Trendswatch 2015, the annual forecasting report from the Center for the Future of Museums, is now available!

And, while the report itself is great, a live webinar that digs into the research is even better! So when AAM and Blackbaud hosted Trends Watch 2015: Using Open Data and Personalization at Museums with Elizabeth Merritt, Michael Edson, and Stephen Watson, attending it was a definite no-brainer!

In case you missed the event, here’s a recap of two of the top trends to watch this year:

Open Museums and Content

Open is the alternative to the traditional methods of controlling intellectual property and authority with a focus on delivering the broadest possible access and encouraging reuse. For museums, it typically starts with making their collection available through digital channels.  Rijksmuseum leads the way with most of its collection available online at high resolution.

Digital Collections:

With museum missions tied to preserving, sharing and education, it is our responsibility to open collections and knowledge so everyone can benefit.

A great way to get started and bring a wider audience to your doorstep is by broadcasting lectures through YouTube and Slideshare or posting articles online. Open online educational content is also a great channel.

See how the Center of the West has published magazine articles online and digitized their collection!

But it’s important that you become familiar with intellectual property.

As purveyors and consumers of content, understand the nuances of Creative Commons. Review the IP status of your collection and the permissions related to broadcasting lectures and workshops.

Yes, But….

There will likely be push back when you begin conversations about open collections and content. But these typical reasons for reluctance can be dissuaded:

  • Misuse (studies show this is rare)
  • Revenue loss (finding a sponsor before the project starts can actually shift focus to mission rather than sales)
  • Lack of resources (start small)
  • Permissions (research status)

From my personal experience of initiating new ventures, I’ve learned that resistance is an opportunity to scope your project thoroughly and not overlook important details.

Personalizing the Museum Experience

The National World War II Museum (NWWIIM) focuses on personalization to build an enhanced experience that visitors can self-select, share with others, and continue conversations after the visit.

Digital Information and Open Data:

In their mobile advertising on local Wi-Fi hotpots in different areas of the city, NWWIIM adjusts its message for either locals or tourists based on the demographics prevalent at the location.

The museum leverages open data from weather forecasts to adjust its digital advertising. So, if rain or heat is predicted for the weekend, ads invite visitors to come indoors.  I am sure everyone will find this is useful!

Enhancing the experience:

Visitors to the Campaigns of Courage exhibit receive a RFID chip dog tag that connects them to an actual soldier. As they track the soldier’s experience through the war, the visitor can collect digital artifacts during their visit, review these after they return home, and then share their experience through social media.  This project has delivered 161,000 email opt-ins since Dec. 2014!

Dismantling the gallery walls:

Behind-the-scenes tours and a dinner series with a curator are also popular options for a personal experience at the NMMIIM.  While visitors appreciate curated content of an exhibition, there is something special about a behind the scenes experience. (There is a reason why VIP visits to museums often include a vault tour!) I encourage your museum to also explore such offerings.

Beyond the building:

NMMIIM recognizes the role of the hospitality industry and fosters personal relationships through special preview events, thank you cards, and gifts. This builds ownership among concierges, taxi drivers, and Pedi cab drivers. Now, how many of us have gone that distance?

Membership then commitment:

NMMIIM has an “open membership” approach.  Everyone is invited to be a member with the focus on fostering support and passion rather than dues. A progressive sequence of engaging email/letters has resulted in over 130,000 charter members nationwide.

I have barely scratched the surface of this engrossing session and recommend everyone experience it for themselves. Oh, one more thing. I just happened to attend this webinar at an “open resource”: a free private study room with complimentary Wi-Fi kindly provided by the Bettendorf Public Library!  How sweet is that?


Devendra Shrikhande is a senior consultant in the arts and culture division at Blackbaud. Prior to Blackbaud, he has over ten years’ experience partnering with numerous non-profits across a variety of sectors launch new initiatives integrating technology with their mission. As an engineer turned photographer, Devendra is passionate about mixing “science with art” to deliver innovative opportunities for non-profits to better meet the needs of their communities. Connect with Devendra on LinkedIn.

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