The composition of museum workers is often a mixture of staff, contractors, volunteers, and interns.
Museum digital projects are inherently complex and require an understanding of the technology involved. This array of complexity can sometimes silo museum digital projects as a staff-only project. However, the onset of COVID-19 has increased the pressure on museums to provide even more of their collections online, even while still chronically understaffed. Even in non-pandemic times there is room for including volunteers and interns on digital projects—as long as that is done thoughtfully.
Museum Digital Project Activities
Before we delve into the roles staff, volunteers, and interns can hold during a digital project; let’s review the activities that make up a digital project.
Activities Can Include:
- Object Preparation (for digitization)
- Digital File Management
- Content Creation (separate from the catalog)
Tip: For more information on what activities make up a digital project please see What to do When It’s Your First Museum Digitization Project via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog.
Staff, by nature of their employment, are the most consistent presence in a digital project. Additionally, staff have typically received the most training and have the most experience with digital projects. As such, their role will include establishing the structure of the project as well as overseeing the quality of work done. Staff will be responsible for establishing best practices to follow and offering training to other team members. Staff possess the core competencies to execute any aspect of a museum digital project, but should focus on the areas that require their expertise and oversight. Reviewing digital files and finalizing content for publication online are primary areas for staff focus if they have a team of people assisting in other project areas.
Interns are in learning-mode. They’ve usually received some training onsite and have an educational foundation regarding museum digital projects. They may have little to no experience, which is why internships can be so valuable. Internships, by their nature, are short-term (usually 3 to 6-months), but have a regular and consistent rhythm to them. Interns can assist with ongoing tasks that require a moderate level of digital best practice competency. Digitization, digital file management, research, and basic catalog data creation (in the CMS) are all areas where interns can help.
Volunteers may have past-career expertise or they may be in a similar learning-mode to interns. Assessing what knowledge a volunteer has is required in order to determine what training is needed. Volunteer roles are usually long-term in nature and (if run appropriately) should have a consistency of at least one shift a week. An assessment of competencies as well as availability will aid in determining where a volunteer can be of most service. If technical competency is low, object preparation, research, and initial data capture can be great areas for a volunteer to support. If technical competencies are high, the volunteer can also assist with ongoing activities such as digitization and cataloging within the CMS.
Now that museum digital project roles are established, the next posts will discuss how to ethically adapt staff capacity and create opportunities for volunteers and interns, as well as outline strategies from how to effectively work with a team composed of staff, interns, and volunteers.
Please visit these posts via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog for more information on approaching digital projects thoughtfully and the different activities that make up museum digital projects.
And, of course, don’t forget to check out Lucidea’s webinar suite for more on digital projects.
Rachael Cristine Woody
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, register here for Rachael’s upcoming webinar, “Museum Digital Projects: Strategies for Working with Staff, Volunteers, or Interns” on July 27, 2022. Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, digital museums, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, she is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter. And remember to check out Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.
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