Skip to content

Introducing TrendsWatch: Your Digest of the Future

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

At a recent conference I was challenged to come up with an image representing my role in the universe. I had a sudden image of myself as a Whale Shark trawling the vast digital sea of information and filtering out bits that museums will find nourishing.

So far, my fellow-trawler, Phil Katz, and I have been delivering these tasty morsels via Dispatches from the Future of Museums. Many of you have told us how much you enjoy reading that weekly e-newsletter and sharing it with staff and colleagues. (Thank you very much for these “love notes”—they give us the mental fortitude to make it through many a last-minute deadline.)

Now, we’ve gone one step further, wading through a year’s worth of news-catch to spot emerging patterns, tease out their significance, and forecast how they might affect your work. The result is TrendsWatch—a new annual report to help you translate the futures scanning of Dispatches into action.

After reviewing over seven hundred news items from the past 12 months, seven trends floated to the top:

  • Crowdsourcing
  • Threats to nonprofit status
  • Mobile, distributed experience
  • New forms of funding (microfunding, crowdfunding)
  • Creating aging
  • Augmented reality
  • Shifts in education
Skip over related stories to continue reading article

We sought out examples of museums responding creatively to these trends, imagined how the bright or dark futures these trends might create, and asked for advice from a cadre of wise advisors about what museums might do now in order to surf these tides of change.

But I’ve said enough—go read the report! TrendsWatch 2012: Museums and the Pulse of the Future is available as a free download from the CFM website. Please share it with colleagues—debate, discuss, dispute, emend, adapt and apply it to your work.

And give us feedback! We’d love to hear from you which of these trends are important for your museum, and what you are doing to respond.

Update: now that we’ve taken TrendsWatch on the road, we’ve edited this post to include this Prezi tour of the major trends in the report. Contact me if you are interested in arranging for an in person presentation on TW12 at your museum or conference.

We’ve already started work on TrendsWatch 2013—if you read a news item, blog post or announcement you think is sheds light on the future, please send it to with the subject line “scanning hit.” And tell us what trends you observe bubbling up to that we should keep on our sonar.

Yours from the future…


TrendsWatch 2012 was made possible by the support of lead sponsorsThe Museum Group and Sodexo, with additional support from Argentine Productions, Mary Case of Qm2, and White Oak Associates. 

AAM Member-Only Content

AAM Members get exclusive access to premium digital content including:

  • Featured articles from Museum magazine
  • Access to more than 1,500 resource listings from the Resource Center
  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
Log In

We're Sorry

Your current membership level does not allow you to access this content.

Upgrade Your Membership


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Field Notes!

Packed with stories and insights for museum people, Field Notes is delivered to your inbox every Monday. Once you've completed the form below, confirm your subscription in the email sent to you.

If you are a current AAM member, please sign-up using the email address associated with your account.

Are you a museum professional?

Are you a current AAM member?

Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription, and please add to your safe sender list.