The benefits of digital museums

By / 19th of November, 2014
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Australian museums have been warned that if they don’t speed up the digitisation of services and collections they may lose relevance in the future.

Research by the CSIRO found museums that place a digital strategy at their core will engage more with their audiences and increase relationships with younger audiences.

South Australian Museum director Brian Oldman agrees with the advice laid out in the CSIRO innovation report and believes the museum is well on its way to digital success.

“What we’re finding is that digitisation creates a great interest in the collections museums have and the stories connected to those collections,” Oldman said.

So far the museum staff have digitised one million out of the seven million objects in the collection, including the Aboriginal collections which are yet to be published online.

The museum’s Biological Sciences collection is now available online at their Atlas of Living Australia website.

Digitisation creates a great interest in the collections museums have and the stories connected to those collections.
 

Collectively museums in Australia have digitised 25 per cent of their collections.

The museum’s head of digital strategy, Katrina Nitschke, said digitisation will bring in entirely new audiences from around the world.

“We get about 800,000 people through our doors every year so if we could take the objects that we have and make them available to people online we could reach millions,” she said.

The museum’s digital strategy includes virtual tours to allow rural, interstate and international audiences to the exhibitions.

“When we have new exhibitions, we’ll have a virtual digital online component, so if you can’t come in you’ll still benefit from the content through a digital element,” Oldman said.

Nitschke said that although digitising 3D objects is challenging the benefits of 3D-imaging are enourmous. The recent sex evolution discovery looking at a 385 million year old fossilised fish is an example.

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“What we were able to do with 3D technology was to take the fossils, scan them, we could produce a 3D model, and we could print that model out so that we could show people what these fossils looked like when they were fish,” Nitschke said.

“If you are a teacher you can tell the story, you can show your students about what’s happening in science today.”

The museum is also creating mobile apps, such as the Field Guide to Fauna app, to inform people about South Australia and to aid museum visitors during their time at the museum.

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“You can walk through the museum on a tour guided by this app, lets say with a school group, and they can interact with an object,” Nitschke explained.

“Then that knowledge can be downloaded by the teacher when they’re back at school and that can be a part of their ongoing learning in the classroom.”

Oldman said a strong digital strategy is worth the time and dedication of resources.

“The museum that embraces digitisation will flourish and prosper and really connect with its audiences,” he said.