Jasper Visser is the founder and principal of Inspired by Coffee. He works with non-proﬁts, NGOs and cultural organizations from around the world on strategies for the future, especially in the area of media, communication, technology and business models. Also, he is the cofounder of several startups that turn his ideas into reality. Jasper regularly speaks internationally about these topics and keeps the blog themuseumofthefuture.com.
I work a lot with museums, but not in a museum. I’m heading an agency that helps non-profits and cultural institutions get most out of the 21st century. This means we do a lot of vision & strategy development, capacity building and change management in museums, but also in libraries, archives, education, etc. A lot of the work focuses on new media and technology, innovation management and new business models. My job gives me the opportunity to travel the world, see lots of organisations from the inside and meet amazing people. I love it!
What’s your educational background?
I have a mixed educational background, combining technology, change management, educational sciences and international development studies. What this mix taught me is to work in challenging situations with and for very diverse audiences. I like to start daring projects and at the same time work with the people involved so they can continue them as soon as the first phase is over. Most of what I know, I’ve learned on the job, working in different countries, cultures and settings but always in a position where I could connect people with ideas.
What was your ‘sticky’ moment?
I’m not sure there’s one sticky moment. They keep happening every few months. Recently, while working with Cultural Heritage Without Borders in Sarajevo, BiH, I had a very powerful sticky moment. I was toured around an impressive exhibition about Sarajevo under siege by people who lived through the event, together with representatives from institutions from all over the Balkans. The emotional and binding effects of this event gave me renewed energy to work on connecting people with culture and each other.
What is the name of your blog? How long have you been blogging?
I started my blog The Museum of the Future to document the development of a new museum in the Netherlands, which had the audacious goal to be that future museum. I started blogging in the summer of 2009. As my position was something like ‘digital manager’ most of the early posts focused on social media, technology and the web. When the museum stopped late 2011, I continued the blog with more of a focus on innovation and the social museum.
What do you blog about? Why?
Traditionally I blog a lot about digital media and technology, which provide great opportunities for museums to reconnect with their audiences. A typical post will give advice based on a project or my experience about using digital media or technology to reach and engage audiences. In the last year or so I’ve begun writing more about the impact of innovations in media, communications, technology and society on museums and the role of a museum in society. Most of my posts are based on the work I do with clients and the conferences I speak at or attend. Blogging is for me a way to give back to the community who generously gives so much energy and inspiration. I’m especially happy when a post triggers a lot of response, online and offline, such as my posts about Lady Gaga and museums, digital storytelling or skills for future museum employees.
Have you ever regretted a blog post?
I’ve never regretted a post, although I sometimes wish I could be more nuanced in what I write about. The reality is that if we want museums to be successful in the 21st century, we need to drastically change some of the things we do. This change is not achieved by being nuanced all the time and spending a lot of time on semantics; it’s achieved by doing stuff. At the same time, as a change agent, I know the first thing to do to make change successful, is to win the hearts of the people. I don’t always do this on my blog, with angry emails and twitter conversations as a consequence. Frankly speaking, I don’t think a blog is a place to write things people want to hear; it’s a place to write stuff that might be uncomfortable.
What’s your most read blog post? Tell us about it.
The most powerful blog post in terms of visitors I ever wrote describes a project I’ve been involved in where we turned famous Van Gogh paintings into 3D animations. Unlike some other successful posts, this one doesn’t have a lot of social media buzz, but it gets about 1,500-2,000 visitors a month via Google. To me, this proves exactly the point of the post and a lot of the work I’ve been doing. The content of museums is extremely strong, offline as well as online. If we can find creative ways to use this content in the digital age, audiences will come. In the case of Van Gogh this can be 3D animations (which, if you have the glasses, you can see online), but the options are virtually endless.
What’s the last thing you bought at a museum gift shop?
As most professional museum visitors I know I’m a big fan of the gift shops (as well as the cafes). The last time I bought something else than a book or postcard must have been in the Australian Museum in Sydney, though, when I bought two stuffed animals (a koala and another typical Australian animal) for my nieces. Gift shops are – as the name says – great for gifts, something museums sometimes forget!
If you didn’t work in a museum what would you be doing?
If for some reason I would stop working with museums, I think there are many places worth discovering. At the moment I’m involved in a couple of startups that each investigate a new business model or way of connecting content and people (Take a look for instance at ‘De gulle ekster’ of which the US version ‘generous magpie’ will launch this fall). It’s exciting to work with a small team on blue ocean projects with my own time and money, something very far from most museum experiences. I also like working on festivals and events, which has the rush of opening nights. Fortunately I get the chance to work in many different environments, which I consider a plus for the work I do for museums as well, as it brings many new ideas into the sector.
Share one piece of advice for those interested in working in the museum field:
My advice to those interested in working in the museum field is: go work somewhere else first, and work really, really hard at becoming an incredible talent in whatever you’re doing. Then, take your skills and experience back into the world of museums where there’s a desperate need for creative thinkers who have faced (and solved?) our challenges elsewhere. I keep on advising clients that if they really want change, they should start by hiring differently. Make sure you’re that: different.
Thanks for participating in Meet a Museum Blogger, Jasper!
In case you missed it, Jasper blogs at The Museum of the Future.
Do you have any additional questions for Jasper regarding his profile above? Feel free to start a conversation in the comments below or reach out to him directly on Twitter. His Twitter handle is @jaspervisser. Please use the #MuseumBlogger hashtag. TY!
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