Pandemic will transform visitor expectations, say Cornish museums - Museums Association

Pandemic will transform visitor expectations, say Cornish museums

Reboot Cornwall initiative launched to shine a spotlight on new digital experiences
Covid-19 Digital Immersive
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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Bodmin Jail has just launched the Dark Walk, an augmented reality and immersive experience for visitors
Bodmin Jail has just launched the Dark Walk, an augmented reality and immersive experience for visitors Bodmin Jail

The pandemic has rapidly accelerated the need for museums to innovate and harness digital technology, according to a survey by the Cornwall Museums Partnership. 

The survey, which examined how the pandemic has impacted the heritage sector in Cornwall and how new technology could reshape visitor experiences, had responses from more than half of Cornwall’s museums and heritage venues.  

It found that 79% of respondents are actively exploring how technology can help them futureproof their offering, while 89% said the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the need to innovate.

Space, capacity and social distancing are among biggest challenge facing museums in the county as they begin to reopen, with 86% of respondents concerned about logistical issues. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they are concerned about funding issues and economic uncertainty, and around half feel anxious about permanent closure, reduced opening hours and job losses.

In spite of these challenges, the survey found that Cornwall’s museums are optimistic, with 92% feeling positive about the future prospects of their own venue and the wider cultural sector in the county.

Museums expect to relate differently to their visitors in a post-pandemic world, with 82% anticipating that the pandemic has changed visitor expectations of museums in some way.

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Seventy-nine percent of respondents envisage playing more of an active role within local communities, and many expect a high level of contribution to education and youth development (89%) and to tourism and economic recovery (79%). Others said cultural venues could play an important role in tackling loneliness (67%) and creating a more inclusive culture (60%).

As part of CMP’s Reboot Cornwall initiative, museums across the county are launching a range of new experiences incorporating AI, machine learning and immersive technologies. The initiative is designed to shine a spotlight on pioneering visitor experiences being developed by the region’s museums and heritage venues.

Emmie Kell, the CEO of Cornwall Museums Partnership, said: “This study shows that Cornish museums have shown both great adaptability and resilience in the face of tremendous adversity. Attitudes around heritage, new technology and the role of museums as important hubs in their local communities are evolving very rapidly in Cornwall and it’s exciting to see our museums leading the way for both innovation and greater inclusivity.

“We are really excited to be launching the Reboot Cornwall initiative, to get behind our museum and heritage sector as it gets back on its feet and showcase some of the fantastic experiences being offered to visitors in the coming months.”

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