From the Server Room to the Board Room: A Decade of Creating Digital Literacy at the CMA


Wednesday, April 07, 2021: 1:30pm - 3:00pm - - Paper Session

Jane Alexander, The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA, Anna Faxon, Cleveland Museum of Art, USA, Haley Kedziora, The Cleveland Museum of Art, United States

Published paper: From the Server Room to the Board Room: A Decade of Digital Transformation

Our job titles have evolved over the past 10 years, alongside the technology systems we work with. However, we rarely discuss how the digital department’s function within the larger context of the museum has transformed. Demonstrated by multiple project-specific examples, this paper will present the digital department at the Cleveland Museum of Art as a case study for bringing digital to the table and creating effective workflows for internal and external projects alike. Most importantly, we will elaborate on our driving philosophy – no siloes, no one-off projects, and always one source of truth!

Effective digital systems are vital to museum functionality, from collections management and ticketing to outward-facing digital content. But over a decade ago, the IT department was by itself in the server room. People were scared of change, and worried that digital would take away credibility of our collection. Not only have we changed locations, to the same floor as curatorial, but the role digital plays within the museum has evolved. Through an iterative process of workflow changes and departmental reorganization, we have successfully brought digital “to the table.” Not only do we have support and representation to the board and top leadership, but we work through projects from the beginning to launch.
This year, COVID-19 necessitated another round of transformation, pushing the museum to readapt. In March, shortly after transitioning the institution to work-from-home, with a temporarily closed museum, we identified a new set of needs for the organization. The team yet again redefined their roles to fit a the newly surfaced museum landscape. After about a year of working in this new landscape, our project managers will elaborate on the drastic changes our institution has gone through, and how we brought our museum up to the next level of digital literacy.