Which came first: the chicken or the egg?
The answer very well depends on who you ask. And, sometimes the answer might just be “both.” It’s no secret that museums are at a tipping point, and the moment is particularly acute for museum technology.
Cultural organizations have finally realized how essential digital infrastructure and skills are to their work. Museums are making investments to redefine and enrich their online presence. These successes were largely made possible by museum workers who’ve made up for organizations’ lack of time, expertise, and/or resources.
The January 2022 Culture Track survey, however, highlighted how the consumption and creation of digital content moved forward out of step. The growth in engagement with virtual tours and programs, digital exhibitions, online discussions, and more “may not have kept pace” with the rate at which organizations shared those offerings.
Strategy, and then tactics?
Strategy first, tactics second was the typical order of operations. Now it seems we need both—at the same time, and fast! How can museums reconcile the time and care required for drafting digital strategy with the speed and creativity needed to produce digital offerings at the pace and tastes of contemporary audiences? I’m also curious about the role museum partners can play in this.
As a product manager with Navigation North, my team and I are designing hybrid collections and learning management software with the mission to increase access to the world’s cultural resources. In that effort, we spoke with industry experts and found that despite continued interest in innovations and improvements to digital engagement, museums are still in a holding pattern. Some are taking the time to articulate a digital strategy to encompass all teams, channels, and work. Others, as AAM’s latest COVID-19 snapshot outlined, are still rebuilding teams and resources. Most are doing both.
Becoming Partners in Strategy
My team and I are similarly taking time to define not only the features that can best connect educators and learners to collections and stories online but also the services that will best support future partners. Our scope of work needs to adapt to the needs of our collaborators. Museums can neither be stagnant as strategy comes together nor should they move too quickly without a shared vision or a plan for continued investment and support. At Navigation North, we recognize the need to understand with our clients how our products and services not only bring strategy to life but also how they might help define it. This is the difference between being a partner and not just a vendor.
So, to other organizations and individuals similarly connected to the cultural institutions, what are you doing to support the sector in the midst of its transformation? How can we now make our resources and expertise available and useful? Solid infrastructures and robust digital literacy across the sector make everyone’s work better.
Digital strategy can—and must—be just as iterative as it is actionable in order to succeed.
About our Guest Blogger
Andrea Ledesma is the product manager with Navigation North and a board member for the Museum Computer Network. She spends a lot of time on the internet, fascinated with how technology can connect people to history, culture, and each other. Find her on Twitter at @am_ledesma and learn more about her work with Navigation North at navigationnorth.com.