AAM 2009: The Museum Experiment is now history. In the weeks following big conferences like this, where ideas sizzle like Pop Rocks candy, it’s always interesting to see what sticks. What topics will we still be chewing on next week…next month…next year? (and I don’t mean the obvious “how do you throw a party when nobody can afford to come?”)
This year, I’m putting my money on Authenticity. Yeah, I know that seems old hat. Museums are all about authenticity, and always have been – we are the authenticity authorities! Authenticity is the coin of our realm. It’s our ultimate destination. We focus on authenticity in our collections, authenticity in our missions, and, most recently, authenticity in our brands. (Who hasn’t had a conversation about “look and feel” lately?)
Well, AAM09 made me think about authenticity in a new way. While our focus is on presenting authentic things and authentic experiences (both relatively static and clearly-defined activities), it seems the rest of the world is thronging to a different authenticity altogether. They are using online social tools (facebook, twitter, blogger, ning, flickr - the list goes on and on) to find like-minded authentic people.
Think about that for a minute: the search is on for authentic people.
What makes a person authentic? Is it an absence of pretense, (or to use a current buzzword) a “transparency”? Or maybe it’s about spontaneity? Or a certain self-awareness? I’m not sure what it is. However, I’m pretty sure authentic people share a commitment to broadening and deepening their human experiences in honest and open ways. Whether they do it dynamically or incrementally, authentic people choose to engage. Some ponder, some debate, some think aloud, some assess, some question…but they all engage and adjust. Authentic people change. And therein lies the paradox: the authenticity of things rests on the fact that they don't change; the authenticity of people lies in the fact that they do. (unparallel construction intentional)
Perhaps understanding the complexities of this paradox is the key to finding our way into the Brave New Social Networking Online World.
Authenticity: this year’s Hot Topic.