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How digital documents could provide the additional revenue stream your museum has been missing

While social media engagement campaigns and experimentation in XR may have grabbed headlines during the last 18 months, is the relatively straightforward process of asset digitization the real key to building connections with the public and generating new revenue streams?

Sanjeev Kalyanaraman, Chief Operating Officer at codemantra, explained during his Digital Income Summit’s presentation that why the digital reproduction of a museum’s backlist will be critical to supporting research, teaching, and learning in a world that increasingly functions online.

Digital transformation has been a hot topic in the museum space since the pandemic started. While it would be unfair to many progressive institutions to suggest that this process began in 2020 (many have been investigating the potential of online activities for several years now), there is no doubt that Covid-19 has turned the spotlight on the potential of “online”. From maintaining engagement levels to improving accessibility and even exploring new delivery models for content, museums have embraced digital solutions in several different ways for a range of different reasons. But this seismic shift perhaps now leaves institutions facing a couple of key dilemmas:

How do they continue to entertain, inform, and excite an online audience; maximizing their commitment to accessibility and inclusivity at the same time as they look to attract in-person visitors?

And, secondly, how do those activities take place without undermining ticket sales and existing revenue streams?

Digitization to provide deep, rich, and binge-worthy content

Amidst all of the flashy, high-profile digital innovations that have been adopted during this period, it is striking that the key to a more digital future doesn’t just lie in the creation of new blockbuster exhibitions or immersive experiences that can be streamed straight to people’s homes. Besides with budgets likely to be tight for many months and years to come, fighting for the attention of audiences on-site will also be hard. Instead, one pragmatic but no less valuable option for many museums should simply be to dig down into their huge asset library and a vast array of book collections to see what they have in a physical format that can easily be digitized.

Of course, the digitization of books and artworks isn’t something new. codemantra has been working with publishing houses, universities, and other educational organizations since 2002 to support the conversion of physical archives into digital libraries. But for many museums, the global pandemic has been a needed wake-up call to encourage them to not only explore the extent of their digital capabilities but also to appreciate the value of digital revenue streams that provide them with greater reach and flexibility for the long term. For example, codemantra recently partnered with the Metropolitan Museum of Art to accelerate its digital transformation efforts. codemantra helped digitize the Met’s more than 700 art monographs into high-quality ADA compliant e-books. Thus, dramatically advancing accessibility for art lovers in the process. The conversion of rare treatises into ADA-compliant digital copies also represents a vastly more cost-effective solution to the previous print-on-demand format offered by the museum.

As MuseumNext readers will be acutely aware, the museum sector is currently facing an unprecedented need to raise funds after extended periods of closure and reduced capacity through the pandemic. But as they emerge from the challenges of 2020 and 2021, mining back-catalogs and existing assets for content that can be made accessible and commercially viable has to become a priority. Similarly, those that are exploring areas such as VR or AR will know that the process can be long, complex, and expensive. Yet digitization is a relatively low-cost process that is light on internal resources and has incredibly short lead times. One recent project undertaken by codemantra for the University of Westminster, for example, saw 12,000 document pages converted and made available online in just eight days – making it possible for museums to reap the rewards of their accessibility initiatives in a short space of time. Just as importantly, a new e-commerce revenue stream can be established in just a matter of weeks.

Understanding the potential for sharing archives and assets is one thing but preparing them for a digital audience is another. That’s where codemantra comes in – helping institutions to digitize vast backlists of publications at pace, making them accessible, inclusive, and optimized for screen readers in the shortest timeframes.

During the recently concluded MuseumNext Digital Income Summit, codemantra’s COO, Sanjeev Kalyanaraman, provided deep dive insights on how codemantra is supporting institutions to engage in meaningful and profitable digital transformation projects that address not only the demands of modern museum patrons but also meet the very real and urgent financial requirements of museums and galleries enduring significant budget restrictions.

For museums and galleries looking to scale up their digital accessibility initiatives and learn how they can turn existing collections and assets into revenue streams, find out more by visiting

About the author – Tim Deakin

Tim Deakin is a journalist and editorial consultant working with a broad range of online publications.

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