The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ‘Essential Digital Skills for museum professionals’ has been running since the 7th of January 2019. Launched by the Mu.SA project, the course primarily aims to support museum professionals in improving their digital competences, so as to facilitate collaborations across disciplines and increase productivity in the digital era. Over eight weeks, participants follow modules that deliver a complete set of digital and transferable competences, structured around four emerging job profiles for museum professionals.
With four weeks of learning to go, we are taking this midway point as an opportunity to reflect on the aims and relevance of the Mu.SA MOOC in the context of the shifting approaches to museum strategies and museums’ new professional needs in the digital era.
Sharing and Storytelling: A new digital vocabulary for museums.
The Mu.SA publication, Museums of the Future reveals some interesting ways in which museums are being influenced and transformed by digital culture, through the experiences of professionals from 10 international museums.
“The main challenge for museums is not to attract audiences only, but to find the easiest way to share their collections and to connect with other groups of society.” Linda Volkers, Marketing Manager Rijksmuseum
Digital tools are proving to be valuable to museum professionals particularly in establishing a new vocabulary for museum strategies focused on sharing and storytelling. For example, many museums undergoing digitisation are opening up their collections by making them accessible on online platforms. This signals an important shift in the museum experience that mirrors the overall shift in digital culture, from the physical to the digital and from private space to public space. The digitisation of collections is only one aspect of how museums are engaging in sharing content and information. Access to digital platforms and digital skills are enabling museum professionals to share knowledge in the workplace across different areas of expertise, to share experiences within the wider sector and to participate in exchanges across disciplines.
“The digital strategy is not only a strategy for one museum, but a local and joined perspective and networking engaging common stakes, for conservation, digitisation of the collection and digital skills for professionals…There is a responsibility, an ethical and moral responsibility to create networks of competences between museums.” Anne Krebs, Head of socio-economic Studies and Research Division, Research and Collection Department, Louvre
Storytelling is another important extension of the increased possibilities for sharing experiences and visual material. Social media platforms and interactive museum software allow the museum to narrate itself but also to be narrated by its staff and its visitors in novel ways. This participative storytelling lends another dimension to audience engagement, favouring an intimate and fluid relationship over a predefined one. Digital skills for museum professionals allow in-house production of content for museum channels, leading to more authentic and targeted experiences that combine knowledge from the different areas of expertise of the museum staff.
“If there is a competence gap, it’s less around digital literacy, and more around the skills that are needed to sell a vision, to derive data-driven insight, and to build the business case for digital investment. And if there is a skills gap, it is in knowing how to commission, create and measure compelling audience focused content in the digital realm and in understanding how to build engaging digital experiences.” Kati Price, Head of Digital Media and Publishing, V&A
In order to productively participate in this ongoing transformation, museum professionals require access to training in digital skills for content sharing, collaboration, design and creative applications among others. Along with these skills however, comes a responsibility to understand the wider digital environment, online behaviours and issues of security and data protection. In the museum sector, this is combined with another great responsibility to deliver a targeted and appropriated digital strategy that compliments and enriches the museum experience and does not distract from the situated perception of the art and its unique materiality. This calls for a digital strategy that is always embedded into the broader museum strategy and that is informed by its particular sensitivities. Panagiota Polymeropoulou from the Hellenic Open University who contributed to the Mu.SA MOOC course content and teaching, confirms that “the preparation of interdisciplinary educational materials, combining the digital competences with the museological aspect and focusing on the needs of a museum professional was a great challenge.”
The Mu.SA project encourages this multidisciplinary approach to digital strategy by providing the skills and information to equip museum professionals to respond to the modern day needs of their specific working environment. MOOC tutor Isabel Martins from the University of Porto in Portugal, referring to the structure of the course, notes that “the WebQuest form developed for the lessons is extremely appropriate, as it teaches us to look for the answers in the web, which is ultimately what a digital manager should do”. Beyond the need to adapt to the ongoing digitisation of the museum experience, the Mu.SA MOOC calls on its participants to act as leaders of innovation and to guide and manage this transformation in an insightful way.
Read more in the latest Mu.SA Newsletter.
Job profiles for museums in the digital era: research conducted in Portugal, Italy and Greece within the Mu.SA project
Museum Professionals in a Digital World: Insights from a Case Study in Portugal
Progetto MUSA. Nuove tecnologie e nuovi ruoli nei musei