Report on the state of technologies in Catalan museums during the COVID-19 crisis

The crisis caused by Covid-19 and the imposition of quarantine have not only promoted the active use of technologies in museums, but have also led some international cultural organizations to conduct surveys and publish numerous reports on the changing state of the use of technology in this sector.

In previous posts we have discussed the results of some of those reports. This post, on the other hand, will focus on the research carried out in the framework of this blog and that of the Master in Design of Spaces and Cultural Experiences (ESDESIGN, Barcelona), with the aim of studying the state of technologies in museums of Catalonia.

In the survey, which took place between June 16th and July 7th, 2020, a total of 34 museums participated, with a very diverse composition both from the point of view of their subject matter (art museums, archaeological museums, museums history, etc.), as well as their geographical location (urban museums, rural museums, etc.).

Results

The museums of Catalonia have shown to have a high level in terms of the implementation of the digitization policy, which is made up of five indicators: 1) digitization of the collections, 2) renewal and constant inventory of these, 3 ) basic technological infrastructure (tools necessary for taking photographs, scanning equipment, computers), 4) sufficiently stable internet connection and 5) personnel with the basic skills necessary to carry out different types of operations. Twelve of the thirty-four museums surveyed have highlighted that with the measures adopted, they have covered all the factors mentioned above and that the average result in each indicator exceeds 60%.

Of the museums analyzed, more than 85% have claimed to have published materials on their website, more than 50% in mobile applications and more than 38% on the Google Arts & Culture platform, although only a minority of the museums ( 11%) have used the Europeana platform. Regarding social networks, almost all museums publish their materials on them, which makes them deserve a separate analysis.

Likewise, 67.6% of the museums surveyed have stated that they have staff working with digital tools, even though this activity is not the main task of said employees, since only 15% of the museums surveyed have full-time staff dedicated to digital technologies.

However, museums have valued the level of preparation of their staff very positively and the highest assessment has been taken by the capabilities in relation to social networks. More than half of the museums have excelled in teamwork skills and capabilities in the field of digital photography and digital video, while museums have used the other skills box to complete the list by adding skills in the field of digital tools used to work with collections. Thus, for example, the Museum of Music of Barcelona has indicated the skills related to sound processing, while the Archaeological Museum of Catalonia (MAC) has included in the list the skills in photogrammetry (a technique that allows obtaining a 3D model of an object based on his photographs).

According to the results of the survey, the most used resource for carrying out online activities has been YouTube (73.5%) and the second position has been shared by various tools: online galleries, games and contests, educational materials, visits 360 ° virtualization (more than 50%), with more than 76.5% of the video materials being made in the form of recordings.

Almost all museums (94%) use the social networks Facebook and Instagram in the first place and, in second place, Twitter and YouTube (around 80%), while blogs and chats, as is the case for example of WhatsApp, receive less attention from museums (20% – 30%).

Museums have also been involved in various international online events. More than 82% of the surveyed museums have participated in International Museum Day and around 60% have participated in both Museum Week and Museum Night. Only 4% of the museums surveyed have not participated in international online events.

According to a high percentage of museums (more than 73%), interactive games and contests have the greatest potential among all the online resources and, approximately, 50% of the surveyed museums consider very promising tools such as photographs of the exhibitions, interactive live broadcasts, live broadcasts, videos and news. Stories, on the other hand, have been the tools that have obtained the worst results: only 2.9%.

For its part, the analysis of online visitors has proven difficult to analyze. This year some museums have not made calculations, while others have indicated that the data provided is merely indicative.

Among the most promising future technologies, museums have highlighted social networks (70%), followed closely by virtual reality, mobile applications, online galleries and augmented reality (more than 50%).

The surveyed museums have been very interested in acquiring knowledge about trends and public behavior and in developing skills in the field of technology (more than 75%). The educational formats most in demand have been games and interactive strategies (more than 60%).

Main conclusions and recommendations

Catalan museums have shown very good results in terms of implementing digital policy and developing the corresponding skills among their employees. For the most part, the museums of Catalonia have stood out, themselves, as active users of social networks ‒with an indicator of 90% on Instagram, compared to a 20% presence of other European museums‒ when participating in important events in online and also in showing an interest in developing their skills. To enhance subsequent growth, it would be advisable to devote more attention to live events and stories, with the aim of attracting a younger audience, as one of the worrying aspects is that the average age of the people surveyed is over 45 years (more than 66%). It has been striking, for example, that one of the people who completed the survey was the director of a museum who is 87 years old.

In the context of constant changes arising from the demands of the public, it is necessary to create teams composed of employees of different age groups if museums aspire to continue to carry out projects successfully in the future. The key role in this process is played by the skills that millennials and representatives of generation Z have in the technological field.

 

Feedback from the surveyed museums has shown that counting visitors online is not without certain difficulties. It has been detected that not all museums in Catalonia constantly monitor the number of digital audiences, and that generally speaking it is difficult to express this indicator in numerical terms.

Another worrying aspect is the lack of personnel specialized in technology. According to the survey data, 17.6% of the museums lack this staff. A similar result (around 18.3%) is also found in surveys carried out at the international level (ICOM, 2020). It is important to understand that these capabilities are a key factor for museums to continue to develop in the digital world. Museums in a similar situation now will need to rethink their development strategy for the future.

In conclusion, it should be added that the survey has helped to have a general idea of the panorama of the technologies used in the museums of Catalonia and to identify the main criteria for their evaluation. For the future development of museums, it is advisable to redistribute resources to improve the digital skills of employees and expand activities in new formats and platforms.

For more information

The list of recommendations regarding the digitization of museums, as well as the latest data on digitization of the same in different countries (60 museums from 15 European countries participated in the study) can be found in the report published in July 2020 by the Network of European Museum Organizations (NEMO). However, it should be noted that, regarding the state of digital policy in Spain, the report offers very little information.

The European Commission is evaluating one of its main policy instruments on digitization, online access and digital preservation of cultural heritage. The objective of the inquiry is to gather opinions on the policy in existence since 2011, which is in need of updating. To express your opinion, you can reply to the inquiry before September 14 (@EU_Commission).

 

Special thanks

I would like to express my gratitude to the 34 museums that have participated in the survey and whose names are listed below: