2023 Building Museums Symposium

Earlier this month, the Mid Atlantic Association of Museums’ (MAAM) Building Museums Symposium in Atlanta brought together more than 400 attendees from across the country that spanned the cultural and institutional attraction industry. Representatives from museums, architecture firms, construction companies, design partners, and more shared insights in plenaries, breakout sessions, and even during breaks in hallways. And while many innovative ideas were discussed, there were a few themes consistently shared throughout, highlighting a positive outlook on the future of museums and a continued focus on creating space for greater inclusivity and community connections.

Here are five themes we took away from the conference:

DE&I is a Top Priority – Making space for conversation, consideration, and top-level initiatives that show progress toward greater equity for traditionally underserved audiences – both inside and outside institutions – is a priority for many organizations. Whether it’s recognizing a need for greater diversity in organizational leadership, staff, and vendors, or identifying operational hurdles that may discourage full community engagement and connection, museums and other cultural institutions are developing measurable plans that prioritize inclusion.

Repurposing Spaces Inside & Out – Post pandemic, many museums are exploring new ways to maximize their space and expand into fresh spaces, recently made available as companies moved from large, shared office environments to work from home models. Organizations are also taking greater advantage of their existing outdoor spaces to bring them closer to their communities and create novel programming opportunities.

Designing With Revenue in Mind – As competition for guests’ attention and dollars continue to increase, many institutions are looking at spaces within their buildings as potential revenue generators. And, when designing new facilities, building flexible spaces that can serve as both programming and rental space. This lens also encourages creative programming opportunities – like regular community salsa dancing and yoga sessions – that support revenue goals while also attracting new audiences.

Caring for Internal Audiences – Institutions are only as strong as their staff – from the front of the house retail operators to administration and governing bodies. It’s important to allow opportunities for all associates to feel invested in organizational initiatives from the start and to create space for them to feel valued. For those organizations curating programming that may include challenging topics or even trigger trauma, caring for staff means something greater – offering needed support and purposefully creating space for them to be human, and allowing time to process or step away from content that may weigh heavy on them long after they leave.

Further Integration Into the Community – Museums, like libraries, are trusted community institutions. People go to them for reliable information, to meet others, learn new things, and experience and enjoy their collections. Given this place of trust, many organizations are making greater efforts to further integrate the institutions into their communities by serving as community resources in times of need and, sometimes, in times of unrest. Some have served as food banks, others hosted safe protest sites, and others as natural community gathering spaces.

As a design/build firm seeking to create genuine human communications, Roto considers these same ideas, wherever we can have impact, with our clients. And we’re excited to start these conversations with cultural institutions. To learn more about Roto’s capabilities and our project work, visit our Museums page.

Roto Northern Virginia Science Center Concept Design