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Introducing TrendsWatch 2017

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog
It’s TrendsWatchtime! Those of you who know to keep an eye on the CFM page at this time of year may have noticed that this year’s issue quietly made an appearance on the Alliance web site last Friday. You can download your free PDF copy here.
This year’s chapters are:
A Mile in My Shoes: closing the empathy deficit
Let Justice Roll Down: the next horizon of civil rights
The Rise of the Intelligent Machine
Reshaping the World: migration, refugees, and forced displacement
Failing Toward Success: the ascendance of agile design
Frankly, I’m not happy that my research into migration and refugees, criminal justice reform, and the growing empathy deficit turned out to be quite so timely. However, I hope that by sparking conversation and informing debate this edition of the report will help museum people think their way forward under challenging circumstances.
One of my favorite parts of writing TrendsWatch is sharing the good work of museums around the globe. This year’s edition includes stories and images from (among others):
  • The Empathy Museum (London)
  • The Museum of Broken Relationships (Zagreb, Croatia)
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum  (Washington, DC)
  • The Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Constitution Hill (Johannesburg, South Africa)
  • Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA)
  • The Norwegian National Museum
  • Musee du quai Branly (Paris)
  • The Tate (London)
  • The Migration Museum Project (London)
  • Swiss National Museum
  • Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (England)
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art (MN)
  • Phoenix Art Museum (AZ)
  • The British Museum (London)
  • The Levine Museum of the New South (Charlotte, NC)

As well as the Human Library, Shared Studios’ Portals project, the Equal Justice Initiative, the Sentencing Project, and Olafur Eliasson’s Green light workshop.   

Each year I rely on the knowledge, wisdom and judgment of commentators who deepen my understanding of the issues and push the bounds of my thinking. This year my fabulous external advisers were:
  • Anna Chiara Cimoli, museum consultant, ABCitta, Milan
  • Elif M. Gokcigdem, art historian; founder, Empathy-Building Through Museums Initiative; author, Fostering Empathy Through Museums, Washington, DC
  • Douglas Hegley, director of media and technology, Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • Sean Kelley, senior vice president and director of interpretation, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Philadelphia
  • Clare Patey, director, Empathy Museum, London
  • Jasper Visser, senior partner, VISSCH+STAM Strategic Services / blogger, The Museum of the Future (, Amsterdam
  • Maria Vlachou, cultural management and communications consultant, Lisbon 

Here at the Alliance, I benefited from the feedback of my colleagues Nicole Ivy, ACLS Public Fellow and CFM Museum Futurist, Sage Morgan-Hubbard, Ford W. Bell Fellow for Museums & P-12 Education, Gail Ravnitzky Silberglied, vice president, government relations & communications, and Robert J. Stein, executive vice president & chief program officer.
I’m so grateful for the generous support of sponsors and contributors who make it possible for the Alliance to make a free digital edition of TrendsWatch available to all: Last year over 40,000 copies of TrendsWatch were downloaded around the globe. In particular, I would like to thank our corporate partners:
  • Blackbaud
  • Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency
  • PGAV Destinations
  • Solidlight
Skip over related stories to continue reading article

You guys rock.
I look forward to the lively discussions that follow the release of each year’s report. If you or your museum is doing work related to this year’s trends, I hope you will consider writing a guest post for the CFM Blog. You can reach me at emerritt (at) to volunteer for a post or suggest an author or story I should pursue. If you tweet your observations, please tag @futureofmuseums. If you riff on these themes on your own blog or in an article, please send me a link.

I have the pleasure of speaking about the report and its implications at numerous conferences as well as at individual museums. These engagements are an essential part of the intellectual and economic system that supports CFM: Fees for speaking and teaching workshops help underwrite the content (blog posts, newsletters, research reports) we create for the field; and I come away with a better understanding of how CFM can, per AAM’s mission, “champion museums and nurture excellence.” Drop me a line if you are interested in having me or Nicole Ivy, my fellow museum futurist here at AAM, speak at your event or work with your staff to explore these trends. 

Yours from the future,


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