The Digital Future of Museums

Chris Michaels, head of digital at The British Museum, explains how he’s working to make his institution’s world-renowned antiquities a multi-platform experience for the 21st century patron.
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It’s Nice That’s Emily Gosling talks to Chris Michaels, head of digital at The British Museum, about how he’s working to make his institution’s world-renowned antiquities a multi-platform experience for the 21st century patron.

“Mobile, social, big data, the internet of things--those big thematic areas are bringing together what the museum has always done, which is attract millions of people a year into a single space to encounter objects, with a digital conversation about our collections and their stories through digital channels,” Michaels says about his work. “The outcome of that encounter will reaffirm the incredible value museums have in a very potent new way,”

“Museums are highly diverse ecosystems of marketing, commerce, content and services,” Michaels continues. “We have to learn to think of ourselves as offering an omnichannel experience where we are connected to, understanding of, and providing deep value to our audiences in all the ways they interact with us. Building out that experience is a big project, but a genuinely transformative one.”

The digital expert also has some more general thoughts about the shift toward multi-platform content. “If multi-platform as a concept is to be genuinely meaningful --and it’s still comparatively early in that journey--then all media has to become more important not less,” he says. “We like to think of digital as being a fragmented, atomized market, but I think it’s becoming clearer every day to me that it was the old 20th Century model which was deeply problematic. Simply put, it was organized to keep different forms of storytelling apart, in nice, neat, rights-controlled packages. Digital, seemingly organically, refuses that neatness, and multi-platform media, which to me is what happens when all media can be accessed via digital channels, can and should refuse that old world separatism. Bringing all your storytelling capability together, putting it in one big creative pot, and seeing what magic comes out is a great opportunity, and anyone connected with media should relish taking it.”

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