Taking Advantage Of Emerging Technologies To Reap The Economic Benefits Of Digitisation And Gain Real-Time Insight Into Museum Audiences

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Information Studies

Abstract

It is estimated that Britain's culture and heritage attracts £4.5 billion worth of spending by visitors every year, supporting more than 100,000 jobs across Britain. However, in recent years museums and cultural heritage institutions in the UK have been facing increasing financial challenges due to budget cuts. This project investigates ways emerging technologies can be utilised to enable British museums and galleries generate revenue from their digitised collections, whilst gaining a better understanding of their audiences in real-time. Efforts to generate revenue from digitised collections has so far been limited to image licensing operations, an approach that is increasingly being challenged for its effectiveness and profitability. Additionally, although the importance of understanding museum visitor behaviour is undisputable with researchers and museum professionals studying museum visitor behaviour for more than a century, little has been done to take advantage of recent technological advancements to provide museums with a real-time insight into the visitor behaviour of their audiences.

Building upon our previous research and work (i.e. "Reaping the Benefits of Digitisation: Exploring Revenue Generation from Digitised Collections through Technological Innovation" by Valeonti et al. 2018) in this project we collaborate with a major British museum, i.e. the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, to develop and evaluate in a three controlled experiments two software applications: IMS 2.0 and the Museum Dashboard. The first application enables museum visitors to design and purchase highly customisable merchandise with their favourite artworks. The latter application utilises the data gathered by IMS 2.0 to enable museum staff and exhibition designers to produce custom reports on visitor behaviour in their museum in real-time.

The project is aimed at serving museums and galleries with digitised collections. It will engage key figures in digital humanities and Britain' cultural sector, as well as professionals from museums and galleries of all sizes. Its emphasis on sustainability (cost-consciousness of technological solutions and low maintenance costs) aims at maximising the project's impact, supporting and helping museums of smaller sizes to reap the benefits of digitisation. To disseminate the project's research and work, a series of journal articles and conference papers will be produced, and a full-day event will be organised at UCL in London to share key findings and demonstrate the applications developed to museum delegates. Britain is one of the three leading countries in culture globally and this project has the potential to provide a vital and timely intervention for the international community as they face similar challenges. The project will contribute not only towards the financial independence of museums and galleries with digitised collections and towards a better understanding of museum audiences, but more importantly to international debates on the future of museums in the digital age.

Planned Impact

The primary impact of this project is the economic impact for the British culture and heritage sector. It is estimated that Britain's culture and heritage attracts £4.5 billion worth of spending by visitors every year, supporting more than 100,000 jobs across Britain. The project's main beneficiaries are museums and galleries with digitised collections, as the project makes a sizeable contribution towards their financial independence. In addition it contributes towards a better understanding of their audiences, enabling them to make more informed decisions regarding exhibition design.

With regards to museum funding, this project introduces a novel solution for museums to generate revenue from their digitised collections. Through the mobile application IMS 2.0, the project allows museum visitors to design and purchase highly customisable merchandise featuring their favourite exhibits providing museums with an additional stream of revenue. More importantly, IMS 2.0 has been designed in a sustainable manner, as it does not require any investment in hardware such as multi-touch screens and custom mobile devices for visitors, or upfront purchase of stock products. As a result, IMS 2.0 has been designed for maximum impact in a way to assists museums of all sizes to benefit from their digitised collections.

The Museum Dashboard, i.e. the application that enables museum staff to generate custom real-time reports on museum visitor behaviour, is also of great benefit for museums and galleries, as it allows them to gain real-time insight into their audiences. An improved understanding of visitor audiences helps museums take more informed decisions with regards to exhibition design. Similar to IMS 2.0, the Museum Dashboard has been designed with an emphasis on sustainability. As a result, exhibition designers and curators will be able to view historic reports and assess how various formats of exhibition design performed with their visitors over time.

Publications

10 25 50