How to Establish Museum Digital Project Core Areas
Rachael Cristine Woody
We kicked off this museum digital project management series with the post: A Thoughtful Approach to Museum Digital Project Creation. We used the “Who, What, When, Why, and How” framework to think through initial project elements that must precede each new digital project. This post offers more digital project creation guidance by breaking down the details of each core area.
Once the museum digital project has been given the green light it’s time to tap the “who” involved in your project. There are three main camps: Lead, Team, and Stakeholders. Here are the details for each with guidance on how to determine the details of “who” should be involved with your project and how.
Lead: This is the project lead. They’re in charge of establishing the project framework and managing each aspect of the project to ensure successful completion.
Team: This is the core project team composed of staff, outside consultants, and other partners involved in one or more aspects of the project.
Stakeholders: Project stakeholders are people who have a stake in the project’s success, but are not main or regular contributors to the project process. Stakeholders can serve as advisory members to the project and should be consulted at the beginning, middle, and end of the project to ensure their project outcome needs are being met satisfactorily.
There are a few things to establish for the “what” aspect of the museum digital project—the goal, the project activities necessary to undertake to reach that goal, and the items involved.
Goal(s): What is the desired end product by one or more of the project stakeholders? What are the quantitative as well as qualitative outcomes?
Project Activities: Based on the goals of the project, what project activities need to happen in order to reach those goals? Is there an order in which they need to happen?
Items: Given the stated goal, what museum items need to be prepared and ready for the project? For museum digital projects it’s important to assess whether they need to receive any restoration work, need to be photographed or otherwise digitized, and/or to ascertain if they already have acceptable digital surrogates available.
Timing is a crucial element to get right for museum digital projects. We’re often working within tight deadlines on multiple projects or tasks that need to be facilitated throughout any given day.
Timeline: Once project activities are identified, timelines should be established based on the estimated (or known) duration of each activity. Project activities need realistic timelines attached to them so that undue stress is not placed on the staff or vendors involved. That can lead to costly mistakes and missing important project deadlines.
Deadline: All projects will come with a deadline whether self-imposed or dictated. Whichever the case it’s important to double check the math for each project activity and its duration as indicated in the project timeline. I recommend you build in buffer time for quality checks and troubleshooting; as well as pay attention to what time of year the project activities may fall in and how those periods have historically been impacted by other museum events, inclement weather, or holidays.
The why of each project will be based on museum mission and strategic plan, grant, or related directive. Knowing why a project is being undertaken and how it fits into the broader context of the museum’s work helps to inform project decisions.
Motivation: Knowing the “why” behind a project can provide staff motivation when undertaking a project and seeing it through to a successful completion.
Alignment: By intentionally tying the museum digital project to the museum mission and a facet of the strategic plan, it can be easier to get buy-in from staff, directors, and the board.
The “how” of the project is the nuts and bolts of getting it done. The “how” may include specifications, a process or workflow, and resources (people and tools).
Specifications: Specifications should be determined at the onset of the project as they usually dictate best practices, standards, or other quality-control mechanisms. Having specifications established (e.g. selecting scan resolution and file naming standards) at the beginning will help to ensure project consistency and completing the project successfully.
Process or Workflow: If there are aspects to the museum digital project (e.g., digitizing), having an established workflow will help set a rhythm for project activities and aid in meeting the project deadline on time.
Resources (People and Tools): Every project requires resources in the form of people and tools. And for museum digital projects it makes a huge difference when you have the right project and tools. Make sure you have the resources you need in place in order to conduct and complete the project successfully.
Now that you know the core areas and information required to create a successful museum digital project, in our next post, we’ll wrap up this miniseries with a review of the top three strategies critical to museum digital project success.
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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