Museum digital projects can take a number of forms. This post will outline the most common digital project types and which activities are typically included.
These project types can be stand-alone projects, or part of a larger digital project. For all digital work undertaken, it’s ideal to incorporate activities from across the eight project types. However, there may not be enough resources to execute all activities within the same period, or the project may be better suited to maintaining a small scope of work. Regardless, having a list of all possible digital project types can aid in project creation, performance indicators, and grant acquisition strategy.
For more ideas on how to brainstorm and identify your own museum digital project ideas, please see last week’s post on Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog: How to Identify Museum Digital Project Ideas.
The 8 Most Common Digital Project Types
- Digital asset management
- Digital preservation
- Cataloging, metadata creation, descriptive work
- Reviewing, editing, updating descriptions
- Publishing collections content online
- Building, participating, managing collaborative portals
- Producing digital exhibits and other engaging products
Project Types Further Defined:
Here’s each project type further defined by the tasks entailed.
Digitization: Digitization is the act of creating or capturing a digital surrogate of an item. The type of digitization will be dependent upon the object type and if there’s a specific output (file) needed.
For more information on digitization options, please see our previous post on Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog: How to Choose the Right Tools for Museum Digital Projects.
Digital Asset Management: Whether or not your museum uses a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS), the production and management of digital files is a necessary activity for any digitization project. At a minimum, each digital file should receive a unique file name and be placed in an appropriate area for storage and further access.
Digital Preservation: In tandem with digital asset management is digital file preservation. When creating digital files, it’s important to incorporate some basic practices. At a minimum this includes producing both a preservation and access copy for each digital file and storing them on different mediums and in different locations. Additional actions may include running checksums, periodically checking file integrity, and scheduling digital file format migration.
Cataloging, Metadata Creation, Descriptive Work: Digitization usually occurs when there’s intent to pair the digital file with descriptive data about the original item. This information is captured in a Collections Management System (CMS) or a similar cataloging tool and may be published online as part of a searchable database or digital exhibit. At a minimum, the information created will assist in better collection description and management.
Reviewing, Editing, Updating Descriptions: No matter the museum size or type, there’s usually some collection description clean up, editing, or updating that can be done. Description clean up can be a great filler project performed on an as-needed basis, or as a stand-alone project for collections in particular need of updating.
Publishing Collections Content Online: Museum collections published online provide museums with a powerful way to deliver collections beyond their doors. Increasingly, digital projects include placing the digitized items online with descriptive data. Since the onset of COVID-19, access to collections online has become even more important to how museums meet their mission.
For more information on digitization options, please see our previous post on Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog: How COVID Has Changed Museum Digital Projects Forever.
Building, Participating, Managing Collaborative Portals: Technology is making it easier and easier to connect collections across geographic areas and different CMS platforms. Collections that have peers at different museums, or are represented in an archives, etc., can be collected into a collaborative portal. In addition to the large state and national portals (such as Calisphere and Digital Public Libraries of America), there are dozens of portals that now exist to help bring disparate collections together.
Producing Digital Exhibits and Other Product Creation: Museum may also elect to run a digital project with a digital exhibit or a similar end product in mind. A digital exhibit or similar project can be a stand-alone project or one of several outputs for a digital project.
Your digital project can be hyper-focused in scope, or expanded to include several of the project types listed above. Either way is OK. This list is intended to help you with the brainstorming aspect of digital project creation and the range of work that can accompany it. The scope of the digital project you create will be influenced by the priorities of the museum, the needs of the collections, and the resources you have available; there will be multiple factors to consider when developing your digital project idea. These factors will be explored in our next post: How to Choose Your Next Digital Project Idea.
Additional Reading Available via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog:
Rachael Cristine Woody
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, register here for Rachael’s upcoming webinar, “How to Identify and Select Your Next Museum Digital Project” on March 30, 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 learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.
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