What the Australian GLAM Sector learned (and is learning) from the pandemic

The Australian Museums and Galleries Association (AMaGA) conducted three surveys during 2020 to uncover the impacts of COVID-19 on our sector. In the final survey (November 2020) we asked three reflective questions.

This post reports further on these findings, demonstrating willingness to learn from adversity, along with the resilience of our sector. I hope you find them interesting and inspiring – I did!

WFH, April 2021: showcase dimensions, dog, toilet paper!

One thing learned / reflected on throughout this pandemic

25% New realisations:

  • Senior management continues to place more subconscious value on collections staff through greater retention as compared to staffing front of house, education, programming and exhibitions.
  • The temporary nature of an interest in museums, mostly driven for visitation, by tourism.
  • That our customers miss us but don’t advocate on our behalf – no complaints that we are closed.

23% Flexible, agile, change:

  • Adaptability of staff to create new ways of engaging with audiences and using collections.
  • Nothing is set in concrete – the need to have a flexible attitude…and be prepared to change what and how you’ve always done things.
  • When there is need things can move quickly and some roadblocks disappear.

12% Emphasis on well-being and connection:

  • How quickly life can change and remembering that health and wellbeing is the MOST important thing in life.
  • Who is important in my life.

11% Emotional response (frustrated, fragility, positivity, resilience):

  • The good ones stay with you – beating adversity gives strength.
  • Keep on keeping on. We are resilient and we will get there.

8% Digital learnings:

  • The importance of digital media to museums and galleries and how we can improve our digital offer.

8% WFH, remote working/learning:

  • We don’t all need to be in the office all the time – there should be more flexibility for working from home – accepted and encouraged.
  • Working remotely is very successful and must be an important part of the workplace mix into the future.

6% New opportunities for visitors, think differently about visitors:

  • We need to do more work on engaging with locals and really look at top heavy museum structures. I think that in NSW and ACT – some regional galleries are doing a better job on far less than the big museums. Perhaps they are really more interested in their audiences and repeat visitation.
  • That many museums don’t know how to create engaging exhibitions with their own collections rather than relying on blockbusters or ‘artist interpretations’.

ONE thing will apply to organisational operations post-pandemic?

40% Think differently about ways of working, remote work, changed business practices:

  • A more shared vision for the future operation and goals for the organisation.
  • Possibly slow down a little and not say ‘yes’ to every single request. Try to stay organised – we spent time sorting, culling, tidying – would be good to keep systems in place.

31% Digital programs, online collections, remote learning, social media use:

  • Continued emphasis on the importance of a sustained online presence.
  • Digital delivery of outreach programming rather than expensive travel.

16% Improved, better, more communications:

  • Try to increase involvement of members.
  • Keeping in touch with each other and being able to bounce back.
  • Stronger personal engagement with our volunteers.

13% COVID-safe practices, better hygiene, cleaning, maintenance:

  • Keeping the routine of the constant cleaning of displays/toilets after COVID.
  • We will keep cleaning and keeping social distances.
  • Being more vigilant with cleanliness and making sure volunteers stay home if unwell.

Opportunities for the post-COVID months / year ahead

19% New ways of thinking / working in and out of sector:

  • It is crucial that we position ourselves as an important service for our community wellbeing with our major stakeholder (local government). With years of economic recovery ahead we are at risk of losing funding if we do not advocate for our value.
  • I’ve become clearer about my strategic focus, let go of areas that were less sustainable, and plan to finally make the move to a regional home-work base.
  • A new way of working definitely, maybe not always having an outcome like an exhibition for example.

17% Operational changes:

  • A new way of working absolutely, and it’s enabled the opportunity to reflect and reimagine the way we operate, function and delivery programs.
  • Restructure so that there is opportunity to try new ways of working and provide a safe space for people to think differently.
  • Perhaps different open to the public hours [and] revision of operating procedures.

12% Online / digital / IT:

  • More engagement online, social media, networking.
  • Building better educational resources and professional development for teachers online.
  • Greater buy-in for integrated digital strategies across the organisation and the industry.

10% New audiences / different ways to reach audiences / audience development:

  • Creative audience engagement.
  • Working differently, reimaging visitor experiences particularly those previously hands-on, staying focused on our vision and strategic direction.

8% Planning / look at strategic direction:

  • A new strategic direction with sustainable outcomes and focus on outcomes rather than outputs.

6% WFH / hybrid working:

  • More flexible work practices- no longer a stigma to work from home.
  • Again, the technology means that there might be further opportunities to work from home in the future. This will help with maintaining a good work/life balance as leave days won’t need to be taken for things like medical appointments etc. as, again, travel time into work won’t need to be factored in and working later/earlier to make up the time instead will be easier to do from home.

Other posts related to AMaGA’s COVID industry research:

Thanks again to all who participated and continue the great work!

Dog in a showcase!

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