What will museums look like in 100 years?

It’s a difficult question to answer, and largely dependent on the cultural context of who you ask. Take for example the French illustrator Albert Robida (1848-1926), whose Le Sortie de l’opéra en l’an 2000 (Leaving the opera in the year 2000) projected his interpretation of technological innovation and fashion 100 years into the future.

Le Sortie de l’opéra en l’an 2000
Le Sortie de l’opéra en l’an 2000 (c. 1902)

Robida was most certainly influenced by the culture and technology of his day, but he nevertheless had novel ideas. In another of Robida’s illustrations he devised the Téléphonoscope, which was an imaginative precursor to the modern television.

Returning back to museums, how might we spark creativity in our own projections of the future?

UX Lab Museum Brainstorming
Viewing images of museums from 100 years ago to inspire museums 100 years from now.

I asked the members of the HCI research team to view a collection of images featuring museums and museum exhibitions from 100 years ago. It offered a glance into the history of our cultural institutions—everything from dinosaurs to abstract art—and how much (or little) things have changed. Thereafter, I asked people to draw their version of the museum of the future.

I was tremendously impressed by the results of our simple participatory design workshop. In one example of a future museum, visitors would enter a holographic room that would immerse them in personalized content as a way to combat the large crowds that typically fill the world’s famous galleries. Another example was designed based on the perception that the future Earth would run out of space for building, and as such the museum would span many levels into the sky, therefore offering an art experience up in the clouds.

I created my own experience as well:

In my example, the museum of the future belongs to extraterrestrials. After finding the Earth decimated by climate change, aliens pieced together what remnants they could find from human civilization and have created their own museums based on their interpretation of our culture.

Although a simple exercise, this participatory design workshop provided insight into how people think about the future of technology, the future of our culture, and the future of the world itself.


Special thanks to Sytze van Herck for the inspiring idea of viewing museums from 100 years ago.