Kazakh society has come to understand that the development of culture or cultural potential is one of the key priorities of the development of countries in the world. Therefore, the presence of an effectively functioning infrastructure of cultural institutions and mechanisms to ensure the preservation and enrichment of the national cultural heritage and cultural values is becoming a necessity.
Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (November 4, 2014) approved the Сoncept of cultural policy, defining the priorities for the development of this industry by 2030. [i] This document has shown that the government is interested in the well-constructed policy in the sphere of culture and looking for ways and methods to improve the approaches to the solution of accumulated and emerging issues in this area.
One of the most important and require special care units in the cultural space of our country are the museums, the number of which according to the Concept, is 224. Regardless of status, size, thematic orientation, geographic location, they all are equally necessary to our national culture, as embody, or at least should embody the most of its essential elements.
In the framework of improving innovation and creativity, it is useful, in our opinion, to borrow the experience of one of the best museums in the Netherlands, the Van Gogh Museum (VGM) in Amsterdam. The Museum sees its mission in making the work and life of Van Gogh and the work of his contemporaries as accessible to the world as possible, in order to enrich and inspire people. In this Museum tries to fit into the framework of a market-oriented economy and succeeds in it.
One of the main tasks of the museum is to diversify the revenue stream; its financial model is characterized by the fact that 50% of the museum's revenues is due to ticket sales, about 25% - subsidy of the national government, while the remaining 25% comes from fundraising and business activities. The Museum administration understands that the dependence on a healthy tourist economy and growing tourism is significant and at the same time vulnerable. Public funding is also under pressure of crises, so they have to look for new business opportunities. And there are some interesting trends.
One of them is the release of a new generation of high-quality 3D reproductions of paintings by Van Gogh. They are produced using the technology developed by Fujifilm, and provide the first realistic reproduction of both the image and texture of the surface of the paintings. These so-called Relievos have such a high quality, resembling the original, which represent a new innovative step in the history of reproduction of paintings. Based on the successful sales of the current wide range of these products, VGM aims to develop new products in this field. A limited edition of Relievos was issued: each copy is numbered and checked by the Museum curator. These masterpieces are presented in the markets of the Netherlands, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.[ii] Another possibility is to create a consulting company based on the experience accumulated by the museum over the years to provide consulting services to other museums on issues such as collection management, environmental sustainability, and facility management etc.
In 2016, the Museum launched a multisensory three-dimensional educational display, which is displayed in different parts of the world. This is not only a way of learning, but also a new source of income. Fundraising is important for more museum events, such as the provision of large loans for exhibitions and the organization of educational and research projects.[iii]
VGM turns to individuals, businesses, foundations and other organizations that may be interested in providing support as a partner of the Museum. This helps the Museum become less dependent from the income from ticket sales, merchandise and subsidies. In 2010, VGM began to create a network of companies and by the end of the year, 12 corporate clients became participants in the worldwide Circle of the Van Gogh Museum. This network is expanding. The Museum is also working with partners, including Shell and Canon on specific projects.
Private supporters were merged into a structure called the Yellow House, whose members make a fixed donation each year. VGM is seeking to expand this network and plans to develop a new business model to strengthen its financial position and expand its role as an enterprising organization. A strong emphasis is placed on continuous professionalization and activation of fund-raising.
VGM is cooperating with numerous Dutch and international research institutes and universities, while VGM publication is a valuable source of income, supporting and strengthening the Museum's reputation as an internationally recognized Research Institute. Concepts of innovative publications, such as e-books and digital publications relating to the Museum collection are considered.
VGM believes that the relationship with the visitor can - and must - always improve. Various measures are being taken to solve this problem. Specifically, the team is working on the definition of the target groups of the Museum and adjusting policy accordingly. This allows the Museum to reflect better the wishes and requirements of its diverse range of visitors, both local and foreign.
There are varied programs and high-quality activities such as knowledge days for researchers and specialists, educational programs for schools, during Vincent on Friday, a dynamic, contemporary program featuring up-and-coming artists and performers, special activities tailored to disabled visitors, elderly visitors, families with children and audio visually impaired visitors. Van Gogh belongs to everyone and the museum remains appealing and accessible to all of its visitors, thereby giving everyone the opportunity to discover its collection. [iv]
The Van Gogh Museum came to end 2016 with a record number of nearly 2.1 million visitors, achieving growth of 8% compared to 2015 year. Passing the two million-visitor threshold is a historic milestone since the museum opened in 1973. More than 46,000 pupils visited the Museum with a school group. Visitor ratings of the Museum remain notably high. The large majority of all visitors rated their visit as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’, and indicated that they ‘were given food for thought’ and ‘were inspired’. VGM seeks to foster a sense of community with the public and attract more (and more satisfied) visitors. The popularity of the new multimedia guide, which interactively guides visitors through the Museum, is growing. A Korean version of the multimedia guide was added in November 2016 year, facilitated by the financial support from museum sponsor Hyundai.[v]
Time-slotted admission tickets have improved visitor distribution throughout the day. The peaks and lows of visitor flows are less pronounced and visitors are distributed more evenly throughout the entire day. A new development is that 1 in 4 visitors purchased their ticket online in advance.
VGM is developing a new web strategy as part of an ongoing commitment to connect both virtual (online) and physical visitors to the Museum. This strategy is designed to help the museum expand the audience, improve the customer relationships and provide more clear business activities. Developed in accordance with this strategy, the new website is launched in 2014 providing the basis for further improvement. Online interest in the museum is rising exponentially. Traffic to the museum website increased by 40%, to more than 3.2 million visitors. Steadily growing importance of social media provides the VGM opportunities to position the museum more as a center of knowledge and to optimize the exchange of knowledge with the public. In 2016, Van Gogh united 8.2 million fans on the various social media channels: 1,505,000 fans on Facebook, 543,000 followers on Twitter, 252,000 on Instagram and 5,622,000 op Google+. The online fan base expanded by 30% compared to 2015.
The launch of the Embrace Vincent multimedia guide and the collaboration with DJ Armin van Buuren also attracted widespread attention. Van Buuren selected eleven of his favourite Van Gogh paintings, provided personal commentary and accompanied the works with music from his album Club Embrace. The special multimedia tour was spectacularly launched during the Amsterdam Dance Event, with a unique performance by the world-famous DJ in the Museum’s glass Entrance Hall.
VGM is a global cultural brand and brand positioning in the Museum allows it to maintain contact with organizations such as Amsterdam Marketing and Dutch Marketing NBTC responsible for international marketing of the Netherlands. Maintaining good relations with the market of leisure and retail trade is an important aspect of trade and sales. VGM Enterprises produces a wide range of goods, which are sold at the museum store, in the store on the Museum square and in the online store. The Van Gogh Museum shop and online store offer a wide selection of products inspired by the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. With around 1,500 titles, bookshop is a treasure trove of information about Vincent van Gogh, his works, his life and his art. There is also plenty of material focusing on his contemporaries and a special children’s book corner. In online store the collection of catalogues, biographies and scientific studies, reproductions of the Van Gogh Museum, selection of posters & prints of Vincent van Gogh's masterpieces are also available. Profits from the Van Gogh Museum shop are used to further develop the museum’s collection.
The museum management has other projects related to environmental education, personnel training, the provision of platforms to young artists, the development of new forms of cooperation with national and foreign museums, but in shaping economic strategy, the focus is primarily on providing additional income (through collecting resources and the development of commercial activities), further optimization of the collection availability and the digital domain development.
As for our national museums, they can not only enrich and inspire the public, but also upgrade the social and cultural character of our country, becoming the "cultural heart" of Kazakhstan. However, in the realization of this mission, it is impossible to do without the support of government agencies, the business community, intellectuals, youths and non-governmental organizations and perhaps all of us, ordinary Kazakhstanis. It is not enough to take the concept to make it work, it needs to be put into practice. As Vincent Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother Theo (12 November 1881) "And then our future will be better than our past." [iii]
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute's editorial policy.