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  • Writer's pictureLivi Adu

How Are Museums Adapting to the Digital Revolution?

Key Takeaways from the Museum Computer Group discussion panel at the Museums and Tech Conference


As a panellist at the recent Museums and Tech conference hosted by the Museum Association, I had the privilege of participating in a stimulating discussion alongside esteemed colleagues from the Museum Computer Group. Although I had to attend remotely, we were still able to explore the dynamic intersection where digital innovation converges with heritage preservation, offering valuable insights into the evolving landscape of museum practice. Here’s a closer look at some of the key themes and takeaways from our engaging conversation:



Screenshot of the Museum Computer Group discussion panel with my virtual presence on the right of the screen.
Screenshot of the Museum Computer Group discussion panel.


Digital Transformation in Museums

Kicking off the discussion, we delved into the ongoing digital transformation within museums. Sharing examples from various institutions, we highlighted how museums are harnessing digital tools and platforms to enhance visitor engagement and broaden access to their collections. From immersive virtual exhibitions to interactive online experiences, it is evident that digital innovation is reshaping museum visitor experiences while providing the opportunity to safeguard cultural heritage for future generations.


Addressing the Digital Skills Gap in the Museum Sector

A significant point of discussion centred on the imperative to address the digital skills gap within the museum sector. We underscored the importance of equipping museum professionals with the necessary digital competencies to navigate an increasingly tech-driven landscape. Through collaborative initiatives and professional development programs, we can empower museum practitioners to embrace digital innovation and drive positive change within their institutions.


Promoting Equity and Accessibility through Digital Initiatives

Our conversation also explored the role of digital initiatives in promoting equity and accessibility within museums. We emphasised the need for inclusive design practices to ensure digital experiences are accessible to diverse audiences, including those with disabilities and/or experiencing digital poverty. By prioritising accessibility in digital projects, museums can foster greater inclusivity and ensure that cultural resources are available to all.


Volunteer Engagement in Digital Projects

Volunteer engagement emerged as a topic of interest, with reflections on the evolving role of volunteers in museum digital projects. We discussed volunteers' valuable contributions to digital initiatives, from content creation to community outreach. However, we also acknowledged the challenges associated with volunteer management and sustainability, highlighting the importance of providing adequate support and training to volunteers involved in digital projects.


Ethical Considerations in Museum Digitalization

Ethical considerations surrounding museum digitalization were another key focus of our discussion. We emphasized the importance of upholding ethical principles, particularly in areas such as data privacy, digital preservation, and cultural sensitivity. By establishing robust ethical frameworks and guidelines, museums can ensure the responsible use of digital technologies while safeguarding the integrity of their collections and the rights of their audiences.


Harnessing Audience Insights for Digital Engagement

The role of audience research in informing digital engagement strategies was a central theme of our conversation. We emphasised the value of understanding visitor preferences and behaviours when designing digital experiences and content. By leveraging audience insights, museums can create personalised and impactful digital experiences that resonate with diverse audiences.


Cultivating a Culture of Innovation and Collaboration

Our discussion concluded with reflections on cultivating a culture of innovation and collaboration within the museum sector. We highlighted the importance of creating spaces for experimentation, knowledge sharing, and cross-sector partnerships to drive digital innovation forward. Through collaborative efforts and a shared commitment to innovation, museums can continue to evolve as vibrant hubs of cultural enrichment and community engagement in the digital age.



A screen shot of a message saying "a benign god like presence over the conference!" accompanied by a photograph of of a stage with the discussion panel, with a projected back drop of my giant head.
The hilarious message I received post-event. Photo credit: Alyson Webb

Conclusion

Participating in this panel discussion was truly an enjoyable experience. The lively exchange of ideas and perspectives made for a fascinating discussion, shedding light on the myriad ways digital technology is reshaping museum practice. Plus, it was the first time I got to be a giant head on the screen, which added an interesting element to the proceedings!


Our panel discussion offered valuable insights into the evolving relationship between digital innovation and heritage preservation within the museum sector. By addressing the digital skills gap, promoting equity and accessibility, and embracing ethical considerations, museums can harness the power of digital technology to engage audiences, preserve cultural heritage, and shape the future of museum practice. Through collaborative efforts and a shared commitment to innovation, museums can continue to thrive as dynamic institutions in the digital age.


Reference:

Museums Association. (2024). Museum Tech: A Digital Festival for Museums. Museum of London, London, UK, 17 April 2024.

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