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Museum Digital Predictions for 2021

2021 is just around the corner and after a year which saw digital take centre stage in the museum world, what can we expect in the year ahead? We asked museum digital experts for their predictions on what we can expect.

If you have your own ideas, get in touch and we’ll add them to this page.

Lori Byrd-McDevitt, Founder, 1909 DIGITAL
In 2020, traditionally non-digital departments were thrust into depending on the digital team to connect their work with others. In 2021, savvy museums will embrace and fine tune the workflows that came out of working remotely. It’s important to use the opportunity that arise from the necessity of 2020 and lay the long term foundation for digital transformation in cross-departmental team processes. This can apply to content submission process, editorial workflows, varying staff voices on social, increasing digital literacy, or whatever big thing that museum wants to tackle. The key is building bridges to other departments, like we always aim to do.

Paige Dansinger, Founder, Horizon Art Museum
Watch for museums like Horizon Art Museum popping up in Facebook Horizon.

Acacia Berry, Founder, Archaeological Analytics
More online museum shops. More digital products.

Kaytee Smith, Chief Content Officer, North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
I think we are going to see a lot more content/tech that focuses on the crossroads of culture/health/mindfulness. I know during the pandemic we saw an increase in collaboration between our cultural and natural sites, and libraries through programming and cross-promotion. We saw an explosion of people getting outdoors this includes visitation to our outdoor spaces at our museums and state parks. For example, one of our aquariums teamed up with a film festival to host their first-ever drive-in. We also used our network to create 150 park and learn wifi hotspots across the state, especially in rural areas. We’re hopeful that the creativity and collaboration continue into 2021.

Fran Taylor, Marketing Consultant, UCL Culture
One of the few positive things to come out of Covid-19 is that we have completely shaken up event programming in the sector. In 2021, we’ll see a lot more experimentation with virtual platforms for talks, panel discussions, performances and conferences.

It won’t replace physical events, but it means we can reach much higher numbers of people around the world and better support those that aren’t able to visit in person, for whatever that reason might be.

Jim Richardson, Founder, MuseumNext
Here in the UK, our government have suggested to the museum sector that they need to look to make more money online. I think this will be a big theme in 2021, but I also think we could easily see the sector waste money on monetisation projects that don’t work. It’s important that we share our successes and failures, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Andrea Hadley-Johnson, Artistic Programme Manager, National Justice Museum 
Projects with interesting intersections between physical and digital emerging. The cross over, the ebb and flow, the rub. That’s where the exciting digital moments with warmth and usefulness will occur.

Tamsin Russell, Professional Development Manager, Museums Association
More. But less good.

Iain Watson, Director, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums
What I would like to see – More user generated content; more joining up of cultural orgs online – shared marketing/ box office etc; concentration on richness/depth of content; ensuring content works on phones – this is only access many of our users have.

Anthony Cockerill, Copywriter for Heritage & the Arts
Might museums explore different ways to allow people to engage with stories and objects online – a sort of future-proofing after the events of this year?

Jeremy Ottevanger, Director, Sesamoid Consulting Limited
My prediction is that a lot more museums will at last be getting on the bottom rung of the ladder. Which is arguably more important than what is going on with those in the airy regions at the top.

Sarah Miguel, Head of Business Development, People’s History Museum 
Hybrid events and more flexible working are largely here to stay. That means more Zoom, more use of remote collaboration software, and greater need to enterprise from our online offer.

Rachel Cockett, Director of Development, Birmingham Museums Trust
Lots of average attempts on Tiktok because of Black Country Living Museum’s recently celebrated success.

Sergio Solorzano, Augmented Reality Developer, Rendergon studio
Physical distancing measures have transformed artistic experiences. In some ways, the possibilities for exhibitions are more limited than ever – but there are immersive alternative avenues to capture visitors’ imaginations. The availability of AR, VR and XR technologies have created an environment in which customers are accustomed to engaging with artworks in a shared virtual world, and primed to engage with the adaptation of collections to an online space. The stage is set for the digitisation of artwork collections through 3D models making it possible for customers to explore artwork collections at distance.

Artwork 3D models are excellent center-stage story-telling candidates particularly for XR interactive experiences that can capture online visitors’ imagination. To date the fundamental irreplaceability of a direct encounter with the original artwork, the difficulties accessing the artwork for 3D capture, museum’s high accuracy and catalogue entry requirements and the resulting high cost of 3D capture have limited the availability of 3D artwork. The opportunity is ripe to capture cheaper and most certainly less accurate scans but open a new digital business line for online engaging experiences at museums.

Miranda Kerr, Digital Learning & Strategy Consultant
I hope we keep all the good: expanded audience reach and accessibility, thinking creatively, valuing digital, and coming together in tough times. And that we trash anything bad: remote work does not mean 24/7 work, just because we can whip up a digital program fast doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put in the time and strategy to do it right.

W. Ryan Dodge, Head of Digital Experiences, Canadian Museum of History / Canadian War Museum
The emergence (finally) of value placed on digital engagement somewhere near the realm of the almighty physical visit.

Dr. Kate Meyers Emery, Manager of Digital Engagement, George Eastman Museum
My hope for 2021 is that there is increased recognition of what goes into digital work (resources, staff time, creativity, strategy). My fear is that there will simply be a push for more and more content without recognition of the effort behind it.

Michelle Moon
Stop thinking of it is digital, start thinking of it in the context of 360-degree engagement.

Conxa Rodà, Co-director of Postgraduate on Digital Strategy, UOC_Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
My predictions/wishes for 2021 go around the redimension of digital in museums. Digital has been propelled at the forefront and time has come to resize the digital offer and make some improvements such as:

–        move from improvisation to a planned agility

–        put a greater focus on quality

–        focus on usability and online engagement

–        enrich digital interpretation online and inside the museum, diversifying digital formats and narratives

–        launch more digital-born projects

–        continue improving and improving accessibility

–        forge alliances more than ever

–        train internal digital skills

–        try not to lose “momentum”, keep innovating


What are your predictions for 2021. To share them with our readers, drop us a line and we’ll add your thoughts to this page.

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