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The trends described in this EVE’s article were selected by the project’s expert panel in a series of Delphi-based voting cycles, each accompanied by rounds of desktop research, discussions, and further refinements of the topics. These trends, which the members of the expert panel agreed are very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making over the next five years, are sorted into three impact-related categories — short-term impacts that typically have already been impacting decision-making, and will continue to be important for more than five years; mid-term impacts that will likely continue to be a factor in decision-making for the next three to five years; and long-term impacts that are driving technology adoption in museums now, but will likely remain important for only one to two years, becoming commonplace or fading away in that time.

While long-term impact trends have already been the topic of many museum “education leaders” discussions and extensive research, short-term impact trends often do not have an abundance of concrete evidence pointing to their effectiveness and future directions. All of the trends listed here were explored for their implications for museums in a series of online discussions that can be viewed at museum.wiki.nmc.org/Trends.

The model reviewed derived three meta-dimensions that were used to focus the discussions of each trend and challenge: policy, leadership, and practice. Policy, in this context, refers to the formal laws, regulations, rules, and guidelines that govern museums; leadership is the “product of experts” visions of the future of learning, based on research and deep consideration; and practice is where new ideas take action, in museums and related settings.


While all of the identified trends had policy implications, two trends in particular are expected to have a strong impact on policy decisions in the next five years. Data analytics has emerged as a major topic of interest to national governments and museums, as strategic funding decisions often hinge on quantifying activity. The ENUMERATE project is conducting an analysis of statistical data about digitization and digital preservation across Europe to determine needs within the area.

Likewise, the movement towards more participatory experiences, currently on the rise in museums, will reach its maximum impact in the next one to two years, calling for the development of more institutional policies. “Museum Selfie Day,” held in museums across the globe, generated much debate about to what extent photography should be allowed in the museums.


There are leadership implications for all the identified trends that are discussed in the following pages, but two trends stand out as unique opportunities for vision and leadership. Advancing linked open data initiatives requires museum professionals to form cross-institutional collaborations to share best practices and standards. Linked Open Data in Libraries Archives and Museums (LODLAM) is a hub for the sharing of semantic applications across the field.

A short-term impact trend that is being emphasized in leadership discussions is how museums can better engage with online visitors. This movement reflects the growing notion that museums can develop programs and strategies that appeal to virtual patrons. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has emerged as a leader in the field, having created a distance-learning program that is available to every high school student across Arkansas.


Each of the six trends identified by the expert panel has numerous implications for museum education and interpretation, and current examples are easy to find. The expansion of creativity, highlighted as one of two developing long-term impact trends, is materializing in new types of artistic output. Artist Laurie Frick, for example, connects the quantified self with data visualization to create colorful abstract sculptures and drawings.

All over the world, private companies are developing educational programs that augment and supplement traditional museum education programs. The idea is to offer programs that may not be funded through a museum’s operating budget. The Ontario Science Centre has partnered with Cisco Systems to provide advanced network technologies, as well as fund a Cisco Science Fellowship, which facilitates the exchange of research and best practices.

We will talk deeply about this themes in future EVE’s articles.


The NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Museum Edition is a collaboration between The NEW MEDIA CONSORTIUM and Balboa Park Online Collaborative.