E-commerce in museums: new asset of their cultural mission

As the pandemic has accelerated the expansion of online commerce, legacy institutions are adapting to this structural change. Caught in its dialectical opposition with the essential non-profit educational vocation, can’t trade be an asset to reinforce the public service mission of museums? Overview of issues between public policy and the need for sustainable development.

All sectors of the economy are affected: the acceleration of online commerce is destroying our museums. Built as eternal temples outside the commercial sphere, should they follow this change in consumption patterns? Many who, after the pandemic, began to dance: the Orléans Museum of Fine Arts launched its online store in record time in 2020, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts inaugurated its own winter, followed by the Louvre, which until then was represented by the Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais. Last September, the Manufacture de Sèvres entered the field of digital commerce. With 55 million euros for the 34 physical stores managed by RMN-GP in 2019, the financial stakes and the potential development of e-commerce are huge. But do commercial web initiatives present a scientific pitfall that turns the museum into a new place of consumption like any other?

A key to diversifying audiences

Setting up an online store is closely related to the question of cultural appropriation, to our ability to distribute art to as many people as possible. said Sophie Barcelord, e-commerce manager at RMN-GP, whose first attempts at e-commerce were pioneers in the heritage world in 1999. If part of the sales has to do with our visitors who don’t want to leave the museum burdened with their purchases, a whole section of our sales results from keywords like ”children’s play”, ” makes Picasso ” in search engines and therefore reaches a different audience. It is at this level that we have a role to play in finding an audience that does not know us. Through digital technology, we reach audiences who don’t (yet!) visit our museum stores. By developing targeted products, such as a line of skateboards in collaboration with the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, we have reached, for example, the young public, which is difficult to attract to the museum. ” Trade and public diversity, not just the development track.

Anchoring a territory

Museums should not hesitate to extend their commercial policy. On the contrary, as ordering institutions, they have a role to play in the necessary evolution of consumption patterns.believes Emmanuel Delbouis, strategy and brand consultant at the Ministry of Culture. They must position themselves on issues of sustainable development, eco-responsibility, short circuits, know-how, but also on online consumption… “. In Strasbourg, the city’s museums have been dedicated for ten years to supporting the local economy by highlighting the products of local businesses on their shelves. In Chambord, the chateau turned to local production with its products from the nest, the vegetable garden, the vine… This small revolution that prioritizes local production over sources of the products offered for sale are not reserved for the French public heritage. In Porto, the Serralves contemporary art foundation, familiar with medium and high-end products developed with contemporary artists such as Ai Weiwei, has begun a transition towards environmentally responsible products highlighting the Douro Valley . ” Museum stores can contribute to anchoring the institution in its territory, supporting the local economy, being a showcase for territorial or national knowledge. Also, museums cannot stay away from this general trend “, insists Emmanuel Delbouis.

Skateboards: Jean-Michel Basquiat triptych “Irony of a Negro Policeman”, maple,
79 x 20cm.
© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Skateboards: Jean-Michel Basquiat triptych
Skateboards: Jean-Michel Basquiat triptych “In Italian”, maple,
79 x 20cm.
© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Emmanuel Delbouis, strategy and brand consultant at the Ministry of Culture.
Emmanuel Delbouis, strategy and brand consultant at the Ministry of Culture.
© Dr.

Making of Sevres.  Marcel Derny,
Making of Sevres.
Marcel Derny, “Seated Bear”, soft porcelain, 10.5 x 6 x 8.5 cm.
© Daniel Besikian.

Making of Sevres.  Philippe Apeloig (design),
Making of Sevres.
Philippe Apeloig (design), “Apeloig small plate”, 2017, 24 carat gold,
Antoine d’Albis porcelain, d. 16.5cm.
© Daniel Besikian.

Winemaking from the National Estate of Chambord.
Winemaking from the National Estate of Chambord.
© Photo Olivier Marchant/Chambord National Domain.

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