A Thoughtful Approach to Museum Digital Project Creation

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

August 04, 2021

Museum digital project creation and management requires the pairing of technical skills, specialty knowledge of the collections, and basic project management principles. 

If you work with collections, you likely have an advanced understanding of the subject matter your collections represent—as well as how to properly handle and preserve materials in the museum collection. Additionally, if you work with the museum Collections Management System (CMS), you’re likely trained in digital collection management and how to use technical functionality available through the CMS. But how many museum collection workers have prior training or experience in project management? Not many.

We’re Subject-Matter Experts and Project Management Newbies

As knowledgeable as we are in collection work, many museum staff suffer from a lack of project management experience. When we execute projects related to our digital collections work, it’s important that we incorporate a basic project management framework to help set ourselves up for success. By their very nature, digital collection projects are often complex, and without project management to rely on it’s easy for a digital project to get derailed. In this miniseries I’ll walk you through thoughtful project creation, review “must have” core project areas, and share my top three strategies that will lead you toward successful digital project completion.

Thoughtful Project Creation

The first step toward digital project management success is to thoughtfully prepare for project creation. It’s important to critically think about the “who, what, when, why, and how” of the project and allow room for discussion with other project stakeholders before solidifying details for those project aspects. With time for thought (and consultation with stakeholders) you can identify the following:  

  • Who: In most cases this is the project team. The project team includes museum staff who will be regularly involved in the project activities. The project team will be responsible for:
    • Understanding the full scope of project activities
    • Their roles and responsibilities 
    • Project deadlines
    • Attending all project meetings
  • What: For digital collection projects the “what” has two facets: 
    • 1. The end product as a result from the digital project. This could be a digitized collection, an online exhibit, etc. 
    • 2. The items involved in the project.
  • When: Digital projects often come with a deadline. This can be a grant-imposed deadline, one handed down from the museum director, or a self-imposed deadline for when you desire the project to be completed.
  • Why: In order to help protect finite resources such as staff time and museum money, it’s important to ensure that the museum digital project is in alignment with the museum mission and supports at least one area of the museum’s strategic plan.
  • How: The “how” of a museum digital project will be a combination of staff, outside experts, partner organizations, hardware, software, and the money to afford those things. Thought needs to be given to each project activity, the tools and personnel necessary, and how those items will be acquired (i.e. paid for).

Conclusion

This post provided you with a very basic overview of how to thoughtfully work through the key elements of museum digital project creation. Next week, we’ll continue with the “Who, What, When, Why, and How” framework as we get into more detail regarding the core areas of a museum digital project.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

Expert Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, Ms. Woody is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog. Register here for her upcoming webinar, “How to Create a Successful Museum Digital Project” on August 25, 2021. And learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.

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