When I was a child growing up in England we had four television channels, and if I wanted to watch my favourite programme I had to wait for it to appear on my parents television set at the time which it was broadcast.
My children live in a different world, a place where broadcasting has evolved to meet and often exceed to expectations of the public. In the UK, our public broadcaster the BBC has in recent years led this evolution, with iPlayer, an on demand service which allows me to view there programmes online, on mobile or on television with the click of a button.
The service is incredibly popular, with 1 in 4 people in the UK saying they view more television via iPlayer and similar services than regular TV. In an age when the public increasingly expect services on demand at a time and place that suites them, this public service (BBC) is delivering an excellent service.
The traditional model of a museum is similar to that of television. The museum opens its doors at set times and ‘broadcasts’ through a set channel. The public are expected to be there if they wish to participate in the experience.
What we are now seeing (or need to see) is a shift towards an iPlayer model. The museum needs to move beyond expecting people to come to them, and see the value in taking their knowledge to their audiences in a format which fits in to peoples lives.
This does not only mean investing in technology (though I believe that is key), but rethinking opening hours and taking collections beyond the walls of the institution. Many institutions are doing this, yet I still find myself standing frustrated at the doors of a closed museum on a Sunday afternoon.
How would you create an on demand experience for museums?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Take over an empty shop in a shopping center and take the museum to people who might never visit spend time.
- Open later (even if it means you open later) so people can visit after work.
- Invest in digital capacity (technology and staff) and use the web and apps to be open 24/7.
- Open up your collection data through API’s to allow others to find ways to share your collection.
- Use free channels like Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Pinterest etc to take your museum beyond its walls.
I’d love to hear your ideas on how we can create an on demand museum, so please leave a comment with your thoughts.