‘Ten things for my museum colleagues working in digital’: a response #MGAConf2018 #musetech @sebchan

Chairing the digital trends session at the recent #MGAConf2018 and listening to Seb’s 10 provocations got me thinking. And since Seb was interested in my response, here goes (at least for those I have opinions on).

2. You need to stop comparing your museum to a US museum.

We are delivering to an increasingly international audience – tourists visiting Australia or locals that have travelled and have been to the big ‘uns, whether in US, UK, Europe or, increasingly, Asia. As many museums audience researchers will tell you over the years we are finding audiences comparing what they’re seeing in Australia to what they have visited overseas, so in that sense we do need to compare, yet we do need to be different. I realise this point was in the context of issues other than visitors but still worth reminding ourselves that our “competition”, for want of a better word, includes overseas institutions, so naturally some of their conversations are our conversations.

3. You almost certainly can’t afford the digital unicorns.

No, but you could find new ways to work with these unicorns and tap into their expertise through partnerships (think Google Cultural Institute) or co-working spaces (think ACMI-X, DX Lab, Science Museum’s Digital Lab, etc). Tech companies want content, and guess what, we have that in spades.

4. Your most successful digital initiatives are marketing campaigns.

So why is the relationship between digital teams and marketing teams still so fractured?

5. An app still won’t save you although it might make your board happy for another quarter.

Well, maybe an app won’t save you, but what it will do is give you some digital skills:

  • Working with external vendors
  • Thinking about audience, user-testing, etc
  • Writing content for mobile
  • Working with different platforms and digital tools
  • Working as a team
  • Working out ways to re-purpose content, use objects in a different way, etc
  • How to roll-out and market a digital product

So, while an app these days may be seen as a ‘vanity’ project with little reach, use it as a learning opportunity. After all, how many exhibitions we develop are the same?

6.-8. Privacy etc

I’m not even going to go there, only to say that issues around copyright and IP are not excuses to “do nothing”.

9. Digitisation is not the solution, it’s just a new set of problems.

See point 5 (kinda).

10. What’s your institutional capacity building strategy?

Yes, let’s all have one of these, but in the absence find ways to take small steps and build capacity from the ground-up, especially if the upper echelons are still having the “physical vs. digital debate”. Some good ideas emerged from the #GettingDigitalDone session at the conference and if you’d like to sign up to that group for more sharing go here (and yes, we are gathering your email address, we are complicit, but you’re either part of the conversation and learning, or you’re not).

Thanks Seb, always a pleasure to see what you’re up to and where you’re thinking is and look forward to more when we next meet – at the COMPASS conference (Conference on Mobile Position Awareness Systems and Solutions) in San Francisco I believe (and a shameless plug here!).


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