Systems Thinking in Museums: Theory and Practice
Systems Thinking in Museums explores systems thinking and the practical implication of it using real-life museum examples to illuminate various entry points and stages of implementation and their challenges and opportunities. Its premise is that museums can be better off when they operate as open, dynamic, and learning systems as a whole as opposed to closed, stagnant, and status quo systems that are compartmentalized and hierarchical. This book also suggests ways to incorporate systems thinking based on reflective questions and steps with hopes to encourage museum professionals to employ systems thinking in their own museum. Few books explore theory in practice in meaningful and applicable ways; this book offers to unravel complex theories as applied in everyday practice through examples from national and international museums.
While much has been written already about the Bilbao effect in terms of economic impacts,11 there is no dedicated research yet that would explain why the Guggenheim Bilbao phenomenon came into existence and what external forces and consequences directly contributed to its development. Moreover, it is even more fascinating to find out how this successful economic experiment influenced the Guggenheim’s further development. Did the Bilbao effect have an essential impact on the Guggenheim’s global growth? If so, how exactly did this phenomenon aid the museum to pursue its mission on the global scale? Applying a systems thinking approach, this chapter looks at the Guggenheim Foundation as an open system that continuously interacts with the external environment and constantly “adjusts to a new equilibrium if a change occurs in the way the parts are arranged” within a larger context.12 Understanding global economic reality as external environment in which museums operate, the chapter looks at the Guggenheim as a complex system within a larger economic reality, going far beyond the US context. It explores how stepping outside the local borders by developing a franchising network across different countries expanded the Guggenheim’s opportunities and brought fundraising practices to a new global level. The chapter analyses the Guggenheim example to demonstrate that staying attuned to global economic changes, or in other words, adequately adjusting the museum’s system to changes in a larger environment, has a profound impact upon institutional development. The Guggenheim case illustrates how a strategic reconfiguration of fundraising approaches in the twenty-first century can help large and internationally known museums to tap into resources available for them in the global context.