The year 2020 shook up the museum world like no other before. More than 90% of the museums worldwide had to shut their doors for the first time ever in their history. Even the most destructive and insecure historical phase of the 20th century in Europe, World War II, has not wounded cultural institutions as much as COVID-19. Amidst bombing alarms and shortages of many kinds, cultural palaces like the National Gallery in London continued to display artworks in their buildings.
The pademic has impacted not only the financial side of museum operation causing dramatic income losses, but also the working conditions and mental wellbeing of museum staff. In short, the year 2020 was financially and mentally devastating for the museum world and institutions of all sizes – big institutional clusters and art temples as well as small local museums faced the same crisis.
However, every crisis also opens a window of opportunity, motivates to evolve and change. Last year represented a high-tide for technology and a deeper acknowledgement of the urge for digitalisation within the museum sector. The closure of cultural institutions for visitors pushed their teams to find other ways to engage with audiences. Institutions actively involved digital platforms – social media, livestreaming, online exhibitions, virtual tours, videogames and podcasts. Many took the plunge into trying out new digital software, previously untapped platforms and channels. This implied an upskilling of the museum employees and made remote working easier.
After a first wave of launching free digital offers, in the course of the year 2020, museums also started to think about how digital could bring new, and the further in lockdown the more needed, revenue sources.
This report elaborates how the year 2020 has influenced the museum sector in terms of technological and digital developments, combining the results of the Museum Innovation Barometer survey with best practice cases and additional summaries of significant previous research reports on this topic.