15 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2010
This case series explores the leadership story of director Mark O'Neill as he oversees a major innovation initiative at Kelvingrove, Scotland's most visited museum. The A case describes his background, philosophy, and the actions he takes over a period of more than a decade to win the support of both staff and funders for the innovation. The B case examines the reaction of the public and art critics. O'Neill arrives at Kelvingrove to find an institution in turmoil after a series of dramatic changes that have alienated visitors and funders alike. Utilizing an innovative style of management that he describes as “maze behavior,” he succeeds in moving the traditionally discipline-bound, curator-dominated museum into a cross-disciplinary, visitor-oriented experience. He does this by engaging the curators in creating exhibits based on stories rather than professional classification schemes such as paintings, geology, etc., using an approach that includes a deep understanding of his audience and the imaginative use of forms. He also gains the community's political and funding support to accomplish his goals.
September 26, 2009
Leading Innovation at Kelvingrove (A)
Mark O'Neill, director of Glasgow Museums, was reviewing the latest visitation figures for Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. After a three-year closure for renovation of the historic Victorian building and reinstallation of exhibits using an innovative, story-based approach, the museum had reopened in July 2006. By June 2007, it had surpassed Edinburgh Castle as Scotland's most popular tourist destination.
Queen Elizabeth II, who had presided at the reopening ceremony, commented, “I am confident that this restoration will not only preserve a degree of familiarity for those innumerable Glaswegians with long and happy memories of this place as it was, but also, in its splendid new state, fascinate and educate old and new visitors for many generations to come.” O'Neill thought back to the beginning of the process and concerns that the new approach would tamper with what generations of visitors had loved: “Kelvingrove got a million visits a year before we closed. There was a lot of anxiety that we would destroy what people valued.”
Previous innovation efforts in the museum community in Glasgow had been controversial, creating wariness about undertaking a major redesign at the beloved Kelvingrove. O'Neill's response to these concerns was to shift away from the idea of radical innovation for its own sake, working instead through a process of public consultation and experimentation aimed at “taking the best of what was there and adding in some new things,” as he described it. “Just making things work a bit better. Work in the way that they're supposed to. If museums are meant to give people inspiring experiences, let's think about inspiring for a while. What would that actually mean? What about asking people what inspires them? How much of that can be done in museums?”
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Keywords: innovation, storytelling experiment, repertoire
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Liedtka, Jeanne and Salzman, Randy, Leading Innovation at Kelvingrove (a). Darden Case No. UVA-S-0162. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1584555
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File name: UVA-S-0162.
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