The paradigm shift is all about moving the core of museums from conservation and collections to education and public service. This new focus gives rise to a plethora of questions. Should exhibits be driven more by items or ideas? How can museums attract new audiences? Who are museums for? What should museums provide? When, if at all, is it acceptable to exhibit non-authentic items? In the digital age of overabundant information, how can museums present information in enticing and novel ways? New questions are always surfacing, and old questions require revisiting.
Collections are only as interesting as the stories they have to tell. By starting with ideas rather than items, exhibits can be fascinating and relatable to a wide range of audiences. In the modern age of people striving to become socially conscious and globally connected, museums must find ways to become the cultural meeting places for lifelong learners. The wonderful thing about education is that it never ends. Museums must provide programs and services for the public’s unquenchable curiosity. Museums as education centers challenge us to open our minds to unfamiliar stories and perspectives. Exhibits have special potential to show any subject or object in an interesting light. Today’s museums are aiming for enjoyable learning experiences. By beginning with ideas, museums become institutions for thinking rather than just things.