Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication

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Thoughts on museums and digital in 2016

Selfie. By Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC-BY-SA https://flic.kr/p/nk9b1w

Selfie. By Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC-BY-SA

Instead of wrapping up 2015 I decided to make a list of topics that will get special attention from me in 2016. I don’t mention specific methods or technologies like AR, VR, Big Data, mobile solutions, Makerspaces, 3D-printing, etc. Instead I look at a few areas that are essential for digital transformation. To merge analogue and digital work practice presents the biggest challenge for museums in 2016, and if done successfully will enable the transition towards the postdigital museum.

(Ed. Jan. 12, extending section on ecosystem, Jan. 15 adding to last section The Big Challenge, Jan. 19 link to HBR).

Mapping the visitor ecosystem – and walking the last mile

Illustration: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY.

Illustration: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY.

Where physical meets digital and paying attention to the last mile: Mapping (and understanding) the visitor experience, and the ecosystem in which the visitor encounters the museum, will move museums one step towards the postdigital realm. As the visitor experience now has to be delivered through multiple channels in a coherent and relevant way, digital and physical must be considered as one:

”Understanding visitor journey also means understanding that a visitor’s experience doesn’t start and end with a physical visit to the Museum. The visitor’s experience starts before they arrive, exists during the visit and extends after they leave. It starts with anticipating, planning and discovering. The experience doesn’t end when the visitor leaves.Thinking about extending the visitor journey with digital channels also requires understanding where your visitors physically are at various stages of the journey, and the digital channels and content types that make the most sense at each stage. A journey may comprise many digital channels, designed to fit specific stages and information needs and types and contexts. They do not expect multiple digital experiences, but one seamless experience with information that hands off from one channel to another and that makes sense for what they need at each stage. Visitors expect information when they want it, how they want it, and specific to the purpose.”
Catherine Devine, The Museum Digital Experience: Considering the Visitor Journey

In this effort to embrace and to deliver the omni-channel experience, an experience that might not ever involve a visit to the gallery space, museums will need to re-think organizational structures and competences. They will have to move towards multi competence teams that master digital as well as physical spaces as well as social media, storytelling and extraordinary user experience design. In this team educators have to be involved.

And most important, mapping the ecosystem will identify the last mile, the end of the museum supply chain, where the visitor (or user) experiences the museum. ”While systems of records are key as they form the backbone of information and data activation, systems of engagement and the last mile of the information process are critical.” This is also where disruptive innovation needs to take place.

Challenge: Museums will have to think carefully about who will lead the omni-channel experience productions.

Rethinking photograph collections

Analogue and digital work practices collide: Photography today is conversation. In the age of social media it has become distanced from its predecessors, the material objects closely associated with memories, as it has spread across different platforms with complementary functions. As Professor Daniel Miller states it:

”Snapchat is the culmination of a movement more generally in photography from memorialization to communication.”
Daniel Miller, Photography in the Age of Snapchat, Anthropology & Photography No. 1. 2015.

When these conversations, public or private, make their way into museums there are several challenges arising. One is to preserve the character of the photographs in the new context, the formal social memory as it is created by the museum. A museum that strives to preserve the cultural objects in fixed forms ”as a way of maintaining its historical accuracy and authorial integrity…” (Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito in Re-Collection, 2014).

And given that ”Records and archives are devices used in the process of transforming individual memories into collective remembering” (professor Laura Miller in Rinehart & Ippolito, 2014) the problem becomes clear. The digital infrastructures of the museum, the databases harbouring our collective social memory and preserving digitized physical objects, are constructed to maintain fixity, ”the world in a bottle, separated from mundane worldly time, in which philosophical objects hand like stars in suspended eternity.” (Rinehart & Ippolito, 2014).

Preserving the social media photographs requires museums to revisit their collection policies, extending documentation and preserving this information in the collection databases, and understanding what needs to be preserved (and how) to accurately present photographs in the future (and then I haven’t even adressed, technological, legal and ethical issues, that will be for upcoming blog posts).

Here are some of my previous blog posts on photography, digital and museums:

It’s a visual world (2014): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/its-a-visual-world-blogg100/

Remixed photography awarded and on display (2011): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/remixed-photography-awarded-and-on-display/

Photography matters! (2011): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/photography-matters/

Challenge: Museums will have to re-think collecting, as well as preserving and disseminating photograph collections, an effort that will inform other fields within the museum. Please read more about topic at the website of Nordic project Collecting the Digital: From a Photographic Perspective.


Prepare for omni-channel: Take content strategy seriously. When approaching the omni-channel world of museums, that require content adapted for physical, print and digital to be presented as a seamless experience, there is a strong need to prepare for new editorial efforts and skills. This area is important when moving towards the post-digital museum, as it requires skills that span across digital (social, mobile, web), print and physical spaces indoors and outdoors.

Challenge: As more content and skillful multimedia storytelling is required for omni-channel experiences, museums need to scale and coordinate their editorial efforts.

Organizational change

Moving towards a postdigital museum inevitably brings us to the topic of organizational change. Only by looking at the three areas mentioned above, user experience, collecting/disseminating photograph collections and content production we see several challenges, the need for new skills and competences when bridging physical and digital, the need to create and distribute content more efficiently etc. To withstand increased competition and to become a more flexible and responsive museum, adressing organizational change is a must in 2016.

Challenge: Identifying which parts of the organization that need restructuring, and implementing the changes.

The Big Challenge

For the past few years I have paid extra attention to the need for digital transformation in museums, and the rigid structures that prevent this change. Sensing that museums in many ways still are far from a strategic and sustainable response to technological changes, as Simon J. Knell concludes in Museums in a Digital Age (Ed. Ross Parry), 2010, the need to identify the road to success becomes even more important.

Spending the Christmas weekend reading Re-collecting by Rinehart & Ippolito I got more confident in my opinion that the challenges for achieving the postdigital museum lie not so much in the lack of catalysts, or competence or even strategy as in the built-in fear of change:

”…an institution’s plasticity is measured not by the sweeping innovations promised in its mission statement, but by the habits o fits everyday operations staffed by ordinary people.”

It’s about organizational culture, and acquiring a strong digital mindset. Rinehart & Ippolito come down quite harshly on organizational cultures that punish any missteps contradicting the museum’s often ad hoc rules, rules that prevail professional standards.

They even go as far as saying that the employees striving to ”climb up the ladder of their institution’s organizational chart…tend to reinforce the most conservative interpretation of their jobs.”

Supporting this theory are Harvard Business Review who in a recent post state that: ”The very best strategic leadership helps the entire organization understand that all of its choices result in the strategy that customers experience, creating a framework by which every person in organization makes the choices he or she needs to make.” Again, choice is here referring to the individual choices, among staff.

There is a point worth considering here. Many brilliant digital efforts have come from bottom up rather than top down, by individuals who have done outstanding work for their museums in terms of embracing digital. Indeed it has been in many ways, and still is, a path of ”…creativity, diversity, individualism and opportunism.” (Knell, 2010).

Which means that even though many museum leaders today do understand the importance and complexity of digital, truly moving towards the post-digital museum requires moving away from individual efforts (that can be supportive or not to the digital transformation), challenging rigid structures, changing work culture and embracing a digital mindset, perhaps some of the biggest challenges ahead in 2016.

Predictions for 2015

Last year I wrote this short blog post to highlight a few important areas for museums. They are still highly relevant.



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Why wouldn’t we go digital? #digitaltransformation


Two men on Northwest Airlines aircraft, one using typewriter, with female flight attendant in background, ca 1965.

Two men on Northwest Airlines aircraft, one using typewriter, with female flight attendant in background, ca 1965. University of Washington Libraries Collections, Flickr Commons. No known copyright restrictions.

”…keys to strong work motivation in three Ms — mastery, membership, and meaning. Money is a distant fourth”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, HBR Blog Network

During several trips this year to present at conferences, seminars and workshops I’ve had to take time to think about what would prevent an organisation from transforming to digital. For example, some professionals still see transformation as a threat. Therefore a risk assessment is central when planning for digital transformation, and here is my list so far of things to adress:

Lack of digital transformation within the museum

First of all, digital transformation has to be adressed. It is possible to just tag along with digital change and to wait for things to happen. But being in charge of the transformation will save time, money and be a lot (A LOT) less stressful to the staff. To enable this we need allocated staff to help the organisation navigate and transform, and yes they can absolutely have the word digital in their job title! Further I strongly believe social media can be a great way to start digital transformation because it requires most things a digital organisation needs in terms of awareness, knowledge, flexibility and readiness.

Fear of losing authority

This is particularly common among staff who’s job it has been so far to build up authority, to argue for their research and to show the audience the strong voice of the museum. It is difficult especially for scientists and academics with a higher degree to have to spend time discussing their work with non academics, amateur researchers etc. To find a common language and a common platform is necessary to bridge this very old and traditional gap. Why not compulsory tweeting?

Fear of popularizing the museum collections

In 2000 I visited Minnesota Historical Society and one thing I strongly remember is a poster with, I think Abraham Lincoln, or some other important historical person, with a red clown nose attached to his nose. This is a great reminder of that we can’t decide how the next generations will come across our collections, what their first encounter will be like. By now we (digital staff and most of our colleagues) know this doesn’t reduce our abilities to enable learning, on the contrary it opens up for new audiences. It’s all about attention and engagement. Again some staff might not see the benefits and thus chose not to participate.

Not sure about the actual value and benefits

This is a highly important problem, since evaluating the benefits of digital and social media is diffucult, it takes time and it’s more than just counting numbers of published items. This is of course something that most museum staff engaged with digital already know, but when working specifically with digital transformation this is central. If we can’t communicate the benefits to our stakeholders, they will neither set aside time nor staff and money.

Lack of funding (or re-prioritizing the budget)

Social media might be free (almost) to use, but working seriously with the digital tools and channels requires reallocating money within the organisation. To boost digital transformation we have to communicate the need for a budget to the management.

Be left in the old museum practice

To work with digital transformation we need to analyse our museum practices. Are they compatible with the digital and social world? Can we change them to be even more efficient in our work. For example when working with museum collections, digital infrastructures were originally built to support internal needs. Not to be the foundation for a social digital online presence. It is about licensing collections, making them available and relevant to online audiences, but also about connecting the digital collections with the different interfaces of today, whether it may be mobile platforms, touch screens in gallery or on web services like Wikipedia.

It’s also about looking at the collections as a resource for the museum work. Social media is completely visual, and this means for example that we need look at the photograph collections as a possible new interface to the online audience. And of course at the same time think in new terms of presenting the collections online to get attention, to engage the audiences and to enable an active and inspiring encounter between the audiences and the collections as well as with the museum.

Requires new skills

To understand and embrace social digital tools and services requires new skills. Both how to use the technologies, and to understand how they are relevant at work, in the museum. Many of us have learned this out of pure passion and interest, further education, endless talks with peers and encounters with new technologies. To those who don’t seek this new knowledge it has to come from the museum management, that enables internal training and mandate to spend time discovering and learning. We also need to think about what skills we require new staff to have. Are digital skills mentioned when recruiting new staff, all over the organisation?

Rigid inflexible organisational structures

Digital transformation requires transparency and flexible collaboration across departments. It’s easier said than done, but social media is one arena where people from all over the museum can meet and work together on a common platform. Social media is also here and now, it requires action 24/7, and it requires quick decision making further down in the hierarchies as well as open and instant communication with management. If you want to stress test your organisation, launch a social media project!


All this is well known among digital staff, but is something we need to adress when enforcing or enabling digital transformation. Everyone is not onboard. It is somewhat easier when one or two colleagues refuse to use smartphones or to learn about social media. But when the staff not onboard is found within management, or among middle management, we do have a problem. Digital staff need to communicate this within the organisation, talk to colleagues and to the management, to be able to take the next step in transformation.

Of course there are more things to add to the list above. What do you think is most important?

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Digital inclusion and the elderly population #Blogg100


Photo: Kajsa Hartig.

The central organisation Uppsalas Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd (UPS) acts on behalf of 63 associations to represent and defend the interests of the senior citizens in Uppsala, Sweden. Uppsala is Sweden’s fourth city with its 200 000 inhabitants, 70 km north of the capital Stockholm.  UPS recently analyzed the report Digidel 2013 – Increased Digital Inclusion. Digidel 2013 was a campaign (2011–2013) to increase the part of the population actively using digital services. The campaign was formed by a network of NGOs, libraries, companies and authorities.

UPS’ findings and conclusions are relevant in many ways even if you are not working primarily with elderly people, but if you are about to implement digital tools in your organisation.

In Sweden, less than 10% of the population never use the internet. Unsurprisingly, most of these non-digital citizens are seniors. The reasons for elderly not to be online are many, from cognitive and physical difficulties to pure disinterest. Another major obstacle is to start learning how to use complex technical devices. The interesting question raised by Uppsala Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd is:

To what extent is this lack of IT-proficiency a problem for an elderly population who’s lived all their life offline?

Most of those without access to the Internet already feel they are missing out a lot, from opportunities to live a less isolated life to fully enjoying their democratic rights. It is a fact that most authorities in Sweden expect all citizens to be using their online services, which have silently replaced their traditional, offline ones. Being part of the online community can also lead to better healthcare as well as a sense of inclusion, networking with people in different communities, etc. The list of situations where offline seniors are missing out is already very long and it won’t stop growing. Even worse for these seniors the digitization of services are seen as improvement and progress by the society in general.

On a national level a direct consequence of the quasitotal absence of seniors in social media media is that they are not getting the attention that they deserve in broad cast media, especially during this years national elections.

One major issue when trying to get elderly people online is that they can’t be reached through usual training programs. They don’t see the benefits of using internet to the extent that they will want to overcome technological barriers. As Digidel states in their report:

”More than seventy percent of those not using the Internet in 2013 specify ’lack of interest’ as the main reason . It may also be that the Internet is not commonly used in the environment they live in. Just less than twenty percent say internet is too complicated. The rest thinks it is too expensive or that they are prevented from using internet by practical difficulties or disabilities.”

This report and the analysis made by Uppsala Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd shows that when reaching out to elderly people, the focus should be on making everyone understand the relevance of internet (including social media) in a person’s everyday life. There is a need for computer classes, but this is not enough to attract the quite large number of elders that lack interest for Internet and new media. To put it simply, technical training initiatives won’t reach their goals if the very purpose behind this training isn’t understood by participants. I believe this approach is applicable in any organisation when implementing digital tools and services.

I will return to the subject of digital inclusion and the relevance of social media and internet to individuals in an upcoming blog post.

This blog post was written i collaboration with Matthieu Hartig, communications strategist at Uppsala Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd (UPS).


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Social and digital awareness #Blogg100


The Digital Eco System of Yale Digital Collections Center.

Introducing the idea of social digital in the organisation is a challenge, but also a necessary step when fully taking advantage of new technology. The awareness of new media varies naturally within an organisation, depending on personal experience among the staff and on priorities made by the management. Social digital is about using new technology in a way that fits into the world of online social behavior. This will eventually happen more or less intentionally, and more or less in controlled circumstances. But by taking control of this process you can avoid expensive mistakes.

First of all, for the organisation to take the step towards social digital, there has to be someone in house in charge of these issues. By that I mean someone, one person or an entire department, needs to monitor, make strategies and push the organisation into the right direction. In turn the management needs to support this process of change every step of the way.

This means the job of introducing social digital can’t be performed before the management is fully aware of what the process is about and what this will mean in terms of reallocating resources, internal training and even rethinking the vision of the organisation.

The very foundation of this process is the social digital eco system. I often refer to the Digital Eco System of Yale Digital Collections Center when talking about becoming a social digital organisation. It puts technology in relation to humans, practice (and strategies) and content in a very simple and relevant way.

Sustainability requires a holistic view that considers far more than just the technological tools. The digital content infrastructure includes an understanding the sources and uses of the digital content, policies to guide decisions, engagement with a broader community of curators and content users, as well as digital experts, and shared technology platforms and tools. The combination of these four essential components creates the coherent infrastructure for a sustainable digital ecosystem.

The Digital Eco System, Yale Digital Collections Center

So when taking control over the process of becoming a social digital organisation, starting by defining your organisation’s digital eco system is a first and essential step. And this is where the digital expertise comes in, whether it is one person or an entire department.


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What your social media team should look like #Blogg100

The social media team?

When setting up a social media presence, you need a team to manage the channels. But what should that team look like? In many smaller organisations there is often just one communicator for social media. Is that really enough?

Well lets start with the person (or people) who actually manages your social media channels. What competences are we looking for? Who is this? Johan Ronnestam gives a simple answer:

a human being who’s not afraid to talk to strangers and who’s got tons of common sense

That’s it?

Yes, it’s the communicative skill we are looking for. Meeting  and interacting with your audience is skill no 1. And to do so the person needs to be digitally socialized. Understand the cultural codes and languages of online communication.

That in itself is no stranger than getting socialized into any society. This means that it’s not the early adopter that should manage social media, but an outgoing communicating person with, as Johan says, lots and lots of common sense. Though one could argue that early adopters within social media ARE communicative. This kind of goes hand in hand.

This means all other skills HAVE to be provided for by other staff. And by other skills I mean public relations, planning, content strategy, analysis, IT etc. In itself not a strange thing. When calling or e-mailing a museum I most probably don’t want to talk to the manager but get answers to my immediate questions or have my problems solved. The same thing goes for social media.

In smaller organisations both communication and content packaging, as well as evaluation and strategy, has to be performed by probably very few people. This doesn’t mean planning and evaluation can be neglected.

In larger organisations there is room for a team that together manage social media.

So who should do what? Well IT has to be involved, setting up recommendations for security, apps and other tools. Someone has to do the copywriting, graphic design, image editing. Many people have to be involved in aggregating and creating content. And someone has to look ahead, plan, build a strategy, analyse and evaluate. 

The Social Media Team

Regardless of how your organisation shares the responsibilities for social media, it has to be clear once and for all, it’s not a one-man/woman-job.

And that goes of course for anything in an organisation. Each area of responsibility is intricately interconnected with, and depending on other parts of the organisation. Using social media only makes it more urgent to adapt to this disruptive era.


Blog post 031/100 #Blogg100 challenge