Jasper Visser on how Museums Can Stay Relevant and Become Game-Changers

This interview is part of our “Thought Leader” series, where we get inside the heads of the best and brightest in the museum & technology world. 

Name: Jasper Visser

Jasper is a digital strategist, cultural innovator, blogger & co-founder of the strategy start-up Inspired by Coffee.

TourSphere: What was a stand-out museum/exhibit that caught your interest in 2011?

Jasper: 2011 brought a couple of surprises, I think it was a good year for culture and museums. In my own country, in Amsterdam, the photography museum Foam had an amazing exposition for their 10-year anniversary. Rather than looking back at those 10 years, they looked into the future of photography, museums and culture in general. The thing that struck me most was an amazing installation by Erik Kessels, who had printed out 1 million photos from social networks and put them, literally in piles, in a couple of rooms. Mind-blowing to see how much we share online nowadays, and the stories you can tell with this material. Earlier in 2011 Foam had an exposition specifically aimed at this, by Willem Populier, that showed the lives in photos and tweets of two teenage girls, without them knowing, by collecting everything they put online. An amazing experiment in privacy, social networking and art.

(See also)

TourSphere: What was the coolest use of technology you saw in a museum in 2011?

Jasper: Without a doubt this must have been Ron Arad’s Curtain Call in the Roundhouse in London (although I don’t know if a theatre counts as a museum). Immersive, genuine 3D projection that still felt very intimate. I’ve been promoting its transfer to Holland ever since I spent 2 hours marveling at its beauty. Google it to see what it’s like.

A good runner-up is the National Museum of Jewish American History in Philadelphia which I could finally visit this year. The interactives are designed by the amazing people at Local Projects (New York) and they do the trick. A must-see if you’re talking about engagement, participation and technology, in my opinion.

(See LP’s portfolio)

TourSphere: Is there an app or a technology that has changed the way you do things or made your job easier this year?

Jasper: For me, I guess 2011 was the year I discovered the true potential of location-based services. At the beginning of the year I did a highly-successful experiment with Foursquare, and later in the year we launched xwashier, our own mobile app which was a huge hit.

I think location based technology offers a lot of new opportunities to tell engaging and meaningful stories about collections, communities, cities, etc. I see quite some cool start-ups working with this technology and I think the best is still to come.

TourSphere: Apple or Android?

Jasper: Hahhahhah, Apple, of course.

TourSphere: If you had to sum up what you think the theme for museums in 2012 will be in one word, what would your prediction be?

Jasper: Consolidation. (A lot of the different projects we’ve done, experiments we’ve run and loose ends we’ve created will be combined, hopefully, into integrated strategies. Playtime’s over, now it’s time to really reach new target groups, truly engage with our audience, be successful.)

TourSphere: What do you see as the biggest challenge for museums in the coming years?

Jasper: I think the biggest challenge for museums, as for any organisation, in the coming years is to stay relevant to people in our changing world. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, and at the heights of the social media and web 2.0 revolution, the changes in the way we do business in culture (and elsewhere) that have become apparent in the past 10 years have gained enough momentum to become real game-changers in the coming years. Are you still with me? It means that unless we really make fundamental changes in the way we work, we will become irrelevant.

Fortunately, the solution to this challenge is becoming clearer all the time as well. We have to build sustainable and meaningful relationships with our audiences, via new and traditional media, our projects and campaigns and our buildings. We have to implement the new business models that are being discovered for the 21st century. And, most importantly, we have to become innovative institutions at the heart of society, not conservative bastions at the outskirts.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Jasper.  Can’t wait to see more from Inspired by Coffee.

Follow Jasper and his work at:


Blog:Museum of the Future

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