Museums & NFTs Update

NFTs for the Museum

Last year I wrote a brief post wondering about the future of NFTs, and where they will settle into the museum space. The crypto NFT space is constantly evolving, and so a year after my initial musings I have some different questions and thoughts. NFTs have me personally convinced that they are here to stay, so how can museums leverage them as a viable source of revenue?

Do Museum Audiences Hold & Use Crypto?

One aspect that has not changed in the past year is how polarizing NFTs are amongst artists and museums. Some are heading full throttle into the game, especially contemporary artists that have struggled to make money off pieces through the traditional practices of gallery sales. This is obviously great for the individual artist if their goal to sell pieces has been achieved at a higher rate in the NFT space. But much like the traditional gallery model, the average consumer is still isolated from the NFT market.

Consumers must purchase an NFT using cryptocurrency, which therefore requires some level of understanding of the digital blockchain-based currency. Latest statistics from Pew Research show that about 16% of Americans have invested, traded, or used crypto in one way or another. Comparatively, 43% of American males aged 18-29 have done so. Women are less likely as are Americans over the age of 50, and (surprisingly to me personally) there is no significant correlation between this behavior and household income. Black, Hispanic, and Asian adults are also more likely than White adults to have done so.

Museum NFTs as Souvenirs

Given this information, what does this mean for museums who look to tap into NFTs as a new source of revenue generation? Traditional museum audiences do not align with what we know about crypto investors and users. In fact, average museum demographics are almost completely opposite of those who are using crypto, so what is all the buzz about creating NFTs to sell? Who are museums going to sell them to, and how?

There is a problem here of access – and we always preach “meeting visitors where they are” when talking about museum experience. And yes, NFTs COULD be a part of the museum experience, and need to be seen as such if an institution wants to successfully sell them. So how can we bridge the access barrier, so that the existing museum audiences would be keener to purchase an NFT souvenir? I am all for creating new revenue streams for museums, and the NFT trend does make a sensible solution to try given their current buzz and ongoing evolution. But if museums were to do this, they would need to be both creative and sophisticated. The most successful NFT series have been those that create communities and a sense of belonging. They provide a buyer so much more than a digital asset, which seems like an easily transferable use-case for a museum marketplace of NFTs.

The Key? Seamless purchase.

What if there was a way to purchase an NFT, without purchasing the crypto first? What if museum visitors could purchase an NFT as easily as a mug in the gift shop? What if we could create a system that would easily convert visitor dollars into crypto, then deposit their new NFT asset into their digital wallet? Imagine that a visitor is using your mobile guide, and while listening to an audio stop they fell in love with the piece, and could then purchase an NFT version of it with just a couple taps, right then and there? And what if holding that NFT meant they also gained VIP access to the next late night event at the museum?

If that could be accomplished the barriers to access would be greatly minimized, but the key is being able to sell an NFT without requiring a buyer already holding crypto or a user account on an existing NFT platform such as OpenSea or SuperRare. So, what do we think, are these just ramblings of a brainstorm gone too far? Or can this be achieved, and help impact museums’ bottom line?

Is your institution selling (or considering to sell) NFTs? If so, we want to hear from you!


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