The digital world is changing fast, and museums must adapt just as fast to better connect with audiences. By moving collections online, and with the help of social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, museum visitors can access a large amount of information before they ever step through a museum’s doors. Once through, they can curate their own exhibition with audio tours on their mobile devices, and then perform in-depth searches to learn more about a particular artwork. That’s the world described by Dr. James Cuno, President and CEO at the J. Paul Getty Trust, in his recent talk at the World Economic Forum, “Visions of Digital Culture: The Future of Museums.”

An advocate for museums as places that break down barriers to knowledge, Dr. Cuno sees the new digital age as providing great opportunities to realize this goal. He shows how museums are in the “business of providing access to assets,” and how visitors can follow their own curiosities and delve deeper into the digital data to enhance their understanding of objects in the collection.

For Dr. Cuno, it is not enough to simply display art; art, he says, must be studied closely in order to understand its purpose and its significance both in its own time and today. This focus is evident at the Getty, a Gallery System client. Visitors can find collection information on the Getty’s website, the Getty’s Open Content program lets users download digital images and access library and archival documents for free, and the Getty Research Portal provides access to digitized texts from libraries around the world.

What still stands in the way of greater information access? According to Dr. Cuno, it’s being able to search for information from the visual realm and not just the textual.

You can watch the video clip here.