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23 Apr 2018

Mapping the Museum Digital Skills Ecosystem: New research aims to transform digital use in museums

New research aimed at transforming the ways museums in the UK use digital technologies to share their collections and engage new audiences with their work has suggested that the key to success lies within improving digital literacy of staff across all levels.

Called Mapping the Museum Digital Skills Ecosystem, the Phase One report outlines how digital responsibilities and skills are managed and shared by those working in museums. The research was compiled by the Institute for Employment Research (IER) and the Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies (CAMEo) at the University of Leicester, with the team visiting a range of UK museums to find out how staff and volunteers are currently using digital technology, and to investigate how demand for these skills is changing.

According to the report, "there is great potential to create a digitally confident museum workforce that can adapt and evolve with technology".

Among the report's findings, there were several key takeaways, including:

• Museums have taken different approaches to developing and managing digital skills.

• Museums are exploring, learning and demanding new digital skills to help them innovate and create with digital.

• While all museum roles now have some kind of digital element, digital skills are not in ready supply throughout the museum workforce.

• Museums typically rely on in-house and ad hoc training to develop digital skills among their staff and volunteers.

• The need for a systematic approach to assessing and identifying skills needs is recognised but museums lack the time to do the work.

“The phase one findings offer museums and the cultural sector an opportunity to reflect on their own digital skills and how they can be used to take advantage of digital," said Dr Sally-Anne Barnes, who led the IER team.

"This important study offers a new approach to understanding and developing digital literacy in the UK museum sector. Today’s Phase One report maps the ways that digital skills are currently supplied, developed and deployed in the UK museum sector and has also pinpointed important changes in current demand for these skills."

The second phase of the research will be used to help to define prototype and test practical activities that help to build digital literacies.

"There is an exciting opportunity here to leverage research to make a substantive and poignant contribution to this strategic government priority," said Dr Ross Parry from the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester and project leader. "Our research can help deliver this change."

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