Regardless of whether digitization projects take place as an every-day operation or as-needed, a museum will always have stakeholders in their digitization work. Sometimes we think of stakeholders only in terms of their relationship with the museum at large. What is less common is for museum staff to think about stakeholders involved with specific work. Museum digital projects are one area where stakeholders should be thought of as a priority.
Museum Digital Projects Stakeholders
Stakeholders can be both internal and external, so be sure to think about both when identifying who the museum digital project stakeholders are.
Staff: Fellow staff members who research and use the collections (physically and digitally). The most common is the museum curator, but the staff stakeholder can also be the director, a development officer, educational coordinator, etc. Viewing digital objects and object information online is more convenient (and sometimes more available) to staff than the physical methods, and prioritizing digital projects to support their work will be appreciated.
Board Member: The Board of a museum may also have an interest in digital projects, especially if the project helps fulfill strategic plan initiatives or support other areas of museum work (such as outreach or education). Keeping the Board in mind and apprised of museum digital projects taking place will help them develop more effective strategies with digital projects in mind.
Patrons: Patrons are typically the number one stakeholder museum staff envision. Patrons are visitors who visit the museum in-person or online. They can be regular visitors or one-time visitors and both should be considered when developing and prioritizing museum digital projects to meet expectations. Please see Lucidea’s post Museum Digital Collection Users & Types for more information on this topic.
Researchers: Researchers come in two forms: 1. The casual researcher who engages with the digital material for personal reasons and tends to use the digital content for enjoyment or hobby purposes; and 2. The academic researcher who engages with the material for professional reasons and tends to need digital materials for work product.
Communities: There are two forms of community stakeholders: 1. Communities connected to the collection who have very personal and historical ties to the materials; and 2. Communities that coexist locally with the museum who may rely on museum services to fill education and enjoyment needs. Both communities are important stakeholders given their coexistence with the museum and special care should be taken to understand their needs and expectations.
Remember: If the collection involves objects created by an existing community it’s critical to respectfully engage with that community from the beginning. Please see Lucidea’s post Responsible Practices for Working with Communities and Collections for more information.
How to Engage with Stakeholders
For many museum professionals, engaging with museum stakeholders may not be a normal part of the job. While it can be intimidating at first, it’s incredibly beneficial to begin conversations with your stakeholders so that you can understand needs related to your work.
Here are my tips for how to get the stakeholder conversation started:
- Begin with a light phone conversation or chat over coffee
- Invite them to your work space to describe what you do with visuals and show them the technology
- Visit their space and listen to their experiences interacting with the museum’s digital offerings and learn what their needs are
Once you’ve met with stakeholders and have observed their questions, concerns, comments, and needs, spend time reflecting upon the information you’ve gathered. Brainstorm ways in which the museum’s digital projects can help meet the greatest overlap of stakeholders’ needs. Does the digitization process need to be tweaked? Have you identified a different digital priority the museum hasn’t considered yet? Form ideas and project proposals and run them by stakeholders. If multiple stakeholders are excited by your ideas you know you’re on the right track!
Rachael Cristine Woody
Tips from a museum expert and consultant to help museum workers—and the broader museum community—survive the uncertainty of the next pandemic year.
Museums that prioritize accessibility, are ethical in job creation, and have the resources to pursue exciting digital projects will thrive in 2022
A review of how museum closures, collections deaccessioning, and digital collections actually evolved compared to Rachael Woody’s 2021 Museum Forecast
Museum professionals can take a number of actions to prepare for funding opportunities; here is a game plan from a museum expert and consultant