How difficult is the “digital evolution” of the museum?

Nanjing Museum Digital Museum, picture source @视觉中国


Titanium Media Note: This article is the third article in the titanium media "hardcore museum" topic. Click on the topic link to see more exciting content.

The museum is meeting a revolution brought about by digital technology.

In fact, according to the titanium media, the concept of “digital museum” has been proposed for more than ten years. During this period, there has been a subversive change from the mentality of museum operators to the audience's demand for museum experience.

You can see that the exhibits with LED screens, projections and animations create a light and shadow atmosphere, and virtual interaction with the audience with 3R is nothing new in the museum world. For the undisplayed collections, the audience can also watch the audience without leaving the house, and can also play the more detailed 360° no dead ends.

With the continuous upgrading of digital technology, multimedia at the communication level, diversity and freedom in the relationship between interaction and teaching. As far as museums in China are concerned, technology has made a real difference to the face of museums. Digital technology has changed the way museums manage collections, research, curating and building relationships with audiences.

Nowadays, museums are beginning to tell their own "digital" stories.

However, the evolution of museum technology is not easy. The lack of awareness of the "publicity" of collections, the lack of funds caused by policy problems, the scarcity of cross-border talents and the shortage of "stories" in the digital core make it still difficult for museums to meet the expectations of the audience for digitization.

Dilemma one: lack of understanding of Museum's "Open" Mission

In the communication between titanium media and many domestic technical suppliers who have cooperated with museums or image cooperation, we can fully feel the trend of more and more complete technology. These suppliers all tell titanium media, but as long as there are suitable solutions for digital display, the realization of technical level is not difficult.

What's the cause?

Curators of a private art museum in China told Titan Media that the obstacle to digitalization in Chinese museums is that art museums lack awareness of the “publicity” of collections.

A typical example is that when the organization concerned wants to promote the digitization of the exhibits of an art museum in Beijing, the museum organization believes that the omni-directional digitization of works of art will make the resources that originally belonged to the collection be shared to the whole society, and the museum will lose the "exclusive nature" of the works, thus lacking its rare value-a similar concept that blocks the process of digitization in our country from the source.

Li Jun, author of Visual Art – From Church to Museum, said that

Modern museums in the process of molding for the choice of high and low, noble, young and old, the open nature of all, to give anyone the right to appreciate it, directly contributed to the museum's public universality.

In other words, the principle of openness to all the public is the mission that modern museums should perform.

Overseas, there are cases of such museums that "benefit from openness." in 2017, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, in partnership with Microsoft and MIT, made public all 375000 paintings in its collection that have entered the public domain through the Open access Program (Open Access Program). (note: internationally, within 70 years of the death of the original author of the painting and work, the copyright of the work belongs to the family of the creator and his descendants. Since then, the works have entered the public domain), these paintings can be downloaded, copied, changed, and even for commercial purposes.

Pictures available for download by the Metropolitan Museum into the public domain

Downloadable, public domain pictures of the Metropolitan Museum

Leuk Tallen, director of the digital department of the Metropolitan Museum, holds the view: “Our museum is trying to find out what it means to open the door in the digital age, ensuring that audiences around the world have access to the Metropolitan Museum and try to reduce the world. The gap between the art that inspired them, this is our global goal."

A number of museums, including the National Gallery of Washington, the Chicago Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Yale Museum of Art, etc., have also joined the open-resource camp, which is visible to the American Museum of Art, The general consciousness of the opening of resources has been formed, even in a wave of fashion.

However, whether private or state-owned museums want to accumulate a lot of collection works, it is not one day.

In addition, how to find the right balance between copyright and public openness is another issue that the art museum industry needs to think about.

At this point, there are also relatively mature cases to follow in foreign countries.

Titanium Media has previously introduced the Google Arts & Culture project launched by technology giant Google worldwide. The digital project made a great attempt to digitize the art and museum fields – moving the global 1000+ museum online.

Since 2012, Google Arts & Culture has won numerous praises from cultural fans; but at the same time, it has faced some copyright disputes.

A museum interior that belongs to Google copyright

An interior view of the museum copyrighted by Google (the picture was obtained by titanium media via official App)

In the end, Google Arts & Culture has reached the following consensus with many museums on the collection of modern and contemporary museums on the platform:

"the high-resolution images of the works of art displayed on the website belong to museums, which may be restricted by copyright laws around the world and cannot be downloaded, but links can be shared on social platforms to promote cultural dissemination; in virtual museums, the copyright of interior images of pavilions is owned by Google."

In this way, a certain balance of interests is achieved between the platform and the museum, and the rights and interests of the audience are guaranteed. Google Arts & Culture's exploration of copyright attribution provides a model for domestic Internet platforms.

Dilemma 2: "non-profit" paradox

It is undeniable that in China, there are more and more museums that actively embrace technology and seek external cooperation. Titanium media also found in interviews that most museum managers themselves do not have much rejection of digitization, and some managers even With a unique understanding and understanding, this greatly enhances the efficiency of the museum's attempt to digitize.

For example, in some smooth projects, in the technical design link, museum managers can fully respect and understand the ideas of designers, and can actively promote a series of processes such as project closing, approval and so on.

In other words, the willingness of the museum to promote the project process is more important than the “what technology wants to change”.

However, in China's pavilion museum industry, many objective factors will limit the “willingness” of museum managers. In particular, the objective is that the private pavilions are objectively insufficient. Therefore, a technology supplier interviewed by the Titanium media said that the problem that plagued them to promote the digital project is that the museum has a limited budget for digitization, and it is difficult to hold its proposed high-digit solution, between each other's supply and demand. Unable to match.

How to solve the source of museum funds is not the same at home and abroad.

According to Zhang Zikang, director of the Central American Museum, and Luo Yi, executive director of the Today Art Museum Design Museum, "Art Museum - Theory and Practice", "In many developed countries, "tax exempt" (especially "the same amount" As the core of tax exemption, a relatively complete art socialized operation system has been formed."

The so-called “same tax exemption” means that an individual or a company can use 100% of the funds donated to the art gallery to deduct the tax. In other words, this is the subdivision of taxation according to individual wishes; in addition, in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, museums The sponsor can also obtain the status of a charity and obtain a reputation. It can be said to be “three-in-one”.

In contrast, the "Development Status of Chinese Art Museums" mentions domestic tax exemption standards:

The museum accepts donations, and the museum can enjoy tax exemption; organizations or companies that provide donations can exempt the cost of the enterprise equivalent to 12% of the donation amount.

Obviously, this is far from the same amount of tax exemption in Europe and the United States. For enterprises and individuals who want to support the pavilion, there is no channel to get enough feedback and recognition, so that they lose the motivation to pay.

As early as 1999, a statistic from the American Museum Institute showed that government funding accounted for 27.9% of museum funds, 32.3% of donations from individuals or organizations, 28.6% of museum stores, and the rest came from the museum's own parent fund, which accounted for 27.9% of the funds, 32.3% of the donations from individuals or organizations, 28.6% of the museum's stores, and 28.6% of the income from tickets and publications, while the rest came from the museum's own parent fund. In other words, for the American Museum of Art, social fund-raising accounted for nearly 1/3 of the museum's revenue at the end of the last century.

It can be seen that the donation of the enterprise and the individual, under the mature museum system, is a piece of cake of the fat and thick paste fertilizer; and the "non-profit" mode, it looks more like a paradox, only the idealistic foam.

Dilemma three: scarcity of Cross-border talents

"as technology providers, we can not only provide technology, but also want to make creativity our core selling point." "there are too few cross-border people who know both technology and culture," MCM, a provider of virtual reality technology, said in an interview with titanium media.

In order to make full use of digital technology in museums, talent is one of the challenges. The first thing that museum operators have to face is how to solve the contradiction of single knowledge of museum practitioners and train more management talents who are compatible with technology and culture.

From the early digital management experience of foreign countries, the first step is the Metropolitan Museum of the United States.

At the beginning of this century, the Metropolitan Museum established the position of “Chief Digital Officer”, a digital officer leading a team of 70 people, with Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Marketing Director (CMO). Collaborate with the Chief Design Officer (CDO) to explore the digital innovation practices of the museum and build a high-quality framework for digitalization from the top-level design.

In the second half of 2017, in order to solve the problem of talent gap in the cultural industry, the UK set up a "one after another" (One by One) project, the goal of which is to carry out academic research using interdisciplinary results, especially the concept of "post-digital museum", and to provide a transformational framework for the digital literacy of museum staff.

Conceptualize the digital skills of museums as “ecosystems”

The "transformational framework" set up for museum practitioners in the United Kingdom has carried out a detailed breakdown of the museum's "digital skills".

``One after another'' project preliminary research concludes that not only helps explain the root cause of the lack of digital capabilities in the museum industry, but it is even more gratifying that it has provided an ecosystem of demand, supply, application and development of digital skills, which depicts a new macro map for how to create an innovative, creative, confident museum staff force using digital technology.


Telling an easy-to-understand story is not tantamount to pleasing and catering to the public at the expense of vulgarization.

In the previous report, Titanium Media raised the question: museums have become "net red", but what is the price? The cost of this can be said to be "from the cultural heritage of the museum itself."

For the Chinese museum, add a two-dimensional code to convert the basic information of cultural relics into audio, add interaction...and then digitize? Of course not.

What the public needs is a more digital product with a sense of participation. In the domestic digital case, we have noticed the attempt of the “Monthly Jane” section of the Shanghai Museum website.

"one Jane per month" is an attempt by Shanghai Museum to spread the explicit information and hidden information attached to the entity cultural relics to the audience in the form of multimedia and perceptual and rational channels by using a new digital means. Let the audience not only see the "magnanimity" of the museum, but also realize the "depth" of the museum. At the same time, the audience can establish the self-understanding of the museum collection in the three-dimensional dimension of various forms and different viewpoints, truly form the participating and thinking learning habits, and enhance the audience's cultural cognitive interest and ability.

For example, when displaying the Bodhisattva of the Tang Dynasty, from the origin of its origin in India, from South Asia to East Asia, the form of image, the change of meaning, the comparison of works of the same kind in western art, the monomer cultural relics were put into a broad historical and spatial background, reflecting its profound and rich cultural value. In art design, it is also optimized for web reading, and the relation between pictures and text is very strong.

Collections can be digitized, and audience preferences can be digitized. From the current domestic museums to collect, process, integrate, analyze, and open data, it is necessary to establish big data applications based on huge real data. The conditions are not mature. There are serious shortcomings in the most basic data collection, not to mention the support of the overall platform.

But to say this does not mean that our museums cannot attempt to use museum big data applications under existing conditions.

Where to find a smart entry point, open the big data application? The Nanjing Museum Digital Museum has made a good demonstration.

The Nanjing Museum's Digital Library consists of a physical museum and a virtual network pavilion. The museum houses multimedia display formats such as “multi-screen multi-screen”, “transparent screen” and “two-dimensional code”, and adopts “real-time abstraction” and “dynamic capture”. Digital technology combines space, decoration and media hardware with digital content to create a three-dimensional rich display environment. The online virtual library restores the space and content of the physical building online, allowing the audience to visit and enjoy without leaving the house.

The two-dimensional code and touchscreen game available anywhere in the digital library make the interaction between the exhibits and the audience into reality. Just open WeChat and``sweep'' to record the thought on the large screen of the exhibition hall. Tap the screen to follow the path of communication between the Han, Sui and Tang Dynasties and the West in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.


Traditional museums do not collect unobstructed channels from public sources, and digital museums are a combination of physical and virtual museums. In this museum, the virtual museum becomes a bridge connecting the public. Through virtual museums, the public explores history, questioning, supplementing, researching, and developing historical conclusions. The public stores their own cognitions and emotions in museums; museums showcase all kinds of research and emotions of the public.

In Zhang Xiaopeng’s view, “a museum can preserve the present for the future, making the general public an individual specimen for future research.”

Evolution from "one tool" to "a revolution"

China's museum business has a Medium and Long-Term Development Plan (2011-2020). The outline proposes that by 2020, the coverage of museum public cultural services will increase significantly, from 400,000 people with one museum to 250,000 with one museum. Based on the benchmark investment of 5,000-60 million yuan for small and medium-sized museum exhibitions, even if all the small and medium-sized exhibition halls are built, there will be a demand space of 100 billion yuan.

Although there are many obstacles to the implementation of digitalization in domestic museums, more and more museums have begun to break the boundaries of thinking and explore digital ways that are more suitable for them. For example, Shaanxi Province is exploring the construction of “Shaanxi Provincial Digital Museum Group”, and it has already begun. With scale: digital museum, digital museum entity experience museum, Shaanxi cultural relics network radio station, Shaanxi Digital Museum mobile museum and other "Internet + museum" various forms of display, from multiple perspectives to let the audience take the museum culture home ".

Some classic cases have also had a great impact in society, such as (CBDB), a biographical database developed by Harvard University, Taiwan Academia Sinica and Peking University of China, which has now had some influence.

Chinese historical biography database (CBDB) query interface

The Query of the Database of Chinese Characters in the Past Dynasties (CBDB)

As stated in the above-mentioned "Outline": the concept of museum digitalization will gradually evolve from "a tool" to a "revolution."

A large number of technical tools-big data, cloud computing, Internet of things technology can be fully used in building digital security integrated management platform, cultural relics protection big data platform, domestic and foreign exhibitions and so on. In addition to applying technology to museum operation and maintenance itself, management, research, service and other aspects can be gradually integrated into the digital concept, in order to really start a "revolution". (first titanium media, interview, article / Tao Amoy, cluster smile, editor / lush)

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