Video: The digital future of museums

“There’s tremendous promise in digitised assets and information, and it’s taken us into a revolutionary moment in the responsiveness of museums,” says Jim Cuno in this video for the World Economic Forum. The Getty president describes how going digital has transformed the visitor experience, by using social media and Open Content to connect and collaborate before, during and after a visit to the museum.

Watch the video for the full talk or read key quotes below

On establishing a connection

“It’s a matter first of all of bringing people to the museums. We have paid advertising in print of course, but we also have paid advertising on the web and other digital platforms. You can see the different ways that we are reaching out to people to begin a relationship with them. Before they even come to the museum, we’re already in contact with them via the website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”

“So you’re beginning a relationship before you even come. They have their own device and can download an audio tour when they come into the exhibition. They can design their own experience of the exhibition, and can begin to learn more about what the exhibition is all about. Instagram, for instance, also allows people to curate their own experience of the Getty, and introduces them to the possibility that this is something they can be engaged in.”

On Open Content and curiosity

“We’re in the business of providing access to our assets. This is all Open Content, so it is open to you freely. We have library materials at the Getty that people can access. Getty Research Portfolio is a portal through which you have access to 14 different libraries around the world, and 60,000 art history books that have been digitised thus far, and you can download texts onto your computer. You might be interested in the provenance of a painting, and you can develop a network field of information around that painting.”

“So you’ve been invited into the museum, you’ve been informed about the exhibition, your curiosity has been provoked by one picture. You can download information onto your personal device, you can follow your curiosity beyond the painting to a network of literary associations that enhance your understanding of the picture. And all of this is done by you.”

On the responsiveness of museums

“Now the museum knows that you’re interested in Rubens, for example, so it might direct you by streaming to your device something else that might be related. We’ll know what you’re interested in and can direct information to you which you can then take or not as you wish. So it begins that dialogue. It’s not a one way street, it’s a two way street.”

“There’s tremendous promise in digitised assets and information, and it’s taken us into a revolutionary moment in the responsiveness of museums.”

Author: James Bash Cuno is an American art historian and curator, who currently serves as President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust since 2011.

Image: The feet of visitors are seen from below as they make their way along a translucent walkway at the National Museum of America in Washington. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

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