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WHY CITIES,
MUSEUMS
AND SOFT POWER
By Gail Dexter Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg

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Ngaire Blankenberg

Gail Dexter Lord

My trip to Dubai this time is different. Rather


than stay in one of the chilly, mega-brand
hotels surrounded by building cranes, Im
in a small boutique art hotel in the AlFahidi Historical District, a historic Persian
neighborhood that has recently been assigned
a new Arabic name. This little network of
shops and galleries is within the Historic
District of Dubai, also called Khor Dubai, as
part of a project to transform the ancient
Khor (Arabic for creek) area to qualify for
designation as a UNESCO world heritage site.

My trip to Winnipeg this time is different. It is


neither 25 degrees below zero, nor 30 degrees
above, as on so many occasions over the past
14 years. It is a drizzling autumn day at The
Forks, for thousands of years an historic
meeting place for indigenous people on the
banks of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. Now
it is a popular mixed-use leisure and cultural
park with theatres, retail shops and space for
festivals, concerts, skateboarding and powwows. Today is different because Im not here
just for meetings. Im here to visit the worlds
first national museum dedicated to human
rights, on its first day open to the public

In my new location, I do what I rarely do in


Dubai. I walk outside.
In the textile souk, the South Asian sales
people first call out in French to entice
me into their shops. Cest jolie, they say.
Entrez! I am flattered that they think I am
French, despite the decidedly unfashionable
rivulets of sweat creeping down my back.
They try to capture my attention. Mary!
they call out. Eveline! Shakira! I cant
help laughing at these names, evidence of
a growing globalization. Ah, my frienda
beautiful pashmina. Silk. Come in. Just to look.
Dubai, like many cities around the world and
particularly those in the global South, has
undergone a remarkable transformation over
the last 75 years. In the 1930s, it was a small
village of about 20,000 people, desperate to
recover from the collapse of the pearl trade.
Today the lure of gold brings almost 11
million people a year to the sky-piercing
high-rises along these reclaimed shores.

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Today will change this city for decades to


come. As home to the Canadian Museum
for Human Rights, Winnipeg has decided
to rebrand itself as The City of Human
Rights Education. Even before it opened,
the museum operated a successful summer
school in human rights education for teachers
from across Canada, broadcast a lecture
series called Fragile Freedoms, featuring
some of the worlds most famous human
rights experts, and trained a remarkable
350 volunteers. The nearby University of
Manitoba maintains the archives of the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission, the official
enquiry into 200 years of abuse suffered by
Canadas indigenous people as governments
colluded with churches to forcibly remove
children from their families and place them
in far-away residential schools with the
stated purpose to kill the Indian in the child.
Becoming the Human Rights Education
City is a bold move and a challenging one:

Laborers and domestic workers chase work


they cant find at home, service workers and
entrepreneurs look for new horizons, investors
capitalize on the boom and the post-boom.
Consultants and advisors and tourists come
for the air-conditioned shopping, good hotels
and great food at every price point. We all
arrive through one of the worlds busiest and
best airports to discover a city full of promise
and optimism.
I stroll through the perfume souk, the spice
souk, the utensils souk, all active working
markets, noisy with the loading and
unloading of goods from Iran, South Korea
and Singapore, the insistent sales pitches,
the bargaining, the traffic. I reflect on what
museums need to achieve for their clients,
the government agencies and the varied
residents of this burgeoning city-state. What
could museums or a heritage district offer for
Dubais permanent, temporary and transitory
residents, many of whom either do not know
about museums and heritage sites or think
of them as places for others in distant
countries?
What good is a museum or heritage site in
this city of gold, driven by development and
aspiration, where history is for some just
another word for outdated, while for others it
is so deeply personal and familial that it has
no place in the public realm?
Power.
Funny enough, it is the same for both the
city and its residents. A museum here can
confer power on the citys residents, and
power on the citys government, at home and
internationally.

Winnipeg is also home to a large population


of marginalized aboriginal people.
The museum looks as if a giant space ship
has landed. As I enter with hundreds of
proud and excited people, we are dazzled
by the architecture, which takes us on a
one-kilometer human rights journey along
alabaster ramps. At each exhibition zone,
friendly docents explain the history of human
rights, indigenous perspectives, the Holocaust
and the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. People here assume Im another visitor
from Winnipeg, not the consultant from
Toronto who for the past 14 years helped plan
this museum.
I reflect on my Aunt Millie who lived in
Winnipeg. She was the founder of the Nellie
McClung Theatre Group, named for a famous
suffragette. I remember my fathers stories
of how cold he felt selling newspapers at the
corner of Portage and Main, the crossroads
of two economiesbootlegging liquor to the
U.S. during Prohibition and the Winnipeg
Grain Exchange.
After many decades in decline, Winnipeg has
transformed itself into a regional center for
the knowledge economy, with universities,
insurance firms, medical research and a
thriving arts and theatre scene. Now its part
of an international network of cities that
feature museums of conscience, collecting the
stories behind human rights. Winnipeg and
the Canadian Museum for Human Rights are
now ready to exercise their soft power.

Museums empower. Museums are power.


Soft power.
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Museums and cities throughout the world are connecting in a soft-power embrace.
Soft power is a concept that emerged a quarter century ago to describe international
relations based not on military nor economic might, but on influence. Soft power is the
ability to influence behavior using persuasion, attraction or agenda-setting. Where the
resources of hard power are tangibleforce and financesoft power resources are
intangibles, such as ideas, knowledge, values and culture. Networks and connectivity
enable soft power to spread its influence farther and deeper via Web-based networks
and networks of cities. And where there are cities, there are museums.
Political scientist Joseph Nye, who first formulated the term in 1990, recently explained
how soft power has increased dramatically in the 21st century as the Information
Revolution helped to distribute information of all kinds worldwide.i In 2000 there were
five million websites in the world; today there are more than one billion, and more than
a third of the global population is online. As a result, more people participate in
international conversations that were once the exclusive domain of states and
corporations that had the economic and military power to exercise control. Today,
information can be launched, exchanged and turned into action more quickly, less
expensively and among more people and organizations than ever before in the history
of humankind.ii
Monocle Magazine and the UK-based Institute of Government have rated countries on
their soft-power since 2011, using metrics such as the number of embassies and cultural
missions, tourists per year, annual attendance at major art galleries, number-one
albums internationally, number of foreign correspondents, UNESCO world heritage
sites, think tanks, universities in the top 200, foreign students, restaurants with
Michelin stars, and even the number of footballers playing abroad in the worlds best
leagues.iii When aggregated, these indicators are thought to predict how influential a
country might be in persuading others to agree with it.
The British Council identifies the link between soft power and culture in its 2013 report,
Influence and Attraction: Culture and the Race for Soft Power in the 21st Century.iv Its
focus, like Monocles, is on civil society institutions, such as broadcasting and
educational institutions, NGOs, businesses, foundations and trusts, and creative
individualsphilanthropists, artists, sports personalities and performers. Cultural
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contact had originally been elite-to-elite (through royal courts and ambassadors), then
additionally elite-to-many (via broadcasting and cinema), and now was entering a phase
of people-to-people (through travel, migration and the Internet).v
Michele Acuto, senior lecturer in global networks and diplomacy at University College,
London, argues that not only national governments but also cities exercise effective soft
power through international cultural relations and cultural diplomacy, especially in the
environment, migration, and quality of life.vi Nye points out that the most effective soft
power is generated by civil society rather than government and large corporations,
which are the traditional backers of hard power. When governments try to generate
influence, it is often perceived as propaganda.vii
These twin characteristics of soft powerthe rise of cities and the role of civil society
are pushing museums from the margins toward the center of soft power.
In the not-too-distant past, museums and the arts were mainly impacted by hard power,
which is where their funding and governance originated. National governments of all
types and large private corporations were the main patrons. They exercised influence,
both directly and indirectly, on what museums displayed and collected and how they
presented their material. During the Cold War, for example, the CIA, in its propaganda
war against communism at home and abroad,viii secretly financed abstract expressionist
exhibitions to promote the superiority of American freedom and creativity. In the more
distant past, museums were repositories for war trophies, whether acquired from
internal wars of aggression against indigenous people or other marginalized religious
and ethnic communities, or from external conflicts and colonial conquest. In the
museum setting, these trophies became objects of curiosity, displayed to communicate
ideas about power and the hierarchy of civilizations, so that there would be no doubt
about the justice of our empire or the superiority of our civilization. The objects that
had been gifts between rulers somehow validated the notion of high cultural
achievement among civilizations that had diplomatic relations. Natural history
museums established a scientific standard for displaying collections in a systematic way
that would soon be employed by museums of anthropology and ethnography.ix Art
museums organized their galleries by country and school, such as Northern

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Renaissance or Italian School, as though the political reality of ever-changing borders


(and accompanying bloodshed) were somehow transcended by the glory of art.
Whether we date museums from the cathedral vault or the princely schatzkammer, from
the great 18th-century universal collections or from childhood memories of geological
wonders and terrifying dinosaurs, museums have always been powerful public spaces
where the leading ideas of the time were presented. These ideas were often defined by
the museums dominant patrons,x based on study of the objects that they collected and
preserved. The ideas represented arent always good ideas. Sometimes they are very
bad ideas indeed, like eugenics and imperialism and mans natural mastery over
nature. Nonetheless, museums are places where ideas are openly presented and
contestedand have been for hundreds of years.
Now museums are in a process of transformation from government and private
organizations to institutions of civil society. By civil society we mean the network of
organizations that represent neither big government nor large corporations, but have
their roots in the voluntary and nonprofit sectorsoften referred to as the third
sector of the economy. This transformation started in the United States, which has been
highly innovative in creating and sustaining the voluntary, nonprofit sector. The
voluntary sector has been the cultural ethos of American democracy from its earliest
days. In the last 40 years, economic changes such as the increasing concentration of
wealth in private hands have stimulated the growth of civil society institutions
worldwide. According to economic and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin,xi the nonprofit
economy is growing faster than the for-profit economy in many countries. More and
more museums are being shifted from the governmental and corporate sectors to the
nonprofit sector. This shift in patronage has led to new governance structures that
reflect a plurality of voices and influences. As a consequence of their place in civil
society, museums are finding themselves with new roles, responsibilities and
expectations.xii
As government financing decreases both proportionately and in absolute numbers, the
museum sector has become more dependent on new forms of patronage from
foundations, philanthropists, sponsorship and earned sources. This has resulted in a
change from inward-looking, collection-focused institutions to outward-facing, donor6 | Cities, Museums & Soft Power Pre-proof Not For Distribution

and visitor-focused ones. This generational change occurred in two stages, and this
book proposes that they are about to undergo a thirdbecoming centers of soft
power.
The first stage was heralded by the American Association of Museums in 1992 when it
released its landmark report, Excellence and Equity: Education and the Public Dimension
of Museums.xiii This led to a fundamental change in the museum profession: museums
proclaimed their roles as educational institutions with a mandate to provide physical
and intellectual access for the entire public. This expanded museum idea echoed
the1986 ICOM definition of museums as institutions for the public benefit and
coincided with legislation in the U.S. and many other countries guaranteeing equal
access for persons with disabilities. Over several decades, museum educators were
liberated from their gloomy basement classrooms to take a central role in teams
identifying the main messages of an exhibition, editing and re-writing text panels,
selecting artifacts and communicating with stakeholders. A new emphasis on evaluation
accompanied this transformation. Museum educators, like their colleagues in schools,
colleges and universities, were passionate about measuring their success in sharing
knowledge. It was no longer enough for an exhibition to be beautiful or original or
steeped in research, much to the discomfort of some curators and designers. Museums
needed to be broadly educational and attract the full diversity of the publicwhether
or not these visitors had prior subject-matter expertise.
The second transformation followed within a decade of Excellence and Equity. It can best
be characterized as Experience and Branding. From within the museum sector, there
was a strong impetus to expand and intensify the impact that museums were having on
the public. Books like The Experience Economyxiv argued that people were no longer
buying products but rather experiences. Museum professionals knew that they provided
experiences in their galleries and programs. Now these experiences needed to be
enhanced and packagedpackaged through branding.
The branding of museums started as an extension of the traditional strategic planning
process (itself adapted from the corporate world) of communicating the mission of the
museum. The brand, which is said to be the promise of the product, further reinforces

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the consumer character of the museum experience. And like a consumer brand, helps
people find the product, physically and virtually.
Museums suddenly had a new importance in the city. They were contemporary
landmarks. Not only brands in and of themselves, but also incorporated into the brand
of the city. Museums were now seen as an integral part of the promise of their cities.
In 2000, the opening of Tate Modern in London was seen as a triumph of branding. Tate
became synonymous with London as the capital of Cool Britannia.
This dynamic combination of experience and brand became the foundation for a
consumer boom in museums, helping to overcome some of the marketing defects from
which museums have suffered: for example, that the permanent collection will always
be there, so there is no urgency to visit. The big experiencewhether it is the Rain
Roomxv or The Treasures of King Tutxviis time-bound. You need to consume it
during the limited time it is there, in your city or on your screen.
New technology and impressive architecture certainly intensified the experience. The
remarkable success of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, inaugurated in 1997, proves that the
experience of space and place can be more memorable than the exhibitions. The
Guggenheim brand expresses the meaning of this museumits sophistication and its
relationship to the world of non-objective art.
The explosionxvii in experience architecture highly influenced the brand of the
museum and the brand of the city. In many cases, the experience of the building was the
experience of the museum. When Daniel Libeskinds Jewish Museum in Berlin opened in
2001, it was without exhibitsthe building itself was the storyteller. Symbolic storytelling museum buildings continue to attract visitors and debate: Le muse du quai
Branly (Paris 2006), Jean Nouvels metaphorical journey into the worlds of the other;
the EMP Museum (Seattle, 2000), which Frank Gehry shaped after Jimi Hendrixs
smashed electric guitar; the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (under
construction in Dhahran) evokes the subterranean stones, the source of petroleum and
gas that brought cultural change to Saudi Arabia. Experience architecture creates new
landmarks, speaking even to those who never enter the building.

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The third stage in the generational transformation of museums is just beginning: the
shift from sites of branded experience to places of soft power.
The emerging soft power of museums responds to three social realities: competition
among cities for talent, tourism and investment; the forces of globalization and
information technology, resulting in new forms of citizenship; and the growing public
participation of women.

Cities
As of 2008, for the first time in human history, more than 50 percent of the world
population lives in cities and cities account for 80 percent of the global GDP. In wealthy
countries, about 80 percent of the population already lives in citiesand city
populations in the rest of the world are continuing to grow toward comparable levels.
This means that enormous numbers of people are migrating to cities, between and
within countries. Property costs are rising in cities worldwide. Cities are on the leading
edge of managing the integration process, as new residents and old learn to live
together. Cities throughout the world are evolving their own soft power to advocate for
solutions to global issues affecting their residents. The C40 network of 69 megacities,
for examplecontaining one-twelfth of the planets populationxviiishares information,
develops policies and implements more than 8,000 action steps to combat climate
change far beyond what national governments can do. The network of Cities of
Migration and others share good ideas about how to manage integration.xix
Khalid Koser contrasts the leading soft power role of cities to that of national
governments: You can find the entire spectrum of views within a few blocks in most
cities. Cities have the venues and the community organizers. And whatever their
perspectives on migration and migrants, city dwellers tend to be open to debate and
exchange. While states are building walls, cities are building bridges. While states are
launching patrol boats, cities are launching ideas. While states are unilateral, cities are
transnational.xx
Cities use their soft power to compete in attracting talented workers, clean knowledgebased industries and high-spending tourists. The creative economy consists of science,
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engineering, research and development, technology-based industries, arts, music,


culture, design, and the knowledge-based professions of health-care, finance and law.
One hundred years ago during the era of the industrial economy, fewer than 10 percent
of the population was employed in this way. Today it is as high as 47 percent in
Singapore, 46 percent in Amsterdam and 37 percent in Toronto.xxi
The economist Richard Florida has persuasively argued that creative workers gravitate
to certain urban environments because the creative economy depends on access to
people and ideas, not to land, natural resources or raw materials. Creative workers can
and do move from place to place in pursuit of the best work environments. Richard
Florida identifies the characteristics of cities that support the creative economy as the
Three Tsxxiitalent, tolerance and technology. He has developed measures for these
qualities so that cities and countries can be compared. Talent is measured in terms of
the percentage of the population with a bachelors degree or more and the number of
research scientists per 1,000 workers. Tolerance is evaluated in terms of the openness
of a community and the degree to which it has modern values, welcomes gay people,
diversity and self-expression. Technology is measured in terms of research and
development expenditure as a percentage of GDP and the number of high-tech patents
achieved.
As the principal custodians of human capital, cities experience the immediate benefits of
a healthy, happy, productive and sustainably growing population. Conversely, cities
suffer the consequences of poverty, marginalization, pollution, inequality and
unemployment. Cities are addressing urban challenges by mobilizing networks,
including universities and colleges, cultural institutions and museums, government
agencies, private sector organizations and individual citizens using their soft power to
change behavior or to come up with innovative solutions.
Cities are magnets for civil society organizations in a myriad of fields, such as health
care, poverty reduction, environment, democracy and the arts. The new and expanded
museums built in the last 17 years are mainly located in cities: 44 percent in cities of 1.5
million people or more and 20 percent in smaller cities with populations between
200,000 and 1.5 million.xxiii A recent study estimates that the entire nonprofit sector
makes up five percent of GDP in economically advanced countries.xxiv Formerly referred
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to as the third sector, it is now being described as the social commons where people
generate the goodwill that allows society to cohere as a cultural entity.xxv
Prominent museum associations are asking how museums, which are now more than
ever civil society institutions, can contribute to this social commons. The Museum
Association in the UK launched a campaign on July 1, 2013 called Museums Change
Lives, promoting the impact of museums on individuals, communities, society and the
environment.xxvi The American Alliance of Museums themed its 2015 Annual Meeting
The Social Impact of Museums.
Tourism could well be the fourth T of Richard Floridas Three Ts of the creative
economy because cities attract visitors, including tourists, visiting friends and relatives
and students. Many of these visitors immerse themselves in the citys values as
expressed in the city brandtours, festivals, events, shopping, museums, theater, sights
and sounds and contact with citizens. The impressive European Union program
European Capitals of Culture, begun in 1985, has effectively promoted both major and
minor cities as urban experiences and has stimulated urban regeneration, including
many new museums. With over a billion tourists annually worldwide, tourism has
become a significant economic, social and cultural force. Tourism is being harnessed to
address a number of issues, from the environment to the development goals. The United
Nations Environment Program, for example, has identified tourism as one of the ten
economic sectors best able to contribute to the transition to a sustainable and inclusive
green economy.xxvii The World Tourism Organization, another UN body, builds on the
critical economic role that tourism plays in developing countries to promote
responsible and sustainable tourism and further the values of poverty reduction, gender
equality, environmental sustainability and cross-cultural understanding.xxviii
Museums are particularly suited for tourism. Unlike many other cultural forms in the
city, they are open throughout the year, offer facilities for group tours and enable an
instant overview of a new culture and city for a wide range of travelers.

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Trans-local Urban Citizenship


The very idea of citizenship derives from the city and the special status that was
conferred on city dwellers. Today citizenship is a matter for national governments and
involves issues of sovereignty. And perhaps paradoxically, not all citi-zens (city
dwellers) are equal.
A global city is a place where the services essential to the work of globalization
congregate: the lawyers, accountants, management consultants, hedge-fund managers
and the likethose who are needed to operate international corporations.
Renowned sociologist Saskia Sassenxxix points out three structural facts about global
cities: they concentrate wealth among owners, partners and professionals associated
with the global firms; they are increasingly disconnected from their region and country;
they are also home to a large marginalized population that does not benefit from the
financial activities of the big firms. Global cities are unequal and growing more so every
day. They are in fact two cities: one experienced by its elite in fenced-off, privatized
spaces; and another experienced by the service workers, industrial workforce,
unemployed, children and youth whose sense of belonging or home is fragile and easily
taken away. Museums are increasingly funded by the elites even as they turn their
programming toward the others.
While global cities are at the forefront of technology and development, often creating
new nodes of power, the structured inequality of contemporary global cities is
surprisingly similar to the post-colonial city. One impact of colonialism on cities was to
formalize inequality by turning natives into migrants and foreigners. This legacy is
exacerbated today by the forces of globalization and the growth of sprawling informal
settlements with their islands of gated communities and villas.xxx For Sassen, this
tension can be seen in all global cities, not just those with a colonial past. Its about
conflictsbetween a financial machine for super-profits and an older, modest profitmaking economy, and between disadvantaged communities and the forces of
gentrification and policing to cleanse the city.xxxi It is a battle to lay claim to the city
itself.

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Within this space of marginalization, Sassen points to new forms of identification and
citizenship based on a trans-local identification.xxxii All labor (and not only the creative
class) is mobile. Most major cities are home to a number of immigrants, labor migrants
and others who are part of equally complex, transnational networks. It may seem
invisible and powerless, but this labor class is also developing new forms of power and
influence through trade and soft power.
Many urban foreign workers send significant percentages of their earnings back
home. This remittance economy represents a net development benefit that the United
Nations calculates as more significant than international aid.xxxiii Globalization is
experienced on an intensely local level through immigration and trade. Diasporic
networks endure because of travel and communication. The information revolution has
given the marginalized the means to network and consolidate individual agency,
creating new forms of global citizenship.xxxiv
Public libraries are creating spaces for people to exercise agency through information
technology. It is no coincidence that Toronto, which welcomes 125,000 immigrants a
year, also has the top performing public library system in North America. Torontos
library system, like so many others, exemplifies the sharing economy and the social
commons: everyone has access to information in an uplifting space where people can
build a shared sense of identity and trust. Most library systems are civil society
institutions that are city- or county-funded and governed by local citizens with support
from foundations and friends organizations. Museums are studying libraries to learn
from their experience.

Women at a Tipping Point


Women make up nearly two-thirds of service workers,xxxv 60 percent of university
campuses, 60 percent of students in courses related to the cultural sector (UK)xxxvi and
more than half the creative class. Women also participate more on social media than
men.xxxvii While women continue to be underrepresented in spheres of political
power,xxxviii they continue to flock to civil society, voluntary and philanthropic
organizations and on-line participation. Women have a better chance of being in a

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leadership role in the social commonsxxxix than they do in the political realm, although
the glass ceiling here is also thick and bruising.
Women have been relatively successful in the social and cultural commons, including
city government, compared to national and state-level political processes and in
corporations.xl Museums in particular offer women an important role in the public
realm that they may not have otherwise.
Women exercising their power in the social commons is not a new phenomenon. In the
U.S. after the Revolutionary War, women were prevented from participating in most
aspects of public life. Upper-class women who wanted to contribute to society started
benevolence societies with mostly humanitarian aimshealthcare, temperance and
abolition of slavery. Although not allowed to make public speeches or chair meetings,
women worked at setting up the organizational structures and raising funds for these
new civil society organizations.xli Eventually however, women were barred from many
of the institutions they founded, except for those in the realm of culture and the arts,
which were regarded as properly lady-like. New museums benefited from their skills
in organization and public service, whether in art museums, or history museums, which
transformed from all-male clubs to community-focused, historic preservation societies
under the leadership mainly of women.xlii
In the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region today, women are playing an active role
in founding, curating, supporting and staffing many of the new museums whose roles
many of their founders see as primarily education.xliii Museums are seen as places of
safety and exclusivity that empower women through employment and the sale of
womens museum-related publications, art and craft reinterpretations of collections and
exhibits of objects relating to womenxliv. Museums are regarded as acceptable for
women, whereas other spheres of public participation may not be.
In the U.S. and the UK, women are still underrepresented as directors in the major
museums, although the disparity is mostly driven by the largest museums. For most
museums, however, with budgets of less than $15 million, female directors on average
earn $1.02 for every dollar that male directors earn. In addition, women compose about
63 percent of all professional and senior-level staff in the field, twice the average
representation of men. The percentage may be even higher if one counts women who
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are currently serving as interim directors, consultants, and heads of professional


associations and university museum studies programs.
The American Alliance of Museums 2014 National Museum Salary Study showed that in
the U.S., women outnumber men 2 to 1 in director positions of small museums, those
with annual operating budgets up to $250,000. The disparity decreases with budget
size, the study states, and at museums with budgets at or above $1M, the ratio flips
and men start to outnumber women. At museums with budgets over $3M, the ratio of
female to male directors is 1 to 1.3. Women directors earn only 71 cents for every
dollar paid to male directors, the study showed, as calculated from the median in this
field-wide survey.xlv
While there are still disparities between the genders in museums, notably among the
most senior positions in major museums, on the whole, women are more powerful in
museums than in other cultural industries where they represent less than half of the
work force.
Feminist journalist Sally Armstrongxlvi believes that womens power is at a tipping point.
She sees a growing soft power alliance between women of north and south and east and
west for economic, social, cultural, religious and sexual equality.
Women comprise the majority of museum workers but have still not achieved equality
in the executive offices or in the boardroom. The power that women have is based in the
social commons. Museums may open up a new front for feminism and soft power.

Powerful Cities Have Powerful Museums


Museums are beginning to understand themselves as networked civil-society
institutions with soft power that can enhance the importance of cities and empower
their residents and visitors.
Museums enhance the soft power of cities when they are signifiers of pride and
distinctiveness; when they are anchors providing stability, memory, employment and a
forum for exchanging ideas; and when they are nodes in an international cultural

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network promoting lasting relationships among and between cultural workers and civil
society.
Museums empower people when they are patrons for artists and thinkers; when they
amplify civic discourse, accelerate cultural change, and contribute to cultural
intelligence among the great diversity of city dwellers, visitors, policy-makers and
leaders.
The very presence of museums signifies that a city is proud of its culture. As branding
specialist Simon Anholt says:
If you are perceived to have culturewhatever that meansthen you are perceived to have selfrespect. Therefore you are worthy of respect So the cultural institutions are simply the means by
which that is communicated and shared by other people. xlvii

The presence of museums as public and accessible places that display and preserve
artifacts and works of art demonstrates confidence, even though there may be people
who vehemently disagree with the approach. For example, two new national museums
in Paris, the Muse du quai Branly (2006) and the Cit nationale de l'histoire de
l'immigration (2007) communicated confidence in Frances post-colonial relationships,
even as these two museums drew criticism. The key factor in terms of soft power is for
the museum to be open to debate and disagreement. The opening of the Apartheid
Museum in Johannesburg in 2001, with its tagline Apartheid is where it belongsin a
museum, signified that the city was ready to examine the trauma of its not so distant
past. It is significant that this museum was created independent of government as a
private-public partnership with a casino. Museums created in the Apartheid era were
racist and existed to justify a system that made the minority feel proud at the expense of
the majority. These apartheid-era museums reflected the hard power of the state and
were not open to criticism or debate.

Landmarks or Place-makers?
We distinguish two very different roles for museums in the built environment of cities:
as landmarks and as place-makers. As a landmark, the museum building brands the city
or the neighborhood. It signifies a level of cultural attainment (as in the new
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contemporary art museum in Aspen), innovation (such as the green roof of the
California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco) or democracy (like the Constitution
Center in Philadelphia). Often museum landmarks signify that a city possesses
something unique and creative in the increasingly privatized urban public realm
dominated by monotonous billboards and giant TV screensthe same shops, logos and
images that define urban space the world over. Landmark buildings are attractive, and
they attract developers to revive declining cities and influence tourists, residents and
mobile workers to become cultural ambassadors and citizen diplomats to promote the
city as a destination. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Pompidou Center Metz
are good examples of landmark museums that have successfully helped renew cities in
declinexlviii.
In this era of power diffusion, museum buildings are more than landmarks. They are
also cornerstones in successful place-making. Place-making refers to the interactions
between people and place in the creation of social capital (the capacity of people
working together to solve problems). Museums present beautiful, accessible and
meaningful spaces in which communities and individuals can meet, exchange ideas and
solve problems. Place-making explains why museum space matters so much to so many
today. Museum space is emphatically three-dimensional, punctuated by threedimensional objects. It is a kinesthetic experience: our mere movement seems to change
the space, and the place somehow changes us. Because this is an interpreted spacea
place with assigned meaningswe may also be challenged to see things in a new way:
to find our own way, figuratively, at least.
Guido Guerzoni (page xx) analyzes the reasons for the museum explosion of the past 30
years and the impact on the soft power of cities. Not all landmarks and place-makers are
expensive permanent museum structures. Lourdes Fernandes, in her essay on
temporary cultural spaces (page XX), explores the phenomena of pop-up museums,
biennials and festivals.
A citys anchor institutions are those that have proven to be sites of community
sustainability, such as hospitals, universities, libraries, community centers, places of
worship and museums. The value of anchor institutions is to preserve memory and to
adapt the knowledge of the past to changing contexts. Anchor institutions accumulate a
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body of knowledge through the efforts of professional staff and engage with the public
through exhibitions, websites, programs, and collaboration with artists and scientists.
Members of the public are invited to contribute their memories and knowledge about
collections and events through crowd sourcing or other means. These anchor
institutions are challenged to develop new ways of organizing such knowledge,
reflecting changes in the origins of knowledge and the ways in which it has been
collected. Museums as anchor institutions exercise soft power based on community
participation. Ngaire Blankenberg in her essay on page XX describes how museums
exist within an internet-facilitated culture of stewardship in which transparency and the
inclusion of multiple voices is critical to achieving soft power.
Post-colonial city governments and patrons seek to distance themselves from the
institutions of the past, seeing them as the source of outdated and harmful values. The
vast majority of museums in the global south were established by colonial governments
as symbols of their hard power. These museums have consequently been de-prioritized
by new governments formed after independence. In many developing countries, cities
prefer to fund community-based arts or creative industries rather than museums.
Lacking funding for cultural leaders, local governments often outsource arts
administration, which results in the loss of institutional memory and weakens the citys
influence. The soft power of civil society stems from having a stable base from which to
engagemeaning that people who have secure income and the opportunity to build
certain skills are most likely to be able to advocate, mobilize and engage with others
(government, private sector, community) in order to influence and change behavior.
Batul Raaj (page xx) describes how Patna in the Indian province of Bihar reclaimed
history, memory and influence by building a major new museum. Gege Leme, in her
analysis of Brazils museums (page XX), shows how museums are supporting the
development of civil society.
Even though a museums origins may be steeped in racism, colonialism and elitism,
there is still value in the artifacts it holds and the opportunities it presents for reinterpretationstarting with whom it employs and how it operates. Without public
museums, this institutional cultural memory is privatized and in danger of being
forgotten.
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The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and the many civil rights
museums and institutes in Atlanta have been designed with soft power in mind and are
building networks with their cities, as Joy Bailey and Gail Lord describe on page XX.
When it comes to soft power, museums are particularly strategic for international
relations, whether as symbolic meeting places or as part of a network of relationships
with other museums through loaning collections and exhibitions, as well as professional
training and exchanges. Mohamed Gamal describes in his essay on page XX how the
Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo will promote soft power in the form of intercultural
understanding. Museums have always played a role in the soft power between nations.
Objects were exchanged as diplomatic gifts and this practice continues to be a tool in
international diplomacy, as Frederica Olivares explores in her essay on page XX.
What was once a process of exchange dominated by the political or corporate elite has
expanded to include exchanges between the employees and associated cultural workers
of museums. The International Council of Museums and the International Sites of
Conscience are just two of the many professional organizations that bring museum
workers together for conferences and professional training. As people speak to one
another in a context of shared interest, they find ways of exchanging values, information
and understanding. For women and others long excluded from political power, this is a
particularly important way that leadership is developed and demonstrated. Soft power
can also be contentious.
Face-to-face contact among cultural workers is a critical way museums support the
spread of ideas and values. Without the formality that marks moments of international
cultural diplomacy, cultural workers are able to exchange viewpoints and ideas, and
form alliances and networks that go beyond cities and nations. They become citizen
diplomats. Robert Punkenhofer explores the role of creative workers and artists as
cultural nomads in his essay on page XX.
Whether internationally or within their cities, museums support and amplify the work
and ideas of artists, scientists, historians, curators and thinkerscommunities whose
voices may not have had a platform previously. In their exhibitions, museums turn the
creativity of individuals into a resourcefor the economy (employment for artists), for
identity (the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco) or for science (The
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Science Gallery in Dublin). In this role, museums are power converters, transforming
creativity and knowledge into influence, encouraging us to see new perspectives and
even to change our behaviorxlix.
Encouraging human creativity often requires confidence-building, skills-training,
human networks, civic participation, risk-taking and intercultural understanding.
Museums have great potential in each of these areas. Sociologist Robert Putnaml has
demonstrated that participation in cultural activities is one of the most effective means
of creating a civil society in which people work together to solve problems and create
knowledge. An open civil society is the necessary foundation for the creative economy.

Power Conversion
The capacity of museums to convert power is demonstrated in the ways they engage
with and promote women in professional networks and forums of influence. These
women, in turn, use their networks to influence and grow the cultural, social and
political sectors.
Museums are cultural accelerators. They convert the passive experience of change into
the capacity to manage change. For example, displaying 300 years of transportation
objects from the ox cart to the jet in a few hundred square meters of exhibition space
intensifies our awareness of change. Similarly, when visitors to the Canadian Museum
for Human Rights learn about six genocides inflicted on people around the world, they
are better able to understand the patterns that emerge and spot the danger signs in the
society around us. Because artists express change in advance of its full impact on the
rest of us, works of art are the ultimate cultural accelerators.
Curiously, museums are still seen by many as static places when in fact they are just the
opposite. They are one of our societys main adaptive strategies for managing change.
We see this in countries in Africa and Asia that are undergoing massive change and are
simultaneously building new museums at an astounding rate. Museums must preserve
the past while also helping people adapt to the present and future. In China, as An
Laishun writes on page XX, there is an explosion of new museums as that country
adapts to some of the most rapid social change in human history.
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Museums provide deep, comparative knowledge. They help people understand how
values and ways of living have changed over time, and why. A museum might show the
progression of an artists style in a retrospective exhibition, reveal how the treatment of
immigrants today is different from their treatment 100 years ago or track the
technological changes in making music.
The more we are able to view themes and events over time and geographically, the
more we develop contextual intelligencea valuable 21st-century skill that includes the
ability to understand an environment in flux and act on it.li Contextual intelligence is
critical to exercising smart powerbeing able to judge which tools should be used with
which people or institutions to bring about change. Museums empower city dwellers
and visitors with contextual intelligence, enabling us to understand the past behavior
and values of a society (albeit through the museums filter) and consider how to adapt
our own behavior. Museums also promote social inclusion: for example, Canadas
Cultural Access Pass that grants new Canadian citizens free entry into museums for one
year, or New York Citys new municipal identification card that provides documentation
for new immigrants while admitting them into participating museums for free or
Brazils culture coupons developed to provide the nations poor with access to culture,
from movies and books to museums.
In highly competitive, fast-changing cities, museums have emerged as a vital resource
for developing contextual intelligence and cross-cultural skills.
All museums have the potential to exercise soft power. But not all museums will choose
that role. In Chapter Two we suggest how museums can use their soft power to help
meet the rapidly evolving needs of cities.

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Joseph S. Nye Jr. The Information Revolution and Power, in Soft Power Revisited: A
Current History Anthology, (Amazon Digital Editions, 2014)
ii ibid.
iii Monocle, January 2014
iv British Council, 2013
v ibid., p. 3
vi Michele Acuto, Global Cities, Governance and Diplomacy, the Urban Link (Routledge, 2013)
vii Nye, Op. cit.
viii Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and
Letters (The New Press, 2nd Edition, 2013)
ix See Batul Rajs essay xx on page XX
x For more on the impact of patronage on museums and culture, see Lord and Lord, Artists,
Patrons and the Public: Why Culture Changes (Alta Mira Press, 2010).
xi Jeremy Rifkin, The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative
Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), p. 17. In the US,
Canada, Japan, France, Belgium, Australia, the Czech Republic and New Zealand, the nonprofit sector makes up on average five percent of the GDP, equal to the construction industry
and nearly equal to the GDP of banks, insurance companies and financial services.
xii Chapter 2 explores the implications of this direction for the soft power of museums in more
detail.
xiii American Alliance of Museums, Washington, DC., 1992.
xiv Pine and Gilmore, The Experience Economy, Harvard Business Review Press; Updated
edition, 2011.
xv Rain Room/EXPO 1 at MoMA, New York, 2013. http://randominternational.com/exhibitions/rain-room-expo-1-at-moma/
xvi Treasures of Tutankhamun, international touring exhibition, 1972-1981. Among the most
successful museum exhibitions of all time, in terms of revenue and audience numbers.
xvii This explosion is brilliantly analyzed by Guido Guerzoni in Museums on the Map 19952012 (Turin, 2014)
xviii C40 cities http://www.c40.org/
xix Citiesofmigration.ca
xx Khalid Koser and John Salt, The Geography of Highly Skilled International Migration,
International Journal of Population Geography, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 285-303.
xxi Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited, 2011 (New York: Basic Books), p. 270.
xxii Richard Florida and Irene Tinagli, Europe in the Creative Age, Carnegie Mellon Software
Industry Center and DEMOS (February 2004)
xxiii Guerzoni, 35
xxiv Rifkin, 7
xxv ibid., p. 17
xxvi http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-change-lives
xxvii http://media.unwto.org/press-release/2014-11-06/harnessing-power-one-billion-touristssustainable-future
xxviii http://www.unwto.org/tourism&mdgsezine/
xxix Sassen book reference
xxx http://radicalantipode.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/book-review_delgado-on-pieterse-andsimone.pdf
xxxi Artisans for Incorporation: An Interview with Saskia Sassen
http://www.citsee.eu/interview/%E2%80%98artisans-incorporation%E2%80%99-interviewsaskia-sassen
xxxii Sassen on the transnationalization of labor and the formation of translocal communities.
The loss of power at the national level produces the possibility for new forms of power and
politics at the sub-national level. Further, insofar as the national as container of social process
and power is cracked it opens up possibilities for a geography of politics that links subnational spaces across borders.
xxxiiihttp://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/Poverty%20Reduction/Inclusive%20develop
ment/Towards%20Human%20Resilience/Towards_SustainingMDGProgress_Ch4.pdf
xxxiv http://prq.sagepub.com/content/66/1/91.short
i

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xxxv

Florida, p. 55
Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) (2011) Equality in Higher Education: Statistical
Report 2011 (London: Equality Challenge Unit). Quoted in What Do You Need to Make It as
a Woman in This Industry? Balls! Work Placements, Gender and the Cultural Industries, Kim
Allen in Cultural Work and Higher Education, Edited by Daniel Ashton and Caitriona Noonan,
Palgrave Macmillan
xxxvii Pew research study http://timenewsfeed.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/383521infographic-battle-of-the-social-sexes.jpg
xxxviiihttp://www.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/
2014/wmnmap14_en%20pdf.ashx
xxxix ibid.
xlfile:///C:/Users/ngaire/Documents/Museums,%20Cities%20and%20Soft%20Power/Research
/Sex-and-Power-2013-FINALv2.-pdf.pdf
xli Women in the Temple: Gender and Leadership in Museums, Marjorie Schwarzer, in
Gender, Sexuality and Museums: A Routledge Reader. Routledge
xlii Schwarzer, p. 3
xliii Museums, Women and Empowerment in the MENA Countries, Carol Malt. Article first
published online: 28 Nov 2007. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0033.2007.00624.x.
xliv Malt ibid
xlv http://aam-us.org/about-us/media-room/2014/2014-salary-survey
xlvi Sally Armstrong, Ascent of Women (Random House Canada, 2013).
xlvii http://monocle.com/film/Edits/museums-as-soft-power/: Simon Anholt, Independent policy
advisor http://www.simonanholt.com/
xlviii Mohamed Gamal in his essay in this book details the urban development that is expected
in Cairo as a result of building the Grand Egyptian museum.
xlix Nye, Op. cit.
l Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone, Simon & Shuster, Toronto (2000)
li Contextual intelligence, the ability to understand an evolving environment and capitalize on
trends, will become a crucial skill in enabling leaders to convert power resources into
successful strategies. (Nye, p. 15).
xxxvi

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