Museums and Theme Parks: Can they cooperate?
We were recently invited to speak at a quite intriguing conference in Rimini, Italy, called “Museums and Theme Parks – a common planning”. The conference was held inside a Theme Park Professional trade fair, the Park Show , and tried to create a bridge between two worlds who are often just competitors. Museum and theme parks in fact compete for the ever-shrinking free time of their visitors – sometimes even accusing each other of being boring (museums) or shallow (theme parks).
At the same time, in our opinion, museums and theme parks have plenty of potential space for collaboration. Theme parks know how to communicate and entertain people, while museums can offer scientific content and educational expertise. Parks are interested in some traditional museum audiences, such as older people and schools, while museums struggle to be attractive for teenagers who on the contrary love theme parks. Moreover, parks have economic resources and marketing expertise museums often lack.
Interestingly, at the conference there were no speakers from “traditional” museums. On the museums side there was the Scientific Imaginary, a network of small science centers from the north-east of Italy, the House of Butterflies, and Unusual Museums (InsolitiMusei.com), our non-profit network of small and, as the name implies, unusual Italian museums.
The exchange of ideas at the conference was intense – all museums at the conference were privately owned, with either limited or no public funding, so they shared with parks the experience of how difficult it is to compete in an open market and to have to rely on ticketing and visitor revenues to survive. On the other hand, parks are eager to be more open towards local cultural resources to attract visitors, especially tourists – for example an Italian theme park was planning to be part of a Hemingway itinerary, being inside an area where Hemingway used to live.
The conference organizers wanted to go beyond words and try something real. A jury selected three small museums and private collectors and offered them the possibility to show a selection of their objects inside a theme park for a 6 month-period, to experiment in the field how park audience can react to cultural contents. One of the winners was the Typewriter Museum in Milan, a member of our Italian Unusual Museums network (www.insolitimusei.com). We are very curious to see how this experiment will go – we’ll keep you posted, and we’d love to hear about your ideas and experiences on the broader subject of museums and theme parks collaboration.
The director of the Typewriter Museum interviewed for InsolitiMusei.com