Yvonne Tang | Lord Cultural Resources, Toronto, Canada

Putting Down the Textbooks: Creativity in a Developing World

Building museums and exhibitions in developing countries is not unlike those in the developed countries. There are pushes and pulls from the client, filling the needs (and wants) of their visitors and the constraints of their resources – budget, space and collections. But there are also distinct cultural differences that should be acknowledged. Increasing industrialization, economic stability and a quality of life often lead to an increased value placed on a country’s cultural and historic resources. As developing countries invest in their museums, historic sites and other cultural institutions there is a strong desire to adapt the societal role of museums from traditional repositories of objects and didactic experiences to active and dynamic educational spaces that provide a safe-haven for dialogue, discussion and enrichment. Although each country has differing methods of education, practical learning from text books and a strong focus on examination of results remain at the forefront in many developing nations. As focus on critical thinking, analysis, open-ended discovery and invention increase, how do we make the “hard sell” and ask institutions to focus on creativity?

Lord Cultural Resources is the world’s largest cultural professional practice. We work with cultural clients all over the world to provide planning and management services for museums, art galleries, cultural centres, children’s museums, events and more. Through trends and best practices, as well as personal anecdotes from working in the Middle East, India and China, this presentation will tackle the idea of fostering creativity in cultural institutions in a developing world. We will identify what we mean by “creativity,” some of the specific challenges of institutions in these regions, and how we get buy in from the institution’s staff and leadership. This presentation will discuss how to subtly (and respectfully) confront traditional ideas of education by embracing unexpected spaces (outside the classroom), using interpretation and content to create participatory experiences, and building relationships with not only our clients but potential visitors.

Through careful communication and an understanding of subtle cultural sensitivities, museums, galleries and cultural centres in developing countries can facilitate visitor experiences that advance their cultural capital through creative expression.