21 May 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

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Attractions Management Handbook - Professor Jack Lohman CBE

Movers & Shakers

Professor Jack Lohman CBE


Leadership positions at the Royal BC Museum in Canada, the Museum of London and Iziko Museums in South Africa – Lohman is well versed in what makes museums tick

Jack Lohman, CEO, Royal BC Museum in Canada
Lohman headed up the £20m redevelopment of the Galleries of Modern London at the Museum of London and earned himself a CBE Photo: © museum of london

What’s the biggest opportunity for growth in the museum industry in the next 12 months?
Responding to digital opportunities is at the top as a matter of necessity because it affects every aspect of our business, outputs and services. Museum strategies have to embrace digital strategies, a stronger online presence with new international revenue sources and personalised rather than mass communications.

Looking after a state archive as well as a museum, I see great opportunities for giving the public what it wants in terms of research and source materials – UK institutions are particularly good at this already. I can see how this demand is growing on a daily basis.

And there are other opportunities for growth too: travelling temporary exhibitions are back on the agenda. China’s built many enormous museum exhibition halls at a national, provincial and municipal level and they now need filling. I’ve never seen so many requests for exhibitions.

Back at home in Canada, the biggest opportunity must be to address an overall poor standard of visitor welcome in museums. Few get this right. I still think the Museum of London sets the standard.

Where are the hot spots?
The principal hot spot is the concept of collaboration and partnership which is extending the museum beyond what is currently possible. Geographically, we can look at some superb museum work in unlikely areas – the National Museum in Rwanda is my favourite. How many museums do you know that run orphanages?

What’s the biggest challenge the museum industry will face?
There are many and they are all big. Generating new income, making better use of real estate, looking at scholarship in new ways, drawing on indigenous knowledge, being a beacon in the neighbourhood, and thinking, preparing and responding to climate change. As our museum is on an earthquake fault line and its stores sit below the water line, it is about developing survival strategies. Globally, everyone accepts climate change is important but museums in general are not doing enough to prepare for it and help us understand it.

What’s going to have the biggest impact on the way museums are run in the year ahead?
The pressure for philanthropic support as government support contracts and the demand for our services go up. The question is how do you increase your philanthropic base and make that support go further? Annual giving starts at a low base in Canada; there’s a need to ramp this up as it’s likely to have the biggest impact on our ability to deliver. Bringing together partnerships between philanthropists, governments and corporates is likely to yield the biggest results and change.

What new museum business models will emerge in the year ahead?
We have not quite delivered on the old business models, before we go exploring new business models. In my case, trying to raise CAN$150m will require ingenuity and partnerships. Assets, especially land, can still create a sustainable museum.

What upcoming museum trends are you most excited about?
The smarter way of hiring new talent, identifying staff who find building relationships central to their work and who have a strong strategic mindset. I also believe the opportunity of museums forging better and more meaningful connections with young people is key to a prosperous future.

How did you get into this industry?
My parents were museum designers, so I grew up sitting around museums. My parents would ask us to curate shows in our bedrooms! My first job was as exhibitions officer for English Heritage (Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England), creating museums in historic houses and palaces. Lord Montagu and Jenny Page were a formidable team to work for.

How has your career progressed?
My career is very much global. I have always found myself in the right place at the right time: at the rise of Solidarity in Poland, in Syria on the eve of the Arab Spring, in Cuba at the moment of change in power from one brother to another – this has allowed me to sense opportunities for culture and to contribute. I am particularly proud of my involvement with Warsaw, where I chaired the National Museum for six years, lifting it out of an extreme crisis and back on track. Today, largely thanks to its brilliant director, Dr Agnieszka Morawinska, it is Poland’s most successful museum with its own distinctive identity reflecting its central role in the country.

How did it feel to receive a CBE?
Awesome. I did not really expect the award or to be cherished for what I did at the Museum of London. I was shocked when Poland gave me its highest order and then this came. I was immensely humbled as I knew I was the tip of a very large iceberg of people who transformed the museum.

Is your life on track?
The Canadian perspective has opened my eyes and so long as work can provide fresh insights, you want life to continue.


ABOUT JACK LOHMAN CBE
Professor Jack Lohman is chief executive of the Royal BC Museum in Canada.

Facebook: /RoyalBCMuseum
Twitter: @RoyalBCMuseum
http://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca


Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2014 issue 1

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