Design and architecture museums as social innovators

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Programme in International Design Business Management
The thesis looks at the change and development museums are going through in the 21st century by becoming platforms of social change and community-driven spaces. The 2020 pandemic has shown, across various societal, ecological and political spheres, how structural dysfunctions and inequality are embedded in our society. Cultural institutions and museums are a product of the historical moment we live in. Through the lenses of transition, pluriverse design, social innovation thinking and co-design practices, the research touches on decolonising practices in design thinking and cultural institutions. Museums are not neutral entities but part of a systemic entanglement with national and global politics and a European-centric belief system. The research defines the intricate network of power surrounding the museum and the cultural sector, both internally and externally. Inclusivity-driven policies and social justice practices are more complicated to activate in this scenario. Internally, the departments need guidance and management to activate such reforms. At the same time, externally, the political influences and structure of power could weaken the museum’s mission and purpose towards a socially-engaged practice. Yet, given the worldwide trend of museums becoming a social space, how can a museum become a platform for social justice? Additionally, what would the ethical implication of such a decision be? Lastly, on the practical side, what are the tools, methodologies, actions and mindset that the museum management needs to ensure to enable change? The thesis research stands with the more ‘progressive’ idea of a museum, in which inclusivity, diversity and social justice are not words but actions that cultural institutions should move toward. The more inclusive and community-driven a museum is, the more it can become a platform for dialogue and social change.. The case study is the New Museum of Architecture and Design in Helsinki ( later AD-Museum), which is currently being planned and would open in 2030. The thesis aims to create a proposal for an inclusivity strategy plan. The first chapter will examine what design methodologies and practices could be used for societal transformation and inclusivity purposes. The first part of the chapter reports the definition of racism, discrimination and the state of integration from a Finnish/Nordic Countries perspective. The second part focuses on understanding design for sustainable transition, touching upon social innovation, pluriverse and co-design methodologies and de-colonize design thinking practices. The second chapter defines museums and cultural institutions as agents of cultural changes and social values. Furthermore, it analyses how museums work as an organisation, their entanglement with politics, and how they could change towards a more inclusive future. Finally, the third chapter will analyse the New Museum of Architecture and Design case study by understanding the role of design and museums in Western society. The third chapter will also examine focus groups and expert interviews. In conclusion, the thesis aims to create an inclusivity strategy for the AD-Museum to implement diversity, and equity internally in the museum and, simultaneously, externally to activate social innovation projects.
Orman, Turkan
Thesis advisor
Savola, Kaisu
Turtiainen, Reetta
social innovation, pluriverse, cultural institutions, museum, design, architecture, co-design, activism
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