English museums behind in digital revolution

Patrick Steel, 03.12.2013
Lack of time and funding impeding technical innovation
Museums are less likely to report positive impacts from digital technologies compared with other arts and cultural organisations in England, particularly in terms of revenue generation and audience development, a report by independent research agency MTM has found.

The report, which surveyed 891 English arts and cultural organisations, including 125 museums, found that just 37% of museums say that digital technologies have had a major impact in terms of reaching a bigger audience, compared with 51% of the total sample.

The report found that museums reported lower than average levels of digital expertise and empowerment from their senior management, and a lower than average focus on digital experimentation, research and development.

Over 60% of all the arts and cultural organisations surveyed reported being constrained in their digital activities by a lack of staff time and funding, while 40% lacked technical skills such as data analysis and database management.

The analysis also suggested that the 10% of organisations that have embraced digital technologies most wholeheartedly are 3.2 times more likely to say digital technology has had a major impact on their overall revenue.

Hasan Bakhshi, the director for creative economy, policy and research at the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), said: “Digital technologies are disrupting how we work, learn and socialise, but there remains little evidence on how they are affecting the arts and culture sector.

“For the first time we have a detailed account of how theatres, performance spaces, galleries and museums in England are innovating with new technologies.

“This evidence challenges preconceived notions about how the public engage with culture and illustrates the potentially vast dividends still to be reaped.”

The report is the first in a series of three as part of a longitudinal study of arts and cultural organisations in England from 2013 to 2015, commissioned by the arts council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and Nesta.