Road to 2030: Consortium model, virtual reality will expand car museums’ reach

Road to 2030: Consortium model, virtual reality will expand car museums’ reach

Already, the Petersen engages 10 times larger audience online than in person

Editor’s note: This is the third in a week-long series that looks to the future of the collector car hobby. Today, Michael Bodell, deputy director of the Petersen Automotive Museum, offers a road map for car museums as they seek continued viability in the next decade. Bodell was an honors student in the marketing of fine and studio arts and is a Lotus enthusiast and collector who joined the Petersen museum staff just before it began its $90 million renovation.

Michael Bodell

There are many different types of car museums in the world, some specializing on specific eras or manufacturers and some, like the Petersen Automotive Museum, that offer something for every kind of enthusiast. Keeping this in mind, it’s tough to bundle all car museums together and project where they’ll be by the year 2030.

Ultimately, I see car museums going in two directions. 

First, I believe car museums will adapt a consortium model with larger museums acting as hubs for smaller, more specialized museums that offer a unique guest experience. 

Second, I imagine car museums going completely digital with entire collections becoming accessible through mixed reality devices like VR and AR.

Because the automotive landscape is rapidly changing, every tangential industry will change along with it. We’ll see more electric cars and autonomous vehicles on display to reflect the future of transportation. But  ultimately, the beauty of a car museum is its presentation of treasures from the past. This continued preservation and collection of items is essential to telling the comprehensive story of the automobile as it has existed throughout history.

For as long as the Petersen serves as a beacon for global automotive thought, we’ll continue to communicate the history of the automobile while also discussing where things are going. At their core, museums are storytellers, so it’s all about choosing the right avenues to deliver our story and message the most effectively. 

In our case, we drive enthusiasm by creating multi-generational exhibits and ensuring all our content is as accessible as possible. Over the last three years, since our renovation, the Petersen has pursued more digital projects than ever. Today, our digital channels engage approximately 10 times more people daily than we do at our physical campus.

Knowing that our audience is moving online, we are constantly shifting our strategy to engage more and more enthusiasts digitally whether it be through social media or through livestreams of events. This tech push is what will keep car museums alive and thriving, and the Petersen is poised as a haven for enthusiasts to come together, celebrate the past and look to the future. 

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