How do you create engagement around a brand new museum?

May, 16, 2018

How do you create engagement around a brand new museum?

Daphné Blouet from the Louvre Abu Dhabi discusses the balancing act of creating a community from scratch

By Alexia Casanova


 

Our Communicating the Museum conference in Brussels is just around the corner! Our last interviewee before the big kick-off is an adventurous arts professional who moved 6000 km away from home to join a new museum. Daphné Blouet, who currently serves as visitor operation and audience development manager at the Louvre Abu Dhabi shared her thoughts with us about fostering participation and engagement around a brand new museum.

 


 
Starting from scratch

How do you foster participation and engagement when you are just beginning as an institution? How can you create a community around a museum built in a neighbourhood that did not exist just 10 years ago? This is the challenge Daphné Blouet accepted to take up when she left her position at Palais de Tokyo in Paris to join the Louvre Abu Dhabi. “I did not hesitate a second to apply, and to move abroad once my application was selected. The challenge was extremely stimulating for me, to reverse the dynamics I knew how to put into place, to understand the expectations of those future visitors that we first had to identify, to know how to forge bonds, and a community around this new museum,” she says.

 

Let visitors take ownership

When asked about what “participation” — the theme of our CTM conference in Brussels — means to her, Daphné Blouet explains: “Visitor participation and engagement contribute to the feeling of ownership that is essential for bonds to be forged between the museum and its audience […]”. With the aim to let people take ownership of this museum, Daphné Blouet details that the Louvre Abu Dhabi has created a “volunteering program that offers young students the opportunity to become Museum Ambassadors and to participate in the representation of the institution beyond its walls.”

 

Research and test out

More and more museums understand the necessity to really study and define who their audience is. Like our past interviewees, Daphné Blouet stressed the importance of researching and knowing your audience. As a brand new institution, the Louvre Abu Dhabi had a great opportunity to do prior investigation while the museum’s shell was under construction. “There has been a lot of preliminary work to start building the public’s loyalty before the opening of the museum, particularly through lecture series, exhibitions, pilot programs with local schools, » Daphné Blouet explains. In addition to the preliminary research and efforts, it is essential to welcome potential changes, tweaks and improvement once the doors of the museum open : “[…] the actual participation began with the opening, six months ago, and still needs to find its means of expression.”
 

 
Striking balance and maintaining identity

Beyond the task of creating a community around the institution and giving audiences opportunities to take ownership of this new museum, Daphné Blouet concedes that the museum’s current challenge is to “strike a balance in our identity between cultural institution and cultural recreation.” She adds: “The museum of the 21st century must reinvent itself, it must take into account the undergoing evolutions in society and yet it must keep its own identity. It is in this balance that museums today must position themselves to be able to continue to act as mediators, guides, unveilers and trailblazers for their audiences.”

 

 

Daphné will be joining the “Encouraging a greater diversity of audiences, ideas and perspectives” panel on the first day of our upcoming Communicating the Museum conference in Brussels. Besides participation and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Daphné enjoys talking about yoga, the link between mind and body, and the Western’s growing embrace of ancient practices, a “beautiful intercultural dialogue“ as she phrases it.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi ©Roland Halbe