How COVID-19 Accelerated Digital Engagement and Sustainable Digital Transformation

Professional Forum

Friday, April 23, 2021: 11:00am - 12:00pm - - Professional Forum

Brendan Ciecko, Cuseum, USA, Kara Fikse, , , Holly Shen, , , Hilary-Morgan Watt, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, USA, Emily Haight, New-York Historical Society, United States, Liz Neely, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, USA

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced museums to close their doors, many turned their attention to new digital content projects, virtual programs, and online events to help keep audiences engaged. Beyond the period of lockdown, however, COVID-19 has accelerated organization-wide digital transformation in museums, which has the potential to change the cultural landscape as we know it. Indeed, many organizations have captured the momentum brought on by the pandemic to create actionable change.

To begin with, organizations have developed a more intentional, multi-channel approach to engaging their audiences and communities. For example, many have shifted or adapted their communication channels. Now museums are reaching their audiences through social media and digital communications with increased efficacy.

Museums of all shapes and sizes have also pioneered an increasingly creative and diverse array of virtual events and programs. These include online lectures, virtual summer camps and classes, online “Cocktails with the Curator,” ticketed virtual events, online galas and fundraisers, and more. Many organizations began these digital initiatives to engage audiences as a provisional measure, with the intention of continuing them only though the period of lockdown. However, several months into the pandemic, the unprecedented success of virtual events was beginning to become clear, and museums of all kinds adopted a new sentiment: digital is here to stay.

Moreover, the success of virtual engagement has prompted museums to consider new, diverse channels for revenue generation. Museums have begun to develop digital programming to serve as a new revenue channel, which is already figuring into the long-term financial outlook for many cultural organizations.

Finally, the pandemic has been a forcing function for cultural organizations to update their arsenal of digital tools, ushering in an era of “contactless” experiences that will likely be here for the long run.

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