A Museum and a Building – The Key Understanding Every Museum Decision Maker Must Embrace

museum strategyWe all know the world is changing at breakneck speed.  The way every one of us processes information is entirely different from even ten years ago.  We live in a time in which a small percentage of the US population gets a physical newspaper.  We used to get our news by television, newspaper, and radio often hours after events happened.  Now we either see events happen by live feed, or we get an update on our cell phones minutes after events occurred.  The average person accesses their phone over 100 times per day to get updates on news specially curated to their interests.  Even the term ‘cell phone’ has become a misnomer.  It’s rather uncommon to see someone actually on a phone call on their cell phones.  Among people under 40, a high percentage of users will regularly go days without actually talking on a phone.

The differences in how we get news barely scratch the surface of the changes we are experiencing.  As I write these words, people are receiving advanced degrees from universities they will never physically see.  People now purchase cars off the internet without test driving them.  People get food, go to hotels, and get car rides without saying a word to another human being.  The way we use transportation is ever-evolving.  We used to tell kids never to get into a strangers car.  Now millions of people a day use UBER and similar services.  Famously, when Amazon.com was in its infancy, a technology writer said that people would never get in the habit of buying books without first physically skimming through them.  Now it has been the primary source for book purchasing for well over a decade.

This brings me to the one takeaway I want everyone in the museum community to embrace from this post.  You are no longer a museum using some digital mediums to communicate.  You are a museum that also has a building. 

Over the next ten years, the importance of your digital museum will eclipse the importance of your building, especially if you are not in a big city.   If you are going to continue to grow, the people walking through the front door need to be a fraction of your strategy.  As a museum, you represent a mission, and you are bringing the mission to the world through many diverse programs and mediums, some of which exist only in the digital world.  The idea of using digital mediums to bring people to your physical building is behind us, while this is a way to use digital mediums, it should be part of a much larger strategy.

To succeed going forward, you will need thousands of people involved with your museum that will never be in your building, and may never even be in your country.  At The National Quilt Museum, one of our largest programs is entirely digital.  It’s an educational program called Block of the Month, which has participants all over the world, 90% of whom have never been to the physical building.  We reach our supporters through a monthly online television show, blogs, forums, emails, online groups, Google Arts, and many more digital efforts.  Even with all of this, we are barely scratching the surface.

Embrace this concept right now, or life is going to get harder for you day by day.  Your building is not your museum.  It is merely the organization’s physical location.  You are a museum with a building!

By Frank Bennett, Originally published at www.WorldClassMuseum.com.

Thank you for reading! I write, consult, and speak on museum topics with the goal of impacting 10,000 museums. If you enjoyed this article, please do three things:

  1. Forward to your friends.
  2. Sign up for updates at my Facebook, Twitter, and at worldclassmuseum.com.
  3. Implement immediately – Knowledge isn’t power; it’s potential power; make sure you implement quickly.