An innovative tool to program exhibitions in museums


Wednesday, April 07, 2021: 1:30pm - 3:00pm - - Paper Session

Ursula Imbernon, Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, Spain, Maria del Mar Casanovas-Rubio, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain, Jaume Armengou, IESE Business School, España, marta crispí, Universitat Interancional de Catalunya, Spain. Catalonia

Published paper: An innovative tool to program exhibitions in museums: Case Study of CaixaForum

How are exhibitions selected in museums? Who is it that makes these decisions? These questions are relevant today because after reading the literature and conducting interviews with museum directors, there appears to be no specific decision-making method when selecting exhibitions for a full-season program. This paper intends to contribute to the implementation of an innovative tool, which will assist the directors of museums in making better decisions.

This research proposes to analyze how decisions are made when choosing artists, topics, and shows for an annual season, bearing in mind the lack of a process to do so. In general, the decision-making process within cultural institutions is intuitive. It is based on the experience and subjectivity of the director, who is trained with an artistic background but sometimes lacks experience in arts management. With regard to the decision-making process in museums, this research paper suggests the innovative use of a multi-attribute tool that can evaluate different seasonal programs by rating previous exhibitions. By considering the preferences and priorities of the museum, key criteria will be defined when planning the optimal program.

The research methodology is based on the multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM), which is widely used in other sectors such as engineering. The method used in implementing the tool is the Multi-Attribute Utility Theory (MAUT) (Keneey and Raiffa, 1976), which determines the Season Value Index (SVI). The SVI is a final result that will indicate and help the directors in improving and optimizing the programming of the exhibitions. This paper presents the case study of CaixaForum, one of the most important cultural institutions within Spain, with more than eight centers.

In order to apply this new model, it was necessary to interview Isabel Salgado, the director of exhibitions. Throughout several interviews, she specified the criteria considered when developing the seasonal programs such as the variety of subjects, the duration, the impact, the valuation, etc. The definitions of these criteria were connected to the mission, vision, and objectives of the cultural organization. Furthermore, the criteria were defined and weighted on a scale of importance from 0% to 100%. After that, each one was defined by an indicator and a value function, which resulted in a total assessment for each exhibition. After the evaluation of each one, the SVI of the season was obtained, which includes all the results of the displays. This final result reflects the differences between seasons and the possible alternatives and improvements of each year. This new model guides the decision-maker to choose the alternatives or change them in order to improve and thereby obtain a better SVI.

Overall, this new method confirms the interdisciplinary connection between science and culture by proposing an innovative tool, which was also designed as an IT platform to automatize the application of the method. This new model could be applied in any institution considering its concrete characteristics as well as the mission, vision, and objectives.

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