Collaborative strategies and museum practice: An inquiry into the concept of relationships as social capital for Aotearoa New Zealand museums
This dissertation is about the relational dimension of Aotearoa New Zealand museums. Borrowing concepts from social and organisational studies, it investigates why and how New Zealand museums are leveraging relationships, partnerships, and other forms of cooperation to expand their reach, engage audiences and communities, collect and share material and symbolic resources, and increase participation. The urgency of the research stems from the most recent debate in several fields of academic study: that contemporary society appears as an increasingly interconnected context in which organisations are required to play an active role and strategically use their networks to build social capital. In this scenario, museums must abandon their insularity in favour of a more holistic approach towards their external environment to achieve their social, economic, and cultural goals.
The study explores diverse forms of collaboration initiated within the sector. Collaborative strategies are interpreted and contextualised within the New Zealand museum sector to understand historical influences, current challenges, expected outcomes, potential applications and future innovations. The research methods employed hereafter to answer the research questions reflect such complexity: a literature review, document analysis, interviews with museum staff, and a sector survey have been used to collect data. The purpose was to understand current thinking about museum relationships and decipher narratives, values, and challenges connected with collaborations.
The idea of the museum that emerges from the findings sheds new light on the social role of cultural organisations and aims to stimulate further research on relational museology. A conceptual framework for the critical interpretation of relationships called the ‘Relational Wind Rose’ is proposed at the end of this dissertation, offering professional museum staff a practical tool to conduct stakeholder analysis. The Relational Wind Rose could also help museums identify opportunities, mitigate risks, and manage challenges inscribed in their networks. Relationship management is becoming a vital skill for museum staff.