Sharing Economy and the museum world

At Stockwood Discovery Centre, we have been running a market-like event called Country Fair over Easter Bank Holidays for a while now. And over the last few years we have tried to run similar fairs in both museums at Christmas. The attendance seems to have been really good. To participate and have a stall at these fairs, anyone can just book and pay for their space in advance. Which is a commonly known market operation.

Last year though, I came across a new concept, new to me anyway, which is the Curated Pop-Up Market, Renegade Craft Fair, in Brick Lane, London.

Pop up market london

Of course the term ‘curated’ is nothing new to me, neither is the term ‘pop up’.  The task of curation in the museum world is done by a certain qualified professional, a curator.

However in the last five years, curation has grown in the phenomena that is called the Sharing Economy. This is where online platforms have allowed everyone to curate products, images and art themselves. From Pinterest and Ebay to ASOS Market Place and Etsy, online social curation happens in many places. Curation is a lot more open and in some ways not limited to those who are qualified as a curator. This fact has upset some museum people, others on the other hand think it is progress that should not be stopped. I think most people now agree that allowing everyone to curate is a good thing.

So much so, that even the idea of a pop-up museum concentrates on the community deciding what they want to put up, as Nora Grant on Museum 2.0 blog on Pop Up Museum indicated. This system encourages the public to engage with the museum and the exhibition more.

Why then am I saying that the pop-up curated market is interesting?

Just because the progress of the museum world has so far replicated the commercial market. It has gone from corporate buyers curating product then selling it to the public (the curator presents the collection to the audience); then it moves on to public selling to public with Ebay, Etsy and AirBnB (which is the audience curating their own exhibitions facilitated by museums).

However, the pop-up market seems to be indicating that the commercial world is going back to professionals curating content to sell to the public. If this is true then the commercial world is going for a full circle of market progress.

The change of direction in the Sharing Economy seems to have not only occured in craft markets. 80% of Ebay’s revenue for example comes from the Power Sellers, or professional sellers. AirBnB which also started out as the Sharing Economy now grows to be used more and more by small hospitality companies to sell their rooms, more so than private individuals renting out their spare room. Read more about this on Andrew McConnell’s (co-founder and CEO of VacationFutures) article about the travel Industry Sharing Economy. He thinks that ultimately this market will  mature and settle to a more professionally curated offering.

Sharing Economy and Museums

What do you think? What would happen now to the museum world?Is this also where tmuseums are going? Has the Sharing Economy reached its maturity for museums yet? Or will it ever do so, because museums have not completely given over their curation to the public? Or does it even need to go in the cycle?

2 thoughts on “Sharing Economy and the museum world

  1. Ooo Jane! Who let you loose at Renegade?! That’s a dangerous place for you to go. Missed it this year 😦 and the Stockwood country fair as well! Slipping!

    The need for cultural institutions to keep ‘curating’ is still super important however, although schemes for community engagement encourage people to be more active in the way that they interact with museums. The ability to make profound links and to take the viewer on a cultural and educational journey lies within the eye of a skilled curator. Online things allow people to collect, it’s the sorting through, filtering out, make connections that expand cultural institutions to be more.


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