In my opinion, the most urgent issue is relevance. Relevance is also a buzzword right now, but I consider it to be the most urgent issue because institutions like the National Museum is not legitimate in the same way today as they were 30 years ago. 30 years ago you could not comprehend a future without a National Museum. Today it is a possible future. The budget cuts, the arts and culture institutions are experiencing at the moment, are an expression of a political attitude where institutions have to make themselves relevant and increase visiting numbers or die. But I don’t really have a problem with that. One way of looking at the current developments is to view them as the fall of the experts. The internet has facilitated that information can be shared and disseminated, and now you will often see amateurs becoming experts.
The status that previously came with having a certain title, e.g. as a professor, is not enough anymore. This means that an old renowned institution like the National Museum has to change and find its relevance in contemporary society in order to survive. I think that is the most fundamental issue.
First of all, you need courage and brave staff. For institutions like the National Museum, there will often be a policy of fear because you constantly risk getting bad reviews or upsetting the public, politicians, the foundations or the Ministry. Someone might think that what you are doing is too populist and so on. So you need to be brave and be able to take a beating and ultimately be prepared for the possibility of getting fired. Otherwise, you can’t move anything. You can’t move an institution like the National Museum forward without upsetting some people — and you can’t do it without making some mistakes along the way. With that being said, you also need highly professional researchers who are able to ask big, ambitious and relevant questions. Questions that concern general human nature, which the public consider to be interesting and relevant. Since the museum is driven by research you need research communities that can raise these questions. It is their material that we put into play at the museum.
Finally, you need professional competencies that are outside what you would normally consider to be within the museum profession. When you hire staff, it is an advantage if they have experience with museums, but I would much rather hire people that have been working in the fringes of the field who have professional skills and experience beyond just academic knowledge.