Scott Pollock: American Swedish Institute
Title: Director of exhibitions, collections and programs
Scott Pollock, director of exhibitions, collections and programs at the American Swedish Institute, is finding new ways to interact with visitors, neighbors and even staff at the historic Minneapolis landmark.
Pollock is taking a business-oriented approach to his role in building on the momentum the institute, founded in 1929, has enjoyed since a 2012 expansion added a cultural center, gallery and popular Nordic-inspired cafe Fika. One step involves “exit interviews” with visitors, Pollock said. The interviews help the institute understand what motivates visitors to come and to design events, exhibits and experiences around those interests.
More interdepartmental planning also takes place now, Pollock said, with specialists from every department working together to develop activities, exhibits and outreach efforts.
The goal is reach target audiences — people in their 20s and 30s, families, people in the surrounding neighborhood, and arts and crafts enthusiasts — while maintaining the current visitor base.
The results are on display in a new exhibit featuring glass art — “Pull, Twist, Blow — Transforming the Kingdom of Crystal’’ – which opened June 15 and runs through Oct. 13. The exhibit combines traditional Swedish glass art and modern, innovative pieces.
Close to 10,000 visitors toured the institute during the first three months of the year, up 64 percent from the same period in 2012, said Pollock, who has a master’s in museum studies from the University of Toronto. Sales jumped 180 percent during the same period.
Q: What’s bringing new visitors to the institute?
A: It’s the cafe. Most of our visitors, the primary reason they’ll visit or try to understand our collection or visit our exhibits is because they’re having a social experience at Fika. It’s a universal way of understanding Nordic culture, that’s what’s really cool.
Q: What goes into creating a good visitor experience?
A: Museums and cultural institutions have learned a lot from social media in the past five years. They really had to rethink themselves and see that effective learning is more about dialogue and exchange than it is about one-way communication.
Q: What appealed to you about the opportunity here?
A: I knew it in its former self as a small club for people with Scandinavian heritage who would come in and do folk dance and folk traditions. When I went to the website, one news item was a six-minute video from the Story Swap program. It showed this powerful experience that new immigrants who are young were having with these older Swedish immigrants, bridging these two groups of people who never would have crossed paths. When I saw that I said, here’s a relevant institution.
By: Todd Nelson, Star Tribune
Photo by Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune
Read the article on the Star Tribune's site here.