The impact of COVID-19 on digital data practices in museums and art galleries in the UK and the US

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Abstract

The first quarter of 2020 heralded the beginning of an uncertain future for museums and galleries as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the only means to stay ‘open’ was to turn towards the digital. In this paper, we investigate how the physical closure of museum buildings due to lockdown restrictions caused shockwaves within their digital strategies and changed their data practices potentially for good. We review the impact of COVID-19 on the museum sector, based on literature and desk research, with a focus on the implications for three museums and art galleries in the United Kingdom and the United States, and their mission, objectives, and digital data practices. We then present an analysis of ten qualitative interviews with expert witnesses working in the sector, representing different roles and types of institutions, undertaken between April and October 2020. Our research finds that digital engagement with museum content and practices around data in institutions have changed and that digital methods for organising and accessing collections for both staff and the general public have become more important. We present evidence that strategic preparedness influenced how well institutions were able to transition during closure and that metrics data became pivotal in understanding this novel situation. Increased engagement online changed traditional audience profiles, challenging museums to find ways of accommodating new forms of engagement in order to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic environment.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article number236
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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