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Creative partnership models for travelling exhibitions

Developing a travelling exhibition can be costly, time-consuming and staff-intensive. Factor in the added pressure of finding funding, content partners and navigating relationships during a global pandemic, and you have yourself a major project on your hands.

This interactive panel session will present four different business models for developing successful travelling exhibitions with both funding and/or content partnerships. Each speaker will present the benefits, challenges and risks of a different model. How do you deal with partners that start counting expenses at different points in the schedule? How do you reconcile with a funder who has very strong opinions on how or where the content should be presented? How do you navigate working with institutions which have very different corporate cultures or work remotely with partners?

Based on personal experience, speakers will present candid information, best practices and share how different models lead to different kinds of exhibitions, which in turn can reach audiences in new ways.


Director, Exhibitions
Canadian Museum of History

Session speakers

Head of Cultural and Commercial Partnerships
United Kingdom
As we are operating within a current financial climate of funding cuts and restrictions, it is very important to look at new funding models and partnerships to develop exhibitions. However, partnerships are vital not only for financial reasons but also to develop new ways of thinking and to be creative in the process of delivering new experiences and insightful topics for our visitors. The ambition is to look at new collaboration models but also exciting and creative content partnerships. Here we look at various models, experiences and case studies from the Science Museum Group with an insight into lessons learnt and what is particularly important when considering such partnerships.
Director, Smithsonian Traveling Exhibitions and Affiliations
Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service and Smithsonian Affiliations
Washington DC
United States
The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has been touring exhibitions from more than 65 years. Today, we develop collaborations with the Smithsonian's national museums, as well as with outside collaborators. Each partnership is unique and each requires developing a model that creates a win-win for that particular exhibition. Figuring out how to fund the project takes time, deliberation and collaboration as we are constantly working with partners with different business cultures and business expectations. The comments will focus on a new Strategic Plan, developed primarily during the pandemic when, in the U.S., we are facing the dual pandemics of the coronavirus and racism. That plan includes a commitment to find more flexible, more affordable, and equally impactful ways to deliver content and support the work of museums and other cultural and educational organizations.
Touring Exhibitions Manager
National Museums Scotland
United Kingdom
National Museums Scotland made a strategic decision in 2015 to create a touring exhibitions programme; to build on our work as the ‘national’ museum for all of Scotland but also to grow our brand and reputation internationally. To realise our touring ambitions we had to find additional resources, partnerships and funding. Over the past five years National Museums Scotland has worked with the commercial sector, Government and even the whisky industry to deliver an expanding portfolio of touring exhibitions, each with a unique partnership model. Alanna will reflect on the challenges faced to date, offering tips and ideas to consider when developing new ways of working.
Corporate Director of Culture and Science
Fundación “la Caixa” has been offering a travelling exhibition programme without interruption since 1986. This programme allows us to bring culture and science to the heart of Spanish and Portuguese cities in a way that focuses on education. In many cases, the cities where we present our exhibitions do not have large museum facilities and are therefore satisfied with limited access to projects of this kind. Over the years, the operational and management model for our travelling exhibitions has evolved towards greater efficiency and effectiveness: efficiency in terms of the formats and the type of temporary infrastructure we use for the installation of shows; and effectiveness in the sense that we focus on presenting high-quality content that appeals to all of the different audiences that come to see and enjoy these exhibitions. In line with our objectives, we prioritise the educational character of our exhibitions and make extensive use of interactive elements and technologies that foster emotional engagement as a means of increasing learning by visitors.