Museums are complex organisations and technology has to some extent made them more complicated. The Natural History Museum in London, for example, has more than eighty business systems which help the museum with everything from pest control to enterprise.
As our systems become more complicated, those working with them have looked for ways to bring together real-world data from different systems in a digital simulation called a Digital Twin.
Digital Twin technology started at NASA, where the space agency mirrored capsules in orbit with digital copies that could be used to diagnose problems.
In 2017, Gartner named Digital Twins as one of its top 10 strategic technology trends stating that within three to five years, “billions of things will be represented by digital twins”.
In December 2019, Ian Golding, the interim CIO at the museum said that the museum was working on a new Digital Twin vision which would help the Natural History Museum to plan its technology infrastructure, programmes and investments.
Richard Hinton, Head of Enterprise Architecture at the museum said, “the really interesting thing for me about Digital Twin technology is the convergence of operational and information technology”.
The museum’s estate is 100,000 square metres and within that, there are 15,000 sensors measuring everything from temperature to humidity to vibration and light. This data helps the team at the Natural History Museum to protect both the building and its collection.
Digital Twin technology will link together data from different departments which are currently siloed onto one screen will allow staff to quickly identify rectify problems.
Improving the use of information allows the Museum to use the data that they’re collecting to better inform how they maintain the collection and the environment for visitors.
Richard Hinton said, “Ultimately the museum is working towards having a dashboard view of what is happening in the museum at all times, but also have a historic view of how things change. This will allow us to pick up on trends and become a more efficient and sustainable organisation”.
Jim Richardson is the founder of MuseumNext. He has worked with the museum sector on digital and innovation projects for more than twenty years and now spends his time championing best practice through MuseumNext.