The terms horizon and environmental scanning are used interchangeably throughout business and the foresight literature. It refers to the systematic exploration, collection and interpretation of external information in an effort to identify trends and drivers of change and their impacts on the future. These drivers of change may be speculative or emerging issues with little supporting data to identifiable trends and well-researched, ‘mainstream’ issues and events. It commonly take several decades from the weak signals to transition to mature trend. Choosing a time frame, or working across multiple horizons, to map the scan ‘hits’ relevant to conservation is important in estimating complex systemic dynamics and can bridge scanning and strategic programs. In addition, scanning broadly, across a range of disciplines and outside ones worldview is critical to managing bias and personal blind spots.

Over the last decade, consistent environmental scanning projects been undertaken across a number of sectors that are of relevance to the conservation profession in Australia. At the broadest level government organisations, think tanks and corporate consulting groups provide a range of environmental scanning data to identify and track change at the wider social and environmental level. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has a dedicated CSIRO Futures program working on foresight in energy, transport and other fields and produces ‘Our Future World’ updates every 2 years on global megatrends and the Australian Council of Learned Academies draws upon deep inter-disciplinary expertise. Many other government departments carry out foresight work including The Treasury Department’s 40 year forecast, which is revised every 5 years and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Strategic Policy Network.

Within the cultural heritage context, a number of GLAM organisations have adopted environmental scanning to help navigate the increasing complexity that the 21st century brings. A few US and European GLAM organisations have carried out regular scanning, with several other reports commissioned on an ad-hoc basis (see examples below). The objectives of incorporating horizon scanning activities to inform sustainable conservation practice include: broadening risk management to consider speculative, high impact events; developing more robust ‘future-proofed’ policy; strategic allocation of resourcing; and building competitive advantage. (ML, May 2019)

Reading List

• Curry, A and Hodgson, A 2008 ‘Seeing in Multiple Horizons: Connecting Futures to Strategy’ in Journal of Futures Studies August 2008, Vol 13 No. 1 pp. 1-20.

• Gordon, T and Glenn, J 2009 ‘Environmental Scanning’ in Glenn, J and Gordon, T (eds) Futures Research Methodology – Version 3.0 The Millennium Project 3.0 Edition

• Lelyveld, M 2019 ‘Foresight for Cultural Materials Preservation: The Role of Environmental Scanning in Conservation’ AICCM Bulletin Vol. 40 Issue 2

• Voros, J. (2001) ‘Reframing Environmental Scanning: An Integral Approach’ in Foresight, Vol. 3, No. 6 pp.533-52

GLAM case studies / examples

● American Alliance of Museums, Trendswatch 2015-present

Annual reports that presents five trends and their possible impact on the broader GLAM sector. Trends are commonly social or technological in focus.

● Gensler (2015) Engage: the Future of Museums,

● Museums Association (2012) Museums 2020 Discussion Paper

● New Media Consortium, NMC Horizon Report: Museum Edition and NMC Horizon Report: Library Edition

Focused on the impacts of technology and trends on teaching and learning, these annual reports have editions focused on museum and libraries. Each report presents trends, challenges and developments in educational and interpretive technology.

Environmental Trends

Developing models for climate change projections has been the focus of many environmental scanning projects in recent years. Climate change will impact the preservation of cultural collections in several ways, including: disaster planning; increasing or more variable risk factors for heritage materials; resource allocation; economic changes; and the impact on the lives of people and their communities.

Increasing attention has also been paid to Australia’s regional context in relation to climate change and sustainability concerns. Alongside this, the potential for conservation and heritage to help people respond to change and crisis has been explored through the notion of resilience. (AM August 2019)

Reading list

● Climate change and the historic environment 2005, Historic England.

● Australian Government, 2015 National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy

Identifies a set of principles to guide effective adaptation practice and resilience building and outlines the Government’s vision for a climate-resilient future. Of relevance for conservation are impacts on cities and built environments where collections are centred.

● Cornelius Holtorf (2018), Embracing change: how cultural resilience is increased through cultural heritage, World Archaeology

● Heritage under Siege from Climate Change: Lessons from the Past on Coping with Disasters for Philippine Museums, Archives and Libraries Ana Maria Theresa P. Labrador, PhD, Roberto Balarbar and Evelyn Esguerra, National Museum of the Philippines

Examines case studies on natural and manmade disasters that have endangered heritage collections in the Philippines and Southeast Asia within the cultural context

● CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology 2015, Climate Change in Australia: Information for Australia’s Natural Resource Management Regions: Technical Report, CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, Australia

● Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), 2007 – 2016 Climate Change in Australia

This website offers a range of local climate projections based upon a range of possible regional climate change responses for any given increase in greenhouse gases. It is a useful tool for informing medium to long term environmental risks.

Technological Trends

Reading list

Economic Trends

Reading list

Social and Cultural

Reading list