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There’s no way around it: the COVID pandemic has hit the museum industry hard. But museums are a resilient bunch and many of them have come up with novel ways to keep serving up history, culture, and education. How? They’ve gone online. But what happens to all the virtual tours, online exhibitions, and internet-based collections after COVID-19? What is the future of museums after a year in a pandemic?
Now that museums, and audiences, have discovered the power of virtual tourism, it’s hard to believe they’ll return to convention. With entire collections formatted and developed for online showing and thousands of virtual experiences rolled out for audiences around the world, it’d simply be a waste to hit delete or save to archive. No, the future of museums in 2021 will likely retain online, virtual reality, or augmented reality components.
As a content expert at Tiqets, I’ve worked with hundreds of our museum partners like the Palace of Versailles, The Met, and London’s View From the Shard during 2020 to come up with a new approach to engage audiences during a pandemic. Based on those conversations, here are four predictions about the future of museums, along with how museums can repurpose their pandemic-savvy offerings for life after COVID.
1. Having an online offering will be important for many museums’ survival.
Even as COVID-19 vaccines become available, people may be hesitant to travel, and it could be some time before travel restrictions are lifted. This means that online museum experiences will maintain their relevance for at least the next year. And the more people get comfortable with online museum visits, the more they’ll want them.
Exploring an online offering is essential to maintaining your relevance as a museum and to keeping your exhibitions top of mind. Having a good online offering can also be a way to bring in revenue during a slow period.
How to take advantage of this trend: If you haven’t already experimented with an online offering, start now. You can share part of, or all of, your collection online, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum did. You can film an online tour of your museum with commentary from one of your guides. You could even develop a virtual reality experience of one of the highlights of your museum for people to enjoy at home with the help of VR goggles.
2. It’s the age of the online museum gift shop.
Seeing as it may be some time before museums can welcome back visitors and tourists in pre-pandemic-sized droves, cultivating alternative streams of revenue will be essential. One of the most obvious places to start is your museum gift shop. From the classic fridge magnet to specially printed silk scarves, museum gift shops are a treasure trove of gift ideas and limited-edition purchases. Museums around the world have asked consumers to support them through purchasing their merchandise and this trend is likely to continue into 2021.
How to take advantage of this trend: You’ve already been experimenting with online collections, so upgrading or sprucing up your online gift shop should be a cinch. Make sure to include your gift shop merchandise in as much of your customer communication as possible, from newsletters to your website to your social media.
3. Repurpose your online offerings to promote your museum.
The rise of online advertising shows no sign of slowing down next year. With social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube exploring more video advertising avenues, it might be worth doing a little bit of exploring of your own. As museums around the world reopen next year, the battle for consumers’ attention will be extra tough, so you’ll need to be able to share your offering on as many platforms as possible.
How to take advantage of this trend: If you’ve already dabbled in the art of virtual experiences or sharing your collection online, you could be ahead of the curve. Repurpose your online offerings into social media posts and ads to give consumers a preview of your upcoming exhibitions.
4. Virtual reality will become commonplace for museums.
This probably isn’t news, but thanks to our heavy reliance on all things digital in 2020, the development of virtual reality has been fast-tracked. Just look at the V&A in London: in October of this year the museum presented its first virtual reality event to showcase an exhibition set to open in March 2021. The presentation featured a curator presentation, live special effects, and a preview of the exhibition opening in March. Whether you plan to use virtual reality to engage visitors from their homes or in your museum, one thing’s for sure: virtual reality is coming.
How to take advantage of this trend: If you’ve already identified what your visitors are most interested in at your museum with the help of online collections and virtual tours, use that information to work on your virtual reality offering. If you’d like to incorporate VR into your onsite experience, make sure you read up on how to offer an immersive experience first.
Want to better prepare your museum for the future, in 2021 and beyond? Tiqets’ team of industry experts is here to help. Check out our Recovery Package to see how we can help you bounce back stronger in 2021.
What will funding be like for museum moving forward.
WE were starting a museum before the pandemic, will virtual be good enough.