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Cities, Museums and Soft Power

by Gail Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg

Soft Power

American Alliance of Museums'
#1 best-seller 2015

eBook now available!
Order from
Rowman & Littlefield
Amazon UK

Latest Talks

In Cities, Museums and Soft Power, respected museum planners Gail Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg demonstrate why and how museums and cities are using their soft power to address some of the most important issues of our time. Soft power is the exercise of influence through attraction, persuasion and agenda-setting rather than military or economic coercion.

Fourteen of the world's leading museum and cultural experts explore examples from six continents of the many facets of soft power in museums: how they amplify civic discourse, accelerate cultural change, and contribute to contextual intelligence among the great diversity of city dwellers, visitors and policy-makers. The authors urge city governments to embrace museums which so often are the signifiers of their cities, increasing real estate values while attracting investment, tourists and creative workers.

Blankenberg and Lord describe 32 practical strategies for museums and cities to activate soft power. This book is for museum professionals and trustees who seek to create relevant institutions, and for urbanists and city planners who want thriving and sustainable cities into the future.

About the Authors

Read Chapter 1.
Read Preface by Richard Florida

Published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers / American Alliance Of Museums
Available April 2015 • 272 pages, soft cover
ISBN: 978-1-941963-03-6 • Paperback

32 Ways to Activate Your Soft Power
15 Ways To Activate Your Soft Power - Tips for Children and Youth in Museums
Our latest initiative — Soft Power Destinations



Social Media



About the Authors

Gail Lord       Gail Dexter Lord is co-founder and co-president of Lord Cultural Resources. With Barry Lord, she is co-editor of The Manual of Museum Planning (1991, 1999, 2012), co-author of The Manual of Museum Management (1997 and 2009) and Artists, Patrons and the Public: Why Culture Changes (2010). She is co-author with Kate Markert of The Manual of Strategic Planning for Museums (2007). Gail has led cultural and tourism plans for cities as well as planning, management and exhibition assignments for museums, galleries and cities throughout Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, continental Europe, North America and Asia. In 2014, Gail was appointed Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Minister of Culture of France. For a full bio, click here.
Ngaire Blankenberg       Ngaire Blankenberg is a Principal Consultant at Lord Cultural Resources. She has been a youth worker, jazz poet, cartoonist, documentary-maker, and television producer. She directed the award-winning documentary Morris Fynn Goes Native (SABC), was co-director of Nkosi’s Mission (SABC/BBC) and is the co-founder of the Museum of AIDS in Africa. She has advised museum and cultural clients in such cities as Washington D.C.; Patna; Dharhan, Dubai, Beijing and Sydney. Ngaire grew up in Winnipeg, Harare and Christchurch, and has lived and worked in Johannesburg, Toronto, Paris and Barcelona. For a full CV, click here.


Contributors and Their Essays

The book features a preface by Richard Florida and essays from the following contributors:

Ngaire Blankenberg and Gail Lord start by explaining the book’s thesis in Why Cities, Museums and Soft Power and finish with some practical tips: 32 Ways for Museums to Activate their Soft Power.

Guido Guerzoni writes about The Museum Building Boom world-wide.

Frederica Olivares writes about Museums in Public Diplomacy with special reference to the Year of Italian Culture in the US.

Baillie Card looks at Museums in the Knowledge Economy and Urban Development with reference to London’s Knowledge Quarter.

Gegê Leme Joseph explores the successes and challenges of Museums in the Age of Brazilian Soft Power in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Minas Gerais.

Hayfa Matar writes about Museums as Signifiers in the Gulf - with special reference to Bahrain, Kuwait, Dubai, and Doha.

Ngaire Blankenberg, in her essay When Soft Powers Collide, looks at the importance of transparency, multiple perspectives and local engagement in the deployment of soft power and references museums in New York, Port Elizabeth, London, and Abu Dhabi.

Batul Mehta, in her essay Unearthing the Genius Loci of Museums in the Indian Subcontinent explores Indian museums confronting their colonial legacies in Delhi, Baroda, Dhaka and Patna.

Robert Punkenhofer in his essay about Cultural Nomads: Creative People on the Road and travels from Graz to Mexico City to Barcelona to Vienna to New York.

An Laishun, in his essay Cranking Up the Soft Power Engine of Chinese Museums looks at the massive expansion of museums in China and draws on examples in Suzhou, Ningbo and Shangha.

Gail Dexter Lord and Joy Bailey look at how museums have influenced the positioning of the cities of Winnipeg and Atlanta in their essay A Tale of Two Civil and Human Rights Cities.

Mohammed Gamal Rashed’s Cairo and The Grand Egyptian Museum: From Multiculturalism to Leadership in Sustainable Development explores the new museums and approach to museology in Cairo.

Lourdes Fernández draws on her experiences as director of Alhondiga Bilbao, and looks at a new paradigm for creativity in the city- referencing Basel, Miami, Maastricht and Bilbao in Global and Local: Fairs and Biennials, Temporary Urbanism and Pop-Up Museums.

Javier Jimenez explores the Economics of Museums and Cities worldwide.

For full contributors' bios, click here.


What People Are Saying

"Cities, Museums and Soft Power provides a fascinating and multifaceted analysis of a theme that is intrinsically linked to UNESCO’s convictions on the influential role of culture and creativity in promoting social inclusion, understanding and economic growth."

"Through its thought-provoking and informative essays, Cities, Museums and Soft Power provides insight into the transformation of museums landscapes in all regions, against the backdrop of rapid urbanization, competition for tourists, talent and influence"

"Cities, Museums and Soft Power is required reading for anyone interested in culture, creative cities and the creative economy."
— Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO

"With the help of 14 experts from 10 countries, Lord and Blankenberg demonstrate how much museums have to offer our rapidly urbanizing planet. Cities will never be the same…"
— Richard Florida, Urbanist, author of international best-seller The Rise of the Creative Class

"In this important and timely book, Gail Dexter Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg have brought together an interesting and innovative array of essays that not only answer the perennial question, why museums matter, but also suggests a blueprint for how museums can exercise more influence and be of greater value to their urban communities. This is a must read for those who care about culture, museums and the evolution of our communities in the 21st century."
— Lonnie G. Bunch, Founding Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture,
author of "Call the Lost dream Back: Essays on History, Race and Museums"

"A Cities, Museums, and Soft Power is a must-read for museum leaders who grapple with their institution's role in building cultural infrastructure locally or globally. Readable, instructive, and compelling, Ngaire Blankenberg and Gail Lord build the case for museums as strong society-minded networks that can deftly employ soft power to accelerate cultural change and empower citizens at home or around the world."
— Melody Kanschat, Executive Director, Getty Leadership Institute

"The authors explore what’s next for cities, museums and soft power, framing the international conversation about the future in fresh and provocative ways."
— Jim Richardson, Founder, MuseumNext, London

"The flow and language is playful, easy to read, and directly engages the reader. All a big enthusiastic thumbs up! I – as a museum professional – got the impression I have a greater responsibility and civic duty in how I shape and share the stories I contribute to museums more now than ever before. I was given a real sense of empowerment!"
— Kevin D’Innocenzo

An adapted excerpt from Cities, Museums and Soft Power by Gail Dexter Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg is featured in the 2015 March/April issue of the AAM’s MUSEUM magazine.

Let us know your views on the book at info@lord.ca.

Share your soft power. Send us your photos and 100 words explaining how your museum or cultural project is activating soft power in your city and it could be the featured on the next Activate your Soft Power postcard. Email info@lord.ca.

Postcard from CMHR



Upcoming Talks

The Toronto School - Then, Now, Next
October 16th at 5:30 PM
Toronto, “McLuhan On Campus”

The Toronto School: Then | Now | Next is bringing together international scholars from over 21 countries to engage in dialogue on the origins, rise, decline and the rebirth of the Toronto School of Communication. On October 16th at 5:30 PM, Gail Lord will be speaking at, and moderating a Town Hall Meeting, focusing on the theme of "Rethinking the Global Village in an Era of Cities and Soft Power." Joining her will be leaders from the arts, culture, media, business and the academy.

The Future Museum
Tuesday, October 18, 2016, 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Toronto Reference Library

A fascinating discussion about the changing roles of museums in ýour ever densifying urban life - now and into the future. Fresh perspectives and new ideas with Josh Basseches (Director and CEO, Royal Ontario Museum), Stephan Jost (CEO, Art Gallery of Ontario) and Gail Lord (Co-President of Lord Cultural Resources , author of Cities, Museums and Soft Power).

Discussion on Cities, Museums and Soft Power
Sunday, November 13, 2016, 2:00- 3:30 pm
International Museum Construction Congress, Andaz Amsterdam Hotel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 13-15, 2016

Discussion presented by Gail Lord, Co-President, Lord Cultural Resources, and Ngaire Blankenberg, Principal Consultant and Director, Europe, Lord Cultural Resources. Here are the links to the website: http://www.museum.construction/

Past Talks

Interview with Gail Lord
Friday, August 5, 2016, 8 pm and 11 pm
TVO, The Agenda with Steve Paikin/The Agenda in the Summer

Gail Lord joined The Agenda in the Summer to discuss the historical role of the museum in society, and what museums need to do to bolster their power. Watch the interview here

Keynote speech: Libraries, Placemaking, and Soft Power
Friday, July 8, 2016, 2:15- 3:30 pm
Sheridan Conference Centre, 1410 Trafalgar Road, Oakville, ON L6H 6W4
Gail Lord will deliver a keynote speech at The Annual Institute on the Library as Place in Oakville, Ontario. The Annual Institute on the Library as Place is a 'Libraries 2020" initiative hosted annually by the Ontario Library Association.

Soft Power: Where to Find It & How to Use it
Wednesday, April 27, 2016, Wine and cheese at 6 pm (program starts at 6:30 pm)
Grimshaw Architects Showcase Room, 637 W. 27th St., New York, NY 10001
Why is culture a form of soft power? How can it be activated to make New York a more equitable place to live and work?
Join Gail Lord, co-author of Cities, Museums and Soft Power, Kate Collignon, Partner, HR&A Advisors, Inc., Boon Hui Tan, Vice President, Global Arts and Cultural Programs and Director of Asia Society Museum, and Sharese Bullock-Bailey, Director, Tribeca Teaches at Tribeca Film Institute, in a discussion moderated by Joy Bailey Bryant, US Managing Director, and hosted by Grimshaw Architects on April 27, 2016.
Location: Grimshaw Architects Showcase Room, 637 W. 27th St., New York, NY 10001.
Panelists: Gail Lord, Joy Bailey Bryant, Kate Collignon, Boon Hui Tan, Sharese Bullock-Bailey

Culture and the Established City: the new urban paradigm
Tuesday, March 15, 2016, 9:45 am
Art for Tomorrow Conference, Doha, Qatar - W Doha Hotel & Residences
Panel discussion about assessing the impact of new cultural institutions and activities on older cities.
Speakers: Gail Lord, co-founder and president, Lord Cultural Resources; Stephanie Manasseh, Accessible Art Fair, Brussels/New York
Moderator: Rachel Donadio, arts and culture writer, "The New York Times"

Soft Power Destinations Salon: Cities, Museums and Soft Power
Activate Your Soft Power and Become a Destination!
Salon hosted by Lord Cultural Resources in collaboration with Leading Culture Destinations
Monday, March 14, 2016, 4 pm
Art for Tomorrow Conference, Doha, Qatar, Doha's Firestation Artist in Residence gallery space
In this special session, the speakers will discuss the concept of "SoftPower Destinations" and provide concrete ways for cities and museums to fully activate their soft power potential to actively build a better community and to stimulate new ways of thinking about the influence of cultural projects within their urban environments. The session with enable key stakeholders and influencers to activate the soft power of cultural destinations.
Gail Lord, co-founder and president, Lord Cultural Resources; Ngaire Blankenberg, Director for Europe, Lord Cultural Resources; Florian Wupperfeld, Managing Partner, Leading Culture Destinations

Cities, Museums and Soft Power: How Urbanization is Changing Museums
Wednesday, January 20, 2016, 6–7:30pm
UC Alumni Salon event, University of Toronto, UC Alumni Lounge (Room H12), The University College Advancement Office and UC Alumni Association
UC Alumna Gail Lord will discuss how urbanization is changing museums based on "Cities, Museums and Soft Power" (AAM Press 2015), and will lead a conversation on why cities are engaged with soft power and the future roles of universities as well as museums as civic spaces.
Light Refreshments will be provided.

Cities, Museums and Soft Power: Culture for Sustainable Cities
December 10-12, 2015
UNESCO International Conference on Culture for Sustainable Urban Development, Hangzhou, China
Speaker: Javier Jimenez
Javier spoke on the topics featured in "Cities, Museums and Soft Power" as part of the "Cultural Institutions and Events as Leverages for Urban Regeneration" panel. The panel participants included governments, urban planners, and cultural experts.

View presentation

Culture as Soft Power
November 23, 2015, 6:00-8:00pm
University of Toronto, Coach House Institute, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology
39A Queen’s Park Crescent East, Toronto; Parking available off 121 St. Joseph st. (Marshall McLuhan Way)
Speakers: Gail Lord, John Cruickshank
#McLuhanProgram, #CityAsClassroom, @McLuhanCHI

Gail Lord speaks at McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, U of T
Gail Lord speaks at McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto. Photo courtest of McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology.

"Touch and Learn: The Soft Power of Museums"
October 13 - 16, 2015
Hands-On! Conference, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Speakers: Gail Lord and Akanksha Jain
Gail Lord delivered the conference's Keynote Presentation on children’s education in museums. Gail was also part of a keynote panel entitled "Museum Programmes and Exhibitions for Children – Essential for Creating Creative People." Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands officially opened the tenth edition of the Hands On! Conference in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and attended Gail Lord's keynote speech.
Akanksha Jain, Design Consultant, gave a presentation on how the Children’s Gallery at the Bihar Museum in Patna, India, is embracing the more open and interactive museum model. Touch-tables, zero barriers, and interactive exhibits all allow children visiting the Museum to engage with content in a more meaningful way. By giving these children somewhere to learn, the Museum is preparing Bihar’s next generation.

View presentation by Gail Lord
View presentation by Akanksha Jain

Cities, Museums and Soft Power: A Look at London
October 8, 2015
UK British Library Staff Restaurant, 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB, United Kingdom
The discussion drew from the book "Cities, Museums and Soft Power" by Gail Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg — now available in London. Hosted by London's Knowledge Quarter
Speakers: Gail Lord, Ngaire Blankenberg, and Panelists:
- Chris Michaels, Head of Digital and Publishing, British Museum
- Miki Lentin, Head of Corporate Affairs, British Library
- Yasmin Khan, Independent Cultural Advisor

View presentation

Cities, Museums and Soft Power
September 25-27, 2015
Pebble Beach Authors & Ideas Festival
Campus at Stevenson School, Pebble Beach, California
Meet the author and get your signed copy. Gail Lord disscused the ideas presented in the book.

Cities, Museums and Soft Power
September 16-17, 2015
Rising Architecture Week: Growing Cities, Copenhagen, Denmark
Speaker: Ngaire Blankenberg
View presentation

Memory and Migration
September 2-4, 2015
The international Council for the Collections and Activities of Museums of Cities (CAMOC) - 10th Anniversary Conference, Moscow, Russia
Speaker: Javier Jimenez, a contributing author of Chapter 14 "The Economics of Museums and Cities" of the Cities, Museums and Soft Power.
View presentation

Cities, Museums and SOFT POWER in Johannesburg
July 23, 2015
Liliesleaf Farm and Museum, Johannesburg
Speakers: Panel - Ngaire Blankenberg with David Kramer, CEO of Johannesburg’s Sci-Bono Discovery Centre.
Sheila Tyeku - Founding Chairperson of Play Africa, Shaun Samuels, director of TDSP and Lauren Segal, independent curator

How you can activate the soft power of your museums
June 22, 2015
TEDxHamburg, "Exploring New Territories", Hamburg, Germany
Speaker: Ngaire Blankenberg
View presentation

CITIES, MUSEUMS, AND SOFT POWER with Gail Dexter Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg
Big City Big Ideas, public lecture series with the University of Toronto
April 30, 2015
Gardiner Museum, Toronto, ON
Museums are the sleeping giants of cities- fast becoming a major urban force, helping cities to attract people and investment, and address challenges such as inequality, social exclusion and sustainability. Lord and Blankenberg discussed how and why museums and cities can work together to activate their soft power- influence through attraction, persuasion and agenda-setting.
View presentation

Atlanta to Winnipeg: Museums Activating Soft Power in Two Human Rights Cities
April 25, 2015
Annual General Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, GA
The founding CEOs of two major new museums discussed how they are working with their host cities to promote a civic culture of human and civil rights. Doug Shipman, Chief Executive Officer of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and Stuart Murray, former CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights shared their experiences and strategies working with local city stakeholders to re-position their cities with Ngaire Blankenberg and Gail Lord.

How Museums Can Activate their Soft Power
April 26, 2015
Annual General Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums, Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA
How does your museum activate its soft power? In this session, Gail Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg drew from their book "Cities, Museums and Soft Power" to demonstrate how and why museums are entering into a new period of reciprocity with cities and city dwellers- an era of Soft Power. They invited museum professionals to share how their museums are activating their soft power in their cities today- in relation to the 32 Ways for Cities and Museums to Activate their Soft Power presented in the book.
View presentation

Let’s talk Cities, Museums and Soft Power
Meet the Authors and Get your Signed Copy
April 27, 2015
Annual General Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums, Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA

Why Soft Power is the NEXT Stage of Museum Development
April 20, 2015
MuseumNext Conference, Geneva, Switzerland
In her keynote at the MuseumNext conference in Geneva, Gail Lord posed the question: "Is your museum a sleeping giant or an agent of social and cultural change?" Gail explained why the next stage of museum development is to activate their 'soft power' in partnership with cities.
View presentation

Cities, Museums and Soft Power
March 19, 2015
United Cities Local Government Culture Summit, Bilbao, Spain
"Museums are too often 'sleeping giants' in big and small cities of the world but they can be activated to build a city’s soft power" - this was the theme of a conversation on between Ngaire Blankenberg, Javier Jimenez and Lourdes Fernández. The three drew from the book "Cities, Museums and Soft Power", in which Jimenez writes about the "Economics of Cities" and Fernández contributes an essay "Global and Local: Fairs and Biennials, Temporary Urbanism and Pop-Up Museums". Read the press release here.
View Presentation

Global Cities, Global Economics, Global Tourism, Local Stories and Soft Power
March 15, 2015
The International New York Times' Art for Tomorrow conference, Doha, Qatar
Gail Lord, Co-President, spoke about "Global Cities, Global Economics, Global Tourism, Local Stories and Soft Power" as part of a panel led by Florian Wupperfeld.
View presentation

February 5-7, 2015
HERITAGE 2015: Restoration, Archeology and Museum Technologies Trade Fair and Conference, Istanbul, Turkey
Speaker: Ngaire Blankenberg



Soft Power in the Media - Conversations and Interviews

Reviews: Books: Cities Museums and Soft Power — by Stephen Deucher, MuseumsJournal (April 2016, p. 54).
This book review was written by Stephen Deucher, the director of the Art Fund, who describes Soft Power as an “absorbing book”.

What Do We Value? — article by David J. Skorton in the AAM's Museum Magazine (May-June 2016, p. 38-43).
This article was written by David J. Skorton the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The article addresses a number of topics including “The Power of Museums” a section in which he quotes from Cities, Museums and Soft Power and discusses how the Smithsonian is working towards using the ideas addressed within the book to support their efforts.

The future of museums: ‘soft power’ and the hard sell — article by Aidan Dunn in The Irish Times, April 18, 2016.

Cities, Museums and Soft Power — by Gail Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg, book excerpt, Canadian Government Executive, January 2016 issue.

Paradigm Shift Soft Power & Creativity - Maarten Okkersen, Museon, The Hague, Netherlands, reviews the October 2015 Amsterdam's Hands On! Conference that aimed to explore the ways in which museums can encourage imagination, creativity and lifelong learning in children. In her conference keynote speech, Gail Lord urged city governments to embrace museums as the signifiers of their cities, increasing real estate values while attracting investment, tourists and creative workers. Gail presented 15 tips to help museums activate their Soft Power and use it as a tool, and discussed developments in the knowledge economy and the changing landscape of informal learning.
ECSITE Spokes magazine #14, December 2015.

Museum of the future: tool of soft power? — Gail Lord talks to Art Media Agency about soft power of museums, Paris, December 4, 2015

Cities, Museums and Soft Power — A conversation with Gail Lord and Ngaire Blankenberg at the Getty Leadership Institute at CGU, May 2015.

Jazz FM 91 radio interview with Gail Lord, May 8, 2015
Museums have been called sleeping giants and might be our most underutilized resource. Gail Lord dropped by Jazz Fm 91 to explain why our museums, our cultural institutions could be doing so much more. Listen to the interview here.

Quelle surprise! Montreal has the most arts museum visitors by Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail, May 8, 2015

Time to wake Toronto’s cultural 'sleeping giants' by Martin Knelman, The Toronto Star, May 3, 2015



Cultural Capital Spring 2015


Cultural Capital Spring 2015

Our Spring 2015 issue of Cultural Capital newsletter dedicated to Cities, Museums and Soft Power features excerpts from the 14 essayists in the book. Read it online or view and print the PDF.


For speaking engagements and book reviews, please contact Mira Ovanin at movanin@lord.ca.
Engage in a conversation on Soft Power on social media #softpowermuseums, #softpowercities.