The project is led by Chris Michaels, in collaboration with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), Coventry University, AI21C Foundation and sponsored by The Island. It consists of a three-part series of papers and accompanying events, interviews, and other activities, taking place in 2023 and 2024.
What does the digital age mean for galleries and museums? The question has been asked many times over the last 25 years. Collections have been digitised, stories told in social media and experiments with emerging technologies carried out. But at an institutional level, the digital age has left galleries and museums largely unchanged. They remain as they have been since the public museum emerged in the mid-eighteenth century - complex structures, rooted in the preservation and care of objects, and supported by funding generated from a mixed-economic model of public, philanthropic and commercial income.
The last three years has seen a new kind of institution emerge. Where galleries and museums are the outcome of the technologies, capital and politics of the enlightenment; the ‘immersive institution’ is the outcome of new configurations of technology, finance and governance made possible by the particular conditions of the 21st century digital world. As technology has become both more powerful and cheaper, and investors have provided the start-up finance to create this new kind of institution, a wave of untapped audience demand for cultural creative experiences has been met through a global wave of innovation.
The ‘immersive institution’ is the 21st century’s competitor to the museum and gallery as we have understood them over the last 250 years. It is new, and its long-term impact is uncertain, but it will change our understanding of how art and culture reaches audiences. Capturing its story as it emerges is the purpose of this project.