Museums and creative industries. New case studies from across Europe

The slogan for the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 – Our heritage: where the past meets the future – has currently set the tone for Europe’s museum sector.

Arguably, the title of the European Museum of the Year 2018 has been given to the Design Museum in London, for ‘celebrating and exploring the magic of human creativity, the objects, ideas, skills, and forces that shape our lives’.

The broad concept of human creativity thus has been recognised in its very concrete shape of museum’s involvement with, and being part of, the creative industries generally, which fundamentally shape our everyday lives whether we notice it or not.

It was through the Creative Britain programme of 1990’s and 2000’s that the concept of the creative economy as a driver of social change emerged. This informed the shaping of the European Commission’s own proposal – the €1.46 billion framework programme Creative Europe (2014 – 2020) which offers support to the culture and audio-visual sectors. 

This EU sponsored programme fostered a proliferation of cultural policy planning documents in member states, which invariably included the adjective “creative” in their respective titles - Creative Latvia 2014 – 2020, being an example. In view of this policy thrust across Europe and bearing in mind museums’ self-awareness and how their governing bodies profile them as part of the broad creative family, should one not have anticipated strong creative partnerships between museums and the other creative industries? 

Yet the research undertaken in 2015 and 2017 by NEMO’s Working Group on Museums and the Creative Industries found to the contrary. With some remarkable exceptions, the surveys undertaken by the Group show that museums’ role in the context of creative industries across continental Europe has, in general, only been vaguely recognised. Even though collaboration with other creative industries was seen as advantageous, such partnerships were not top of the agenda for museum governing bodies.

The primary task of this exercise is to present recent case studies, drawn from across Europe, featuring innovative practice through partnerships between museums and creative industries. These have been gathered through a general call for submissions placed on the NEMO website and by individual invitations to NEMO members. Given the diverse nature of the programmes included, and the breadth of the national representation, it is hoped that this report will stimulate and encourage others to establish creative partnerships. While highlighting some of the good practice being delivered, we hope that the examples will provide further food for thought.

There are 47 Council of Europe member states, most of which are represented within the NEMO though national museum organisations or similar bodies, all of whom received an invitation to submit case studies to this report. Yet only 8 countries chose to present examples of collaborative programmes, with a notably strong representation from Italy. Why should that be, we asked?

While the variations in economic circumstances and in how museums are governed and operated likely influence museums’ appetite and capacity to undertake such work, we would suggest that the landscape and tradition of European museum award schemes has a bearing too. This influence, in broader terms, has been examined in another recent NEMO reportEuropean Museum Awards – A Guide to Quality Work in Museums, coordinated by Margherita Sani, and published in 2018.

The assessment of the public quality of museums, which has been the single most important principle of all of the European museum award schemes, has remained in place virtually unaltered since such schemes were put in place in 1977. What has changed over time, though, have been the criteria by which the very public quality of museums are assessed. Such awards as the Heritage in Motion Award (a joint initiative of Europa Nostra and the European Museum Academy), aim at collecting and celebrating the best multimedia products, be they apps for mobile devices, websites and on-line content, games and interactive experiences, film and video, or whatever. As is easily appreciated, this award embraces significant strands of museum and creative industries joint cooperation.

With increasing recognition of the creative economy across present day Europe, it is not surprising that other awards have emerged to recognise best practice in the museum sector. One of the latest arrivals to the family of European museum awards is the Italian Museums in Short Award. This was initiated within the museum community and aims to make “the role of museums as creative industries or relevant partners of creative industries more visible”, by celebrating short videos made in connection with museums. Launched in 2012 by MUSIL – Museum of Industry and Labour, the European Museum Academy and the Brescia Musei Foundation, this initiative is supported by ICOM Italia. It is but one example of the long-term involvement of Italian museum professionals in sustaining and developing European museum award schemes in general, seeing them (when combined with strong vocational exchange and communication) as a primary means of embedding museums’ work with creative industries as part of their normal day-to-day activity.

The work resulting from museum/creative industry partnerships can now be submitted to such traditional European award schemes as European Museum of the Year Award, European Museum Academy, the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, and others. Majority of schemes are either open to EU or the Council of Europe member states, effectively making these awards the international trendsetters in the European museum landscape.  And, as NEMO’s synoptic publications amply demonstrate, there is indeed a need to place greater emphasis upon the use of creative industries in museums as a primary means of delivering high-quality public services.

The cases studies presented here are offered in the spirit of disseminating what the European Museum of the Year Award scheme designates as ‘innovation and excellence in public quality in museumpractice’.  The majority of these case studies are drawn from the digital solutions field. However, there are some outstanding examples, which showcase museum cooperation with performing arts and cinema, music industry, tourism and hospitality business, and the culinary sector. We hope that they will inspire museum managers and administrative leaders, as well as those working in the creative industries.

Enjoy the read!                                                                  


Raivis Sīmansons

Muzeologs, PhD

Ineta Zelča Sīmansone

Muzeoloģe, projektu vadītāja un konsultante | Museologist