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Can Museums Play? Handing over to Europe’s museums

By 4 February 2015June 1st, 2020No Comments

Rijks Museum, Thackray Museum, openair museum, Museum of Asian Art, Humboldt Forum, Pinakothek der Moderne, Museum of European Cultures, Reinwardt Academie, but also the Politecnico di Milano and the NEMO network. What were they all doing together in Bologna on 6 March 2015? They were playing. We shake things up at museums to get them to speak an everyday language.

If museums are “houses for the unique”, namely spaces where a golden aura still exercises its solemn power, does play have the right to enter them and shake things up? Can play get museums to speak an everyday language? Can it represent an access route, a mirror, a code of interpretation, an unconventional guide? This conference aims to reflect on the relationship between museums and play in order to map out the potential links between them.

Conference objectives:

  1. To identify ways in which play (as a fun practice, cognitive tool, expressive object) can enrich the museum offering
  2. To reflect on the construction of a playful narrative that conveys the contents of a collection and what makes it stand out, turning its character and key features into a game
  3. To rethink participation strategies, drawing inspiration from “fun theory”: namely, how to achieve good results (in this case increasing museum visits by children, and others) through playful solutions
  4. To consider play as an object/tool for enabling people to experience the museum “outside the walls”
  5. To look for new ways for teaching beauty: can people learn about museums through play? Can we teach people about them as an alphabet of emotions, so that the students of today because the greatest users of the future?
  6. If play and toys inspired the avant-garde movements behind twentieth-century art, will they be able to inspire the museums of the twenty-first century and how will they do so?


Greetings Laura Carlini Fanfogna IBC Emilia-Romagna


  • Annemies Broekgaarden – Rijks Museum (Amsterdam)
  • Almut Grüner – Thackray Museum (Leeds), Neuhausen ob Eck, openair museum (southern Germany) Programme “Culture is Strength. Education Alliances”
  • Ute Marxreiter – Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art Humboldt Forum (Berlin), Documenta12, Pinakothek der Moderne (Munich and Deutsches Hygiene-Museum (Dresden)
  • Léontine Meijer-van Mensch – Museum of European Cultures (Berlin), Reinwardt Academie (Amsterdam)
  • Margherita Sani – IBC and NEMO network
  • Francesco Zurlo – Politecnico di Milano

Consult the full programme for the day. The conference will take place in Bologna, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday 6 March 2015 at the Terza Torre, Via della Fiera 8.

The conference has been organised by Centro Zaffiria in partnership with IBC Regione Emilia-Romagna and NEMO, Network of European Museum Organisations, as part of the Italiantoy project, with the assistance of Calembour design and BAM! Strategie Culturali

You can watch the entire conference online:

  • click here for the morning session
  • click here for the afternoon session (particularly chapter 5, starting at 2h24m, when you can see our contribution “Giocare con l’identità – quando la didattica incontra l’audience development” [“Playing with identity – when teaching and audience development meet”)

Meanwhile, for the video interviews with Mart, MUSE and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, click here.