The Future of Museums Is Open

Brigitte Vézina
ICOM’s International Museum Day 2021poster

It’sInternational Museum Dayand at Creative Commons (CC) we are thrilled toonce againcelebrate the institutions that acquire, conserve, research, communicate, and exhibit the world’s heritage for education, study, and enjoyment. This year’s theme isThe Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagineand in this blog post, we imagine a future where museums are empowered to freely and openly share their collections online in participatory, interactive, sustainable, ethical, and equitable ways — we imagine a world ofbetter sharingfor abrighter futurefor all museums and the communities that they serve.


2020 was a really challenging yearfor museums alongside otherGLAMs(galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) and for the cultural sector as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemicforcedmany institutions to close their doors, lay off staff, and draw deep on their resources to find resilience in the face of abrupt and unsettling changes. An April 2021 UNESCOreportstates that: “in 2020, museums were closed for an average of 155 days, and since the beginning of 2021, many of them have again had to shut their doors, resulting, on average, in a 70% drop in attendance and a 40-60% decline in revenue compared to 2019.”

At the same time, this crisis was a spark that (re)kindled the fire of open access to cultural heritage. Lockdown measures meant that when the world swiftly moved online, so too did museums. According to an ICOMsurveypublished in November 2020, many museums started or continued to enhance their digital activities and to engage with the public remotely. More than a year into this global health crisis, museums are at apivotal momentand must lead the change to recover and reimagine our common future.

At CC, the future we envision for museums is one where the public has greater and better access to museums’ collections on a global level.

Where the public can experience and interpret those collections in order to enrich and bring new perspectives to their contexts and narratives.

Where museums and their audiences can get closer together online in fresh and innovative ways based on a supportive and sustainable digital infrastructure.

Where museums move into the post-COVID era, healed, mended, and equipped with the knowledge and know-how to meaningfully share their collections, unencumbered by unnecessary legal, technical, or financial barriers.

Where the threats ofglobal challenges such as climate change我们的子孙后代能够继续享受我们共同的文化遗产。

At CC, we want to help make that future happen.

Through advocacy for legal and policy change, infrastructure innovation,capacity buildingto accompany institutions on their digital transformation journey, and community engagement, Creative Commons aims to lead a global effort to ensure access, use, and reuse of cultural heritage is not hampered by unnecessary constraints.

In terms of policy, we want to strengthen the open ecosystem to support GLAMs and their public interest mission, aswe did in front of the Mexican senate2020年9月。We will continue to be supportive of museums in thecopyrightarena, in particular, by pushing for strong, clear, and effective exceptions and limitations for, among others, preservation, research and education, and text-and-data mining. We will also continue to advocate that digitized public domain works mustremain in the public domainand generally drive change to ensure the legal framework isapt for the digital environment, especially in areas such asartificial intelligence.

We want to build a reliable legal, technical, and social infrastructure around our CC licenses and tools, and build capacity within institutions to help them shift from closed to open by releasing their online collections into the public domain. We also want to bring closer together members of theOpen GLAMcommunity, whose energy and enthusiasm are poised to unlock the museum sector’s immense potential to create a brighter, more equitable future.

Museums deserve to be celebrated all year round and we’re proud to support them the world over through our Open GLAM efforts. Interested in learning more? Get in!