment and both have suffered from this split. The Museweb Foundation has embraced the mission to bring the two sectors together, to transform entire municipalities and cities by developing the business of culture.
We know what most businesses, entrepreneurs, cultural institutions and creative producers have come to know in the past decade: A city’s success is predicated on a thriving cultural sector. Yet, often culture is engaged by municipalities and their corporate partners as an afterthought—something to consider after questions pertaining to infrastructure and commerce. But culture is the invisible infrastructure, and if it falls, the community also falls.
What are the potential benefits to bringing culture and business into a synergistic partnership?
- Meeting the needs of the nation’s changing demographics by effectively engaging diverse audiences
- Dealing with the crisis of relevance and sustainability that the cultural sector is undergoing
- Reinvigorating districts by enlisting community members in making culture, thus instilling pride in themselves and their communities
- Creating a strong, connected tourism sector that directly benefits from cultural creation by engaging government and commercial partners
- Growing the younger audiences for new forms of digital, cultural content
- Imparting transferable 21st century skills to participants in our content creation programs, thus making them more employable in the future
- Sharing innovative projects and business models with the field through convening learning and networking opportunities for cultural sector professionals.
We believe that by innovatively constructing new business models that amplify local culture and cultural creators we can create systems that directly and measurably benefit specific communities and society in general, both today and for future generations.
How We Do It:
We develop projects such as Be Here: Baltimore and Be Here: Main Street our foundation’s pilot projects. It enables greater participation in the narratives of Baltimore and make the city’s diverse voices more visible to local and global audiences, thus bringing business and culture together to hold hands and enhance tourism and reinvent the story of the city. Be Here: Baltimore aims to:
- Use the power of cultural storytelling and new mobile technologies to knit together a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts
- Create “network effects” making each urban experience better because it is woven into the full diversity of voices that make up the fabric of the city
- Cause the very act of connecting a community’s stories to change the places themselves
This new initiative is a development of Museums and the Web (MW), the international conference on technology in the cultural sector, which was founded in 1997 by David Bearman and Jennifer Trant. For the past two decades, this conference has showcased and documented innovative digital work in the cultural field.
When Jennifer and David convened the first Museums and the Web Conference, to many “museums” on the one hand and “the web” on the other seemed strange, almost incompatible partners. Some still feel so today. But the reality is that the web and digital technologies are now inseparably intertwined with museums as with almost everything else we do and experience. It seems to be eons ago when Jennifer and David asked, “What is it that museums are uniquely positioned to do on the Web? And what is it that the Web enables museums to do that they can’t do elsewhere?”
At MW’s 20th anniversary, we began to create an answer, deciding to seize this moment to establish a new role and place for an enterprise that can bring together the disparate strands of the internet, smartphone-based apps, galleries, libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural organizations, cultural creators, and businesses.
Two of the museum sector’s most respected thought leaders, Nancy Proctor and Rich Cherry, created the MuseWeb Foundation, a nonprofit offshoot of MW to accelerate innovation in both cultural practice and business models in the sector for a more relevant, impactful, and sustainable cultural future. The Museweb Foundation soft launched at the 20th Museum Web conference in Los Angeles, April 7th, 2016.
To our initial questions we now also ask:
- How can we tap the incredible energy and brain trust of this pervasive network of galleries, libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural organizations, to enable them to do things they can’t do elsewhere?
- How will we rapidly test and iterate methods for tackling the cultural sector’s pressing problems and yielding sustainable solutions?
- How do we bring the two sectors together to enlarges and extends local business?