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Digital future for museums

Kate Moss, Brian Blessed and Pam Ferris are among the stars of a new immersive digital installation 'Beasts of London', using video and projection mapping, which has just opened at the Museum of London to excellent reviews.

Inspired by objects in the museum collection and created in partnership with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, visitors walk through London's history, narrated by the animals who lived in the city from the Roman era to the present day.

At the same time as the Museum of London is looking at new ways to attract audiences through digital, it has acquired a twenty foot wide panorama of London painted around 1815 by the French artist Pierre Prevost and represents a preparatory watercolour for a lost full-scale 30 meter diameter panorama which was exhibited in Paris in 1817. Painted as the Napoleonic Wars drew to a close, it is the view of London that the Duke of Wellington would have known.

It was acquired at auction at Sotheby's for £200,000 with the help of Art Fund, the Aldama Foundation and a group of individual donors and with additional support of Michael Spencer, the Leche Trust.

Sharon Ament, Director of the Museum of London, who will be at our Future Cities Forum this week said of the panorama 'not only does it highlight London as an important centre of international artistic exchange, it also reveals a fascinating moment in time. Our art collection is wide-ranging, but we have nothing quite like this. It's an exciting time for us to be acquiring new objects for the London Collection as we plan the New Museum in West Smithfield'.

At our forum we will be asking important questions about how digital is informing the museum offer in the UK and the balance between attracting new audiences while preserving the past, how the visitor is being invited to help curate new cultural hubs, the balance of private and public funding to determine acquisitions and how digital is driving new building development as in the case of The British Library.

V&A Museums Deputy Director, Tim Reeve, will open our forum with a talk on the new museum at Stratford Waterfront and new collection and research centre at Here East, due to open as part of a wider East London cultural hub in 2023. Families, tourists, academics, cultural enthusiasts and designers, the museum says, will be able to access an 'immersive cabinet of curiosities' and understand more about the 'back of house' functions. The V&A says it is working to build relationships across Olympic boroughs and encouraging local people to shape its vision.

The V&A has been working to support the training of museum staff at 'Design Society' - a cultural hub in Shenzhen in Southern China. It is involved in research projects with the Chinese, who are determined to build 'a new robust design economy'. Design Society is described as a 'place that inspires action' and to that end, it could be argued that the museum of today is not a dusty forgotten place but the supporter of emerging talent for a stronger economic world.

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