Share your story, connect with your community, and attract more visitors!
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, museums all over the world have been faced with the challenge of adapting to a new normal. Dealing with extended closures, fewer resources, and inflated requests, cultural and historical institutions have been faced with a big question: how can we offer access to our collections, not just in the wake of an unprecedented crisis but in our day-to-day operations? For many organizations who were quick to adapt, the answer has been bringing their collections to the web and embracing a world that has gone digital.
Your collections tell a story. Why not amplify it?
Sharing your collections to the web is a powerful way to amplify the stories woven together by your objects and their histories. Bringing your collections to the web can also help improve your organizational operations significantly. Read on for four reasons why publishing your collections to the web is beneficial for your organization and your community.
1. Connect with your community
Sharing collections with your community is an integral part of museum work. Publishing your collections to the web not only helps tell your story, but also allows your organization to more deeply engage with your community and reach a wider audience. For example, when the San Francisco-based organization Art With Elders (AWE) transitioned their fine arts curriculum online after the pandemic hit, they published the participants’ artistic portfolios to the web, allowing friends, family, and the greater community to access and appreciate their art. “The artists are excited to see their work up online in a shareable format,” says Darcie O’Brien, AWE Exhibits Manager. “Viewers, too, are heartened to see the artwork, artist photos, and artist statements featured through our exhibitions program, which aims to raise awareness around the great gifts these older adults have to share.”
2. Increase accessibility for local and global patrons
Publishing your collections to the web widens your organization’s audience and eliminates potential accessibility issues faced with in-person experiences. For example, when the Texas-based McFaddin-Ward House Museum published their collections online in the form of a virtual museum tour, it allowed their older-leaning demographic to more easily access the information and experience the house while avoiding the accessibility challenges presented by an in-person tour of the 118-year-old home. “With [the virtual tour], those with accessibility issues can enjoy tours of the home and everyone can take whatever path they like, getting object details directly from CatalogIt data while the original items remain safe and intact,” says Todd Hoeft, an Application Developer who helped bring the McFaddin-Ward House Museum’s virtual tour to life.
3. QR Codes enable fun, quick, and easy access to object details
Web publishing not only allows for better patron accessibility, but can also significantly improve operations and access to details. The California Historical Radio Society, for example, implemented QR codes for their entire collection when publishing their objects to the web, which helps their team and visitors easily access object data online. “Now, all our object tags include a QR code, a brief description of the object, and the object's identification number,” says Walter Hayden, the organization’s Collections Manager. “It’s super convenient for anyone to scan an object’s QR code and immediately view the object’s information on their phone.”
4. Get your collections (virtually) out of storage and make them discoverable
As museum professionals know, most of the world’s collections are not on display in an exhibit space accessible to the public—they are locked away in storage. Even the largest museums typically only display about 5% of their collections at any given time. With over 95% of your collection most likely in storage, publishing your collections to the web allows scholars, researchers, and the general public to discover and access your full library of collections, enabling self-service research. In 2020 when the pandemic first hit, Missouri-based St. Joseph Museums’ research requests skyrocketed, and with limited resources they struggled to fulfill them. But they found their solution by publishing their collections to the web. "As soon as we switched over to CatalogIt, the nature of our research requests changed immediately,” says Sara Wilson, the museums’ Executive Director. “Now people have access to see what we have in our collection.”
Sharing your collections to the web and making them accessible to your community and discoverable to the public is a great way to better serve your community, be more relevant to those born digital or unable to make an in-person visit, and utilize collections that would otherwise remain virtually invisible, in storage.