When Digital Isn’t Just a Department

All museums have three tenets that bind them together:

1. Museums acquire and preserve objects ethically
2. Museums advance the knowledge of cultures through studying those objects
3. Museums share that knowledge and their objects with their public

These three tenets bind the museum community at large, and can be found within the majority of collecting institutions that keep a physical.

While museums are all connected and have a position in the greater museum community, they also have a unique and different position to the global public. As we move further into the digital age, museums have a unique opportunity to share their collections in new ways, and reach audiences around the globe. Museums are able, now, to fulfill their missions to an even greater potential, and institutions are taking this seriously. Loic Tallon, Chief Digital Officer at The Met, sums it up: “At various points over the last 20 years, cultural institutions recognized that digital was having a transformative effect on the delivery of their mission.”

However, anything worthwhile takes time, patience, and work to build. Museums across the world have created new departments, countless workflows, and collaboration procedures to get the job done. Here is a list of Gallery Systems Clients who have produced innovative and interesting digital strategy examples that we can all learn from.

  1. The Warhol

The Warhol museum recognizes digital workflows as a museum-wide responsibility, and in 2015 they underwent an institution-wide digital restructuring to support that. They documented the process, culminating in a piece titled More Than a Museum: A Digital Strategy for the Warhol. In an effort to promote transparency, The Warhol published their strategy online and invited others to repurpose it to fit their own needs. While this document was published a few years ago, it’s still one of the most comprehensive digital strategy examples published online by an institution to date.

The Warhol Museum shares their digital strategy on GitHub

Screen shot: The Warhol Museum shares their digital strategy, via GitHub

The Warhol’s strategy intertwines through every part of their organization, working to fulfill the mission and serve their audience:

Each area of focus in the museum’s digital strategy is fundamentally tied to the organization’s broader institutional goals. Between 2015 and 2017, we will be digitally-focused on strategic thrusts of experiences and engagement, Narratives and Access, Organizational Adaptation, and Financial Solvency.

-Jeffrey Inscho, Manager of Digital Engagement, The Warhol

The Warhol Digital Strategy can be viewed and downloaded on their GitHub.

  1. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Nara’s inaugural digital strategy dates back to 2009, when they began their first blog in order to build their community and increase transparency into their objects, records, and actions. Since then, they’ve continued to grow their digital presence and have remained innovative. But no matter what, they always stick to their mission and goals:

But whether on paper or a digital platform, the core mission of the National Archives remains unchanged. Social media now gives us more opportunities than ever before to provide access to the records of the Federal government. Through any of our social platforms, we can give people the information they need to learn from the past, to ensure their rights, to hold their government accountable, and to participate in the civic process.

-From NARA’s digital strategy

Nara has opted to post their social media and digital strategy examples on Github for their audiences to view, and contribute to. In their introduction, they ask for participation, commentary, and critique from staff, other institutions, and audiences of all kinds, and for institutions to use their digital strategy examples for their own needs.

  1. Tate

London’s Tate museum is well known for making digital strides in the art world. From their web presence, to mobile apps and games, to social media, to personally curated digital galleries, Tate consistently produces high quality digital content for a global audience. They’ve allowed digital to permeate every aspect of their organization, and have used their digital strategy to challenge what it means to be a museum today.

Tate publishes a great deal of online content relating to their digital strategy. In addition to their 2013 – 2015 Digital Strategy, they’ve shared their materials on digital metrics, collection data, and have created a section on their website dedicated to the transparency of their digital initiatives.

The key components of Tate’s strategy— training the entire team with the ability to create content that’s engaging and on brand, saturating institutional policies with new strategies to engage audiences, and being unafraid to challenge traditional museum policies — provide a great case study for institutions looking to explore digital strategy examples while building their own plan.

  1. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

MoMA’s commitment to modern art required the institution to engage in digital from its early stages. It’s only fitting, then, that this museum would support strong digital strategies to engage audiences. Fiona Romeo was appointed in 2014 as the museum’s first Director of Digital Content and Strategy in order to connect digital strategies throughout the museum. Since then, the institution has produced a range of digital tools, including many digital interactive platforms that pair with museum exhibitions such as Moma Learning and Gauguin Metamorphoses.

MoMA continues to exhibit Gauguin Metamorphoses in their online gallery

MoMA’s digital strategy continues to share works long after an exhibition has concluded. Screenshot via MoMA’s website.

Although they haven’t published their digital strategy online, they have provided information on their initiatives, delving deep into the issues of access and engagement through the MoMA Blog. Rather than simply indicating that initiatives are being updated, the digital team at MoMA is showing how and why they’re being updated. This kind of information can help your team to make informed decisions about the initiatives you’re considering for your digital strategy.

If you’re interested learning more about digital collaboration, you can start by downloading our Digital Strategy guide.

2018-10-01T07:54:26+00:00

About the Author:

Cat Bradley became part of the Gallery Systems team in 2016, and has a background in art museums and diversity policy for nonprofits. Cat holds an MA from the University of Oregon in Arts Administration for marketing, a grad certificate in Nonprofit Management, and a BA from the University of Central Florida in Art History, specializing in public art and 20th Century Mexican Art. When she’s not writing case studies or analyzing market data, you can find her wandering the art museums and galleries of New York City, squeezing veggies at the Union Square Famers Market, or playing the ukulele at open mic night on the Lower East Side.