Conference Speakers (Keynotes)

Oona Strathern, Author & Trend Consultant

What does an Increasingly Individualised Society Mean for Cultural Institutions?

Megatrends are the key to understanding how we will live in the future. Individualisation, Globalisation, Urbansiation and Silver Society are just a few of the key forces that are shaping our society. Demands on individuals, cities and cultural institutions are bigger today than ever before: not just in terms of technology, but also in terms of our longer lives, meta-mobility, and our desire for connectivity. This talk explores the needs of an urban individualistic society, of the so-called pro-agers and the young global generation.

CV: Oona Strathern born in Ireland and grown up in London worked for more than 20 years as a trend consultant, speaker and author. As well as writing about building and living in the future she worked on many studies and reports for the Zukunftsinstitut. As a trend consultant she worked for international firms such as Unilever, Beiersdorf, Philip Morris and the Deutsche Bank. Her speech customers range from architectural conferences to universities, the building industry and the interior design branch. She divides her time between Germany, London and the Future Evolution House in Vienna which she built with her husband Matthias Horx. Her passion is architecture and design, city development, socio-demographic change, and our evolving relationship to smart technology.


Prof. Dr. John H. Falk, Director, Institute for Learning and Innovation, US

Why Visitors’ Motivations and Individual Needs Matter

How do we broaden and diversify who visits museums and other cultural institutions?  John Falk believes that answering this critical but complex question begins with appreciating the simple truth that people use their leisure time as a way to maximize their personal well-being.  In this talk he will describe how all people continuously strive to achieve well-being through a never-ending process of trying to satisfy their physical, relational and reflective self-related needs. The reason some people choose to visit places like museums is that they believe that these visits will enable them to satisfy these self-related needs; the reason others do not visit is because they do not share this expectation. Thus if we as museum professionals better understood why people do or not see museums as good places for satisfying self-related needs, as well as better understood which needs in particular the public hopes to satisfy during a visit, then we could improve the likelihood that a particular museum visit was satisfying for that person.  In addition, we could also develop more robust strategies for expanding the numbers of people who viewed these settings as places capable of meeting their leisure-time well-being goals.   

CV: Dr. John H. Falk is internationally acknowledged as a leading expert on free-choice learning; the learning that occurs while visiting museums, zoos, aquariums or parks, watching educational television or surfing the Internet for information. Dr. Falk has authored over one hundred fifty scholarly articles and chapters in the areas of learning, ecology and education, more than a dozen books, and helped to create several nationally important out-of-school educational curricula. 

He serves on numerous national and international boards and commissions and has been Associate Editor of several internationally prominent journals. Before joining the faculty at Oregon State University, he founded and directed the Institute for Learning Innovation where for twenty years he oversaw more than 200 research and evaluation projects involving a wide range of free-choice learning institutions.  He also worked as an early child science educator at the University of Maryland and spent fourteen years at the Smithsonian Institution where he held a number of senior positions including Director, Smithsonian Office of Educational Research. In 2006 Falk was recognized by the American Association of Museums as one of the 100 most influential museum professionals of the past 100 years. 

In 2010 he was further recognized by the American Association of Museum’s Education Committee with its highest award, the John Cotton Dana Award for Leadership. In 2013 the U.S. Council of Science Society President’s gave Falk their Educational Research Award for his outstanding achievement in research that improved children’s learning and understanding. Falk earned a joint doctorate in Ecology and Science Education from the University of California, Berkeley.



David Anderson OBE, Director, National  Museum Wales, UK


 A Museum Catechism

 Q. Who is this gallery development for?

A.      It is for the Curators of the British Museum.

Q. Our public funding will be severely reduced next year. How should we save money?

A.      We should close Front of House [the public galleries] so that we can continue to research our scientific collections.

Q. What do the public want?

A. The public does not want to be educated.

Q. What kind of museum are we?

A.      We are the last true museum in the United Kingdom.

Towards Cultural Democracy

These statements are all derived word for word from real conversations that I have had within the last 10 years with fellow museum professionals, including national museum directors, in the United Kingdom. They reflect a philosophy – or perhaps a faith? – that remains strong and well-embedded in the museum sector in the United Kingdom. It should be taken seriously.

I have spoken to a number of recently retired museum directors from Europe and North America who have tried to achieve a radical change of culture in their organisations towards audiences (which, of course, need not at all mean a change of culture against collections). Several of these have expressed disappointment that, after their departure, under new leadership, the organisational culture of the museum rapidly returned to its former position. They have wondered what else – if anything – they could have done to foresee and prevent this?

I will say little about this issue in relation to my current institution, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. Time there will tell. But I will use the benefit of hindsight to reflect on my experiences at the two national museums where I previously worked as Head/Director of Learning.

The first was the National Museum at Greenwich, London, where a major exhibition project reset staff responsibilities and relationships within the organisation. The second was the V&A, where a brave and visionary Director, Elisabeth Esteve Coll, left a lasting legacy of radicalism that continued in one form or other for a decade and more, and several of the young staff she appointed took her experience at the V&A into new roles as leaders of other institutions.

So much for the lessons of the past. What should we do now to develop space for audiences in museums, in policy and practice?

CV: David Anderson was born in Northern Ireland, grew up in England, and studied Irish History at Edinburgh University. After first working as a history teacher in a state school, he began his museum career as an educator at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton, before moving to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and then the V&A, where he was Director of Learning and Interpretation until 2010.

As Co-Director from 2004 of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group, a partnership of the V&A and other national museums, universities and cultural institutions, he made a significant contribution to the re-development of the area as London’s first cultural quarter. In 2010 he joined Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales as Director General.

David Anderson is a Board member of Creative and Cultural Skills and a member of the Advisory Committee of British Council Wales. He has written many articles on museums and cultural policy, a UK government report on museums and learning, and two children’s books.

At Amgueddfa Cymru, he has overseen the transformation of St Fagans Museum to become the National Museum of History for Wales, and the development of new programmes and research on the role of museums in society, including initiatives to redress the impacts of poverty on children through cultural participation.


Lisa Baxter, Director, The Business Experience, UK

Experience Design and Strategic Value Creation

Going beyond the transactional to build stronger relationships
This talk will explore some of the institutionally entrenched blindspots that inhibit visitor-centricity and can result in a profound loss of relevance, unfulfilled audience development potential and disappointing revenues. Lisa Baxter will harness different definitions of the word ‘blind spot’ to explore the limitations of current audience development practice and introduce new frameworks and competencies that can enhance audience development capacity. Delegates will be able to recognise their own personal and institutional limitations in a way that brings fresh understanding and inspires action.

The key points the talk will make include:

  • The holistic visitor experience is our core value offer and needs to be crafted with the same skill and attention to detail as a technician, an artist, a designer, a surgeon.
  • Value is in the eye of the beholder, not the creator, therefore audience insight is essential in crafting appealing, valued and relevant experiences.
  • To create that value and achieve relevance, we need to overcome our institution egos and operate from a deeper understanding of our visitors and communities.
  • Audience research needs to be brought into the very heart of an organisation as part of the total quality management of the holistic visitor experience.
  • Qualitative research is a key skill that museums must learn and embed rather than allowing it to reside purely in the hands of the expert, treated as a luxury rather than a necessity.
  • We need to look beyond segmentation to humanise our marketplace and develop an empathic approach to designing visitor experience, and thus, public value.
  • Visitor experience design is a pioneering strategic audience development tool that cuts across institutional silos making visitor experience and audience development professionally relevant to everyone.

 The talk will include an introduction to the Strategic Value Creation framework and the specific design tools that will equip cultural institutions to shape visitor experiences that are appealing, meaningful and relevant for 21st century visitors. All key points will be underpinned with practice examples at major cultural institutions internationally

CV: Lisa was educated at the University of Warwick and holds a BA (Hons) in Theatre Studies and Dramatic Arts, and an MA in European Cultural Policy and Administration. Prior to establishing The Experience Business in 2012, Lisa worked in the arts and cultural sector for nearly 20 years, in strategic marketing, qualitative research, brand and audience development. Lisa is the Founder/Director of The Experience Business, a pioneering UK-based consultancy working nationally and internationally with forward-thinking arts and cultural organisations to re-imagine and re-vitalise their value offer for 21st century audiences.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Lisa is recognised as one of the UK’s leading qualitative researchers specialising in audience experience. Published work can be found in The Audience Experience: A Critical Analysis of Audiences in the Performing Arts (Ed. Radbourne, J, Glow, H and Johanson, K. ) and Marketing the Arts: Challenging Convention.  (Ed. O’Reilly, D and Kerrigan, F.). Since launching The Experience Business in 2012, Lisa has delivered transformational programmes for a wide range of clients including the National Football Museum (UK), National Coal Mining Museum (UK), Imperial War Museum North (UK), Technorama (Switzerland), Melbourne Arts Centre and Australia Council for the Arts. She is regarded as an inspiring and creative thinker; and has delivered many talks and workshops around her innovative thinking and practice nationally and internationally including Auckland, Belfast, Cape Town, Helsinki, London, Melbourne, Oslo, Reykjavik and Sydney.