Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Photograph: Leonard Gren

One thing that cultural institutions have to regard when entering the world of social media is the change of roles and relations between institutional experts and the surrounding world.

When using interfaces like Flickr, collections, information and knowledge are made accessible to a larger audience. Places, subjects and people, connected with and buried deep in different collections, are easily searched through a few clicks on your PC. Driven by a special interest a person can go scavenging through cultural layers searching for new information and knowledge on a topic of special interst. Often an interactive moment has been built in to the interface. As a novice I can contribute to information by telling where a photo is taken or who is depicted on it. The accessibility makes it possible for me to become an “expert” and add to the collective memory.

This goes for all the ”experts” in the world who has spent an entire life learning everything there is to know about majolica, butterflies or old houses. For these “experts” the Internet offers a new arena where information and knowledge can interchange and instead of a hierarchical relationship between the institutional expert and the common novice we get a more equal relationship where they meet on a digital, creative common.

This is a very interesting development where roles take on new meanings and where the communicative landscape is re-written.

Sunday, 8 November 2009



Tuesday, 18 August 2009


Photographer: Leonard Gren

”…you don´t need much to educate, but to lead the student to his own knowledge you need a lot more.”
”…L. Vygotsky (my translation)

A person´s meeting with art, whether it´s a painting or an installation, a piece of music or theatre, often gives rise to an emotional experience where we learn something about ourselves or about the society around us. The meeting may also provide us with knowledge about the artist behind this piece of art. A pedagogical process has taken place.

This means that the communication of the content in a piece of art or an exhibition fundamentally is a matter of pedagogy. How we design the logotype and the image which is going to carry the exhibition and attract an audience is about pedagogy, because if we pick the wrong font or the wrong picture we may not reach our targeted audience. How pictures are hanged and objects are placed in the gallery will affect how the audience moves through the exhibition and these kinetic patterns will affect our experience and what we get out of an exhibition. This means that this is about pedagogy as well.

So pedagogy is communicative by character. It exists in a social and a cultural interaction between people and artifacts. Since I work in a context where exhibitions are produced I will from now on call this perspective exhibition pedagogy

Why is it important to discuss pedagogy in context with art and exhibitions?

I mean that we need to understand the exhibition as a meeting place, a social arena for meaning making. To the child the exhibition offers a possibility to explore the world around their own self. Through concrete experiences, objects filled with narrations, through playing and exploring, the museum is turned into a perpetual source of events where the child can learn about colors, forms, animals, objects etc. Experiences and narrations which will contribute to a cognitive experience of the self and the world.

To youth the seeking of an identity and the construction if the own self, I-Topia, is a contemporary and a future project at the same time. Contemporary art offers through its multimodality fantastic possibilities for reflection and meaning making on the own self. The exhibition as a medium can function as an arena for youth participation and influence, a social meeting place for dialogue and reflection. I see it as an obligation to society to create these arenas, where also museums have to open their doors for youth and allow for their thoughts and perspectives to be heard.

To many pedagogy is about learning. Others equate learning and education. To me pedagogy is communication and dialogue where we learn in collaboration with others and the world around us. The opening quotation from Vygotsky is interesting from several views. Above all because ha already in 1930 did put the individual at the centre of the learning process. This paradigm shift, where we have moved from teaching to learning, has been accentuated by the web and new media. The process of learning is no longer teacher centered but student centered. For a museum or a gallery this puts the visitor at the centre if things. This means we have to understand exhibition pedagogy from the broad perspective I laid out at the beginning of this blog and not as applied pedagogy. Applied pedagogy is about methods how we work with the audience in an exhibition, school programmes and guides. This is only part of exhibition pedagogy.

To Vygotsky fantasy, play and creativity were key words when discussing learning. Let us understand pedagogy as the process where we in social collaboration develop knowledge and creativity.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Photographer: Leonard Gren

One of the questions we currently try to focus on at the Swedish Travelling Exhibitions is how to view the audience. The significance of how it will affect the activity at a museum or a gallery and the consequences that will emerge if you move the visitor to the centre of target and policy documents.

We also mean that tomorrow´s audiences i.e. the Young, which naturally also are today´s audience, carry with them new demands on how exhibitions are produced and how they are presented. Communication scientists, sociologists and pedagogues agree on that the technical development, which means unlimited possibilities to look for information and to communicate, has created a paradigm shift. This is a development which we who work with the production of exhibitions have to address.

It is about a view on the visitor where he or she is transformed from a statistical neuter to a face and a name. It is about offering processes and participation instead of passive spectatorship. It is about being relevant through both content and ways of communication.

The challenge is big and it is easy to dismiss it and settle with the old middle class audience which is already there. But a lot of institutions in Europe have recognized the danger and taken action on it. I have earlier in this blog mentioned projects at Gulbenkian in Portugal, Musée Bargoin in Clermont-Ferrand in France and Zeeuws museum in Holland. Another interesting project is “Hot spot” in Malmoe, Sweden. To this list I can add mambo in Bologna and their ”City-telling” project, Tate Modern in London, the latter presented in our publication Future exhibitions which can be bought from our web-site.

As I am writing this I´m on my way home from the Venice Biennale and several great experiences of art, many which could serve as a starting point for a process of art-based learning. At the same time Almedalsveckan has started back in Sweden. It´s a week where people from all over Sweden gather in Gotland, the island in the Baltic Sea where our organization is placed, to present seminars on all sorts of topical subjects. More than 900 seminars are presented during the week, all free of charge and all open to anyone who wants to participate. It´s a gigantic Open source event with almost endless opportunities to informal education and discussions.

I believe that events as large as Almedalsveckan, or the Venice Biennale, are important as collective manifestations where views, thoughts and knowledge can be communicated from person to person. As Internet has developed and the globalization has rolled over of the World, immaterial property rights as a construction has to be challenged. I believe we need to understand that collective access to knowledge and information is important for a sustainable future. In this also museums and exhibitions have to contribute!

Friday, 26 June 2009


Photographer: Leonard Gren

"- Photography is an activity I have strong feelings about and burn for and it´s truly with joy I go hunting for preys of light and motive. At the same time I must admit that behind the curtain there are equal amounts of fear, stress and anxiety not to succeed. But despite my trembling legs when facing these challenges there is always the will to do the outmost to prove and give everything I´ve got.

I rarely stand without my own dreams and ideas about what I personally wish to fulfill in my projects, but limited time and resources makes it easier said than done to go the full length. Often, for bad and worse, you´re forced to scale down to reach your targets and expectations. But this can also be positive since it means there is a framework to hold on to.

The mission to collaborate with Göran in taking pictures for this blog is incredibly stimulating and exciting in many ways. With my hands untied I, as a photographer, is given the chance to work with varying subjects, thoughts and concepts, where my creativity is let loose to mirror whatever is the topic. This way the visualization becomes more personal which to me as the creator is very fulfilling."
Leonard Gren

Här kommer också en bild av en bloggare i farten, tagen av Louise Andersson.

When writing this I´m literally and symbolically flying over Europe on my way to a seminar in Italy. At the same time there is a blog to be written. This time I share the bourdon with Leonard, the young photographer, so the theme for this blog will be a meta-perspective. How do you face blogging? Which thoughts have to be thought and which considerations do you have to take into account?

In my blogging I have tried to combine the two legs I´m standing on. One which is deeply rooted in a socio-cultural perspective on learning, which I carry with me when I observe, report and try to think new thoughts. Another which takes its stand in the Swedish Travelling Exhibition´s mission to develop the exhibition media which I interpret as been given a ”free letter” to come up with new thoughts.

My perspective on learning focuses on a view upon the museum and the exhibition as a social arena where the visitor is placed in the center and where the exhibition should offer possibilities for collective and active participation. This to become part of a structure for lifelong learning where meaning making gives the visitor new tools to face every day life with.

The mission to think new thoughts draws my eyes to the fringes of development of methodology and tools for learning and communication. What is going on in Europe and in the world? How can social media become part of an exhibition? How do we design an exhibition in order to reach the visitor? How is the role of the museum and the exhibition interpreted around the world?

This is what I try to write about, partly to create transparence in the development of a pedagogical strategy, partly as distributed learning where the written word helps me to sort out my thoughts.

I hope that Italy will offer me some new things that I can share with you next week. Also read Leo´s thoughts of how you as a young photographer close in on a rather abstract mission to deliver pictures to a blog on learning, the museum and the exhibition. See you in a week. Ciao!
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Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Photographer: Leonard Gren

One of the tendencies I see at the moment within the exhibition media is the development of a culture of participation. Art as a process and artbased learning as a tool to increase the relevance and to reach new groups and targets are parts of this process.

Another development, which also exhibition media has to relate to, is the fast development of the web and social media. Today´s blog adresses a few thoughts I have on the web and how new technology can be part of a participation culture and a tool for communication with the audience.

The central part in an exhibition is the physical meeting between an interpretation, a content and the visitor. The web becomes an interesting tool when we start to think about how we communicate with the visitor and how we want to make him or her involved in the exhibition. At the same time we know that the web forever has changed the conditions for learning. We have entered a new paradigm. Above all this has to do with 2 things;

- Firstly, the new technology makes new forms of interactivity between man and machine possible.
- Secondly, the new technology opens up for new ways of visualisation.

Both these conditions holds possibilities for exhibition media.

Interactivity opens up for new possibilities for the exhibition to keep in contact with the visitor. Facebook, chats and blogs and other social media can work as extensions of the exhibition in time and in room and function both as a way to work in depth with content and as social networks. Interactivity is built on a dialogue and today´s technology offers possibilities for dialogue where only fantasy sets limits. We can offer visually supported discussions where artists, curators, pedagogs and audience can meet in borderless discussions in real time. And remeber, we´ve only seen the beginning of this development of technology.

Visualisation also opens up for a two-way visually supported communication. The exhibition can be presented and thus create a prerequisite for the visitor. It is possible to create virtual visits in the exhibition. Visualisation also opens up for communicative formats as podcasting, rss-feeds and streaming. Packaged technology which makes it possible to offer guided tours in different languages, communication with cell-phones, interviews with the artist presented on the Internet, a presentation of how the exhibition was made and so on. Here it´s possible that economy and resources sets the limit before fantasy.

But, and this is my point, if we want to be relevant for tomorrow´s visitors we have to make this a development of ours. We need to develop methods and interfaces, discuss webetics and didactics and to a larger degree make the visitor a participator in the process which leads up to and surrounds an exhibition. Blow up the room and open up for a greater reality!

Let´s go!


Photographer: Leonard Gren

One of the cornerstones from which I build my perspectives on learning, the museum and the exhibition, is that museums fully have to see themselves as part of a structure for lifelong learning.

Roughly speaking learning is organized in 3 ways;
Formal learning is publicly organized education which will lead to an exam. For the individual this type of learning is a mix between voluntary and optional learning.
Non-formal learning takes place parallel to the publicly organized educational system. It doesn´t automatically lead to an exam or a grade. It is optional for the individual and contains learning through organizations, associations, work etc.
Informal learning is semi-structured and a natural part of every day life. It is not intentional and does normally take place subconsiously to the individual.

The starting point for the museum is that of a mixture between non-formal and informal learning, but it can also function as a resource to school and the formal educational system and then become a part of a structure which supports formal learning.

The Lisbon declaration has been the momentum force forward for the development of a structure for Lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is the strategy for turning Europe into the world´strongest knowledge based economy by 2010. So there is strong political support for this perspective.

As I see it museums and exhibitions play an important part in a structure for Lifelong learning. Firstly as carriers of large amounts of embedded information and knowledge, especially about heritage. Secondly because museums and exhibitions can offer a learning environment which is different to the one offered by schools, an environment building on multimodality. But to fully take this part I think we have to look upon a few things;

• The Museum has to define itself as an environment for learning. A social arena for meaningmaking.
• The Museum has to upgrade their pedagogical activities regarding status, education, competence and resources.
• The Museum has to organize learning by developing and implementing pedagogical policy documents, curriculums and strategic plans.
• The Museum, and the sector, must develop methods that support a learning process which focus on collaboration and where the visitor takes an active part in the learning process.

But it is important that the museum and the exhibition develops their distinctive character as an alternative to the learning methods used at school and instead focus on multimodality and designtheoretical perspectives on learning.

Monday, 15 June 2009


Photographer: Leonard Gren

Are there museums in 50 years time?

Of course there is! But the time for the large narratives is gone by. It is time to tell of new things, put our time into a historical context based on today´s perspectives and subjects. We also have to tear down the museum walls and understand that tomorrow´s exhibitions communicate through more ways than just the direct physical meeting with the visitor. The Museum becomes a starting point for a transborder conversation which contributes to making tomorrow´s exhibitions relevant. Speaking to the girl in the picture.

Relevance seems to be the word of the day. Something you hear more and more often people talking about in Europe. How to make exhibitions relevant to a larger audience. The stories told have to be more up to date, social media has to be woven into the exhibition warp in order to increase the interface towards the audience. Interactivity has to be just that and museums have to become popular meeting places. By putting the audience in the centre, and not just as a confession of lips, the museum educator is turned into the most valuable person in the museum.

One way is to use the collections for new narratives and to give the space a new meaning. To look at artefacts from a new perspective and let a new narrative come forward like that of the Historical museum in Stockholm in “Maria – pictures of woman”. Old artefacts dug out of the collections mixed with new media, adding a deeper context to the old Madonna figures by surrounding them with contemporary expressions and narratives. “Hot spot” in Malmo is another way of giving the museum a new meaning. The latter a way to increase the relevance of the museum and turn it into a meeting place, a place where people can meet. The subjects based on the wishes of the audience. A social grinding of thresholds. K21 in Düsseldorf arranges a nightclub in the gallery every now and then. Is this a way to go? A fourth way is to make the exhibition larger than just the physical expression in the museum or the gallery. Weave a web with social media for a continuing discussion about the exhibition´s questions, offer the web as a possibility for a deepened conversation and reflection. Only fantasy sets the limits!

Future Exhibitions is also the name of a magazine Swedish Travelling Exhibitions published some weeks ago. It´s a publication in English and Swedish where we are searching our contemporary world looking for signs what is to come. Participation and relevance summarizes the first edition where visionary persons are interviewed, people of power, artists and people working with exhibitions from different perspectives are given a platform from which they can whisper or shout in the megaphone. It can be ordered through our website.

Of course there will be museums in 50 years, but in order to be relevant to the girl in the picture a new story has to be told.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Exhibition 2.0

Photographer: Leonard Gren

Today´s blog is about the exhibition as a learning environment and a few thoughts I have on developing the interface towards the visitor.

The other day I heard a debate on the radio where the ”museum crisis” in Gothenburg was discussed. The debate led to a discussion about the role of museums. Executives from 2 different museums and one culture journalist was debating. They all agreed upon the great potential of museums as places for informal learning and the fact that since museums are financed through tax money, the tax payers should be in focus. I have heard that discussion over and over again for a year and a half during my time at Riksutställningar, but is it really so? Isn´t this a confession of lips?


- Why do museum teachers find themselves at the bottom of the museum hierarchy?
- Why isn´t learning and the meeting with the audience looked upon as the museum´s most central and important process?
- Why can´t you get a doctor´s hat in museum or art pedagogy in Sweden?
- Why doesn´t the governmental investigation into future museums put questions about the visitors and learning in the centre?

If we accept the museum as a place for lifelong learning and a learning environment, we also have to understand that the view on learning has changed since we went to school, acquiring knowledge has moved from teaching to learning. The visitor (”pupil”) is the focal point of the learning process not the teacher/guide. This means that museums must open up for new practices and methods in their contact with visitors. I also want to stress that the museum isn´t a school and therefore shouldn´t work with methods used at school. But more about that in another blog.

An exhibition and a museum carry an eternal amount of information and embedded knowledge. In contact with the visitor and her experiences will some of this information, if properly communicated, turn into knowledge. That´s the process we call learning. If we in this process put the visitor in the centre, and this we have to, the visitor becomes the leader in the process of meaningmaking. We have to find methods for this. If we then, on top of everything, manage to relate to an interactive process, i.e. a two-way communication, a dialogue, the visitor becomes a producer and a consumer. We have reached Exhibition 2.0.

One such brave exhibition is ”Jag vill ju bara ha respekt” (I only want respect!) at the Police museum in Stockholm. Here youth statements and experiences are the basis for an exhibition on violence among youth. By creating a group on Facebook the museum invites, parallel to the exhibition, to a continuing discussion about the exhibition and its theme. Those who want can this way continue to work on experiences the exhibition has brought to mind and learn new thing about themselves. Through the museum and Facebook new statements are gathered which can be added to the exhibition. The exhibition develops as visitors are touched by it and feebacks personal experiences. The consumer becomes a producer and the exhibition becomes a living documentation which is altered and developed over time.

Exhibition 2.0!

I would like the end with a quotation from Bodil Jönsson and her book ”We learn as we live” about the importance of offering fora for reflection.

”When I in this way get something out of myself and puts it outside me, distribute it, beyond my inner mix of knowledge and feelings, it sort of gives me a new fixation point. In its turn, this steady point helps me to hold on to the thought and spur it further. If everything, on the other hand, had been left inside pell-mell among everything else, I probably only would have come a short way – but after that no further.” (my transl.)

Everyone out there with examples of exhibitions according to the concept of Exhibition 2.0 or have ideas about how an exhibition like that could look like, COMMENT!

Monday, 1 June 2009


Photographer: Leonard Gren

The creation of the own self, the identity, is central in all people´s development. For the youth of today this process seem more complicated than ever. Medial and commercial stereotypes creates a pressure about how to look and what to work with which is hard to shake off. This blog focuses on how the exhibition media can work as a tool in this process of construction – the construction of I-TOPIA.

I mean that contemporary art and the exhibition have a unique possibility to contribute to reflections and discussions on themes and subjects which in their turn contributes to the construction of I-TOPIA. By understanding the exhibition as a meeting place for learning, a social arena for meaning making through active participation and collaboration, we´ve taken a giant leap.

The leap gets even greater if we understand that the learning process, the very meaning making, has shifted from teaching to learning. That the learning process no longer is centered around the teacher but focuses on the pupil. In an exhibitional context this puts the visitor in the centre. To become relevant we also have to turn the visitor into a participant. The visitor as producer and consumer. We have then taken the leap into "Exhibition 2.0".

When I write this I´m participating in an European conference in Bucharest on the theme ”Youth and the Museum”. Here I get reports from fantastic youth projects at the Gulbenkian i Portugal, Musée Bargoin in Clermont-Ferrand in France and at Tropenmuseum och Zeeuws museum in Holland. Listen to stories how framsynta pedagogical perspectives creates space for wonderful activities at the Jerusalem museum and at Tate modern. Projects which puts children and youth in the centre offering new entrances to the museum as a meeting place for learning and meaning making and thus providing new tools for the creation of I-TOPIA.

The creation of the own self is both a project for present times and the future. To create arenas for youth participation and agency, meeting places for dialogue and reflection, is an obligation to the whole society. Even museums must dare to open the doors for youth and let their thoughts and perspectives be heard. More must do as the Police museum in Stockholm and the exhibition “I only wanted respect” or as we have done in “Living in two worlds” or “4U”, offer the exhibition as a tool for juvenile thoughts and expressions. This creates inclusion and will provide the exhibition with a direct speech and relevance for the target group which we, the adults, never can formulate.

I mean, with my 15 years of experience as i grammar school teacher, that the exhibition is an unbeatable forum when it comes to formulating questions about present times and to provide space for reflections, central cornerstones in I-TOPIA.

The question is if we dare!

What do you say, do we dare? Can we?

Where do the children fit in?

Photographer: Leonard Gren
Where do the children fit in.
They carry the fire
As you once, as me once
(Lorne Munthe de Wolfe – Dick Hansson)

The title carries ambiguity in Swedish. One meaning is where the children physically gets in, another where they fit in. It is also the title of a song from the Swedish group Hansson de Wolfe United released in the 80`s.

This serves as a starting point for my first blog on learning, the museum and the exhibition medium. From my position as pedagogical coordinator in a governmental authority, the Swedish Travelling Exhibitions, I´m going to reflect on big and small regarding learning and exhibitions. Reflect on the role of the museum and thoughts brought to mind from different types of encounters. The Blog is also a way of means to use a modern way of communication to communicate a process of development in a governmental authority. Hopefully without being too governmental. And in a new blog every week.

Which roll should Swedish, and other, museums and exhibitions play in the year 2009?

In an ever speeded world, where distances shrink and speed increases, I mean that museums and galleries have an important role to play. From their heritage they should tell new stories and make the contemporary more understandable to people. This means that the visitor and the questions concerning the visitor should be in the centre when it comes to the development of Swedish museums and the exhibition medium. Hence my disappointment when I read the paper from the commission investigating new Swedish cultural politics. Where are the questions concerning the audience? Where does the children fit in?

Who produces exhibitions for children today? Many produce exhibitions where a pedagogical program is adapted to different age groups. But who produces exhibitions that satisfies their need to play? Offering an exhibition which is touchable? Who sees children as a prioritised target group with the same status as other target groups? I know that this is not a commersial or sexy target group but screw that, it´s an important target group. Where does the children fit in?

You out there making these exhibitions, get in touch!

Next week the blog will be about youth and the museum and a conference I`m going to attend in Bucharest which is about that. See you then!

Göran Björnberg
Pedagogical coordinator, The Swedish Travelling Exhibitions