The Next Museum Tech Professional Won’t Work for a Museum

I’m heading to New Orleans in a few weeks for the Museum Computer Network (MCN) conference. The event often yields many theories about the future of the museum tech profession. If the message matters more than the medium, should museums even have departments specific to digital media? Do museums still need digital strategies and strategists? At what point is the education staffer who posts to social media considered a tech specialist? Does MCN have a FAQ page for these?

In the spirit of the season, I’d like to put forth a prediction early. More and more, museums are seeing themselves as nodes within the network of their cities and communities. A growing number of for-profit ventures, such as Google Arts & Culture and Museum Hack, are offering services across a variety of museums. Sree Srinivasan was recently appointed chief digital officer of New York City. Museum Studies programs are producing more graduates than museums can employ.

In light of these trends, I believe the museum industry will soon see a new wave of jobs emerge outside of museums themselves. New digital strategy roles will aim to connect content across organizations and create distributed cultural experiences across cities. Most of these positions will be created by corporations, for-profit consulting firms, and local governments. But some museums will follow suit by creating roles favoring experience with community partnerships, transmedia, and professional backgrounds outside of the museum sector. For years, we have said that digital media can extend experiences “beyond museum walls.” Has the time come for tech workers to be beyond the walls as well?

One Comment

  1. Really interesting, Cait – and I think it dovetails with some of the opportunities and issues in the gig economy. It makes me wonder whether people / content / experiences are most effective when “anchored” to an institution or untethered. My suspicion is that a strong but not oppressive anchor could actually be a springboard for more powerful work.

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