Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Embracing the digital opportunity for UK museums

May 10, 2018

Digital is transforming culture at a rate we’ve never seen before. It creates an interesting time for the UK’s 2,500 museums where we have technology and tradition colliding, as our institutions look to adapt to the shifting demands and expectations of the modern day digital-savvy consumer.

The work carried out by museums is of huge historic, cultural and scientific value, and protecting them is of the utmost national importance. But digital can take this knowledge and heritage way beyond the museum’s walls.

Technology is revolutionising everything – from the back office functions to the visitor’s experiences.

It’s through this we see a whole host of opportunities for museums to safeguard our legacy through technology, but also totally transform the way people interact with what they offer.

Cisco has been supporting the UK museums sector through our Country Digital Acceleration programme – a pioneering investment strategy and partnership with government, business and academia. Our bold objective: to harness digital technologies to improve productivity, innovation and quality of life across the UK.

In the case of museums, our work is totally aligned with the priorities set out as part of the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS)’s work around #CultureIsDigital.

Safeguarding our heritage through technology

This week we celebrated this vision of the digital museum as part of the launch of our latest white paper at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London.

We heard from two of our customers, both the NHM and the Science Museum Group, around how they’ve been embracing digital, as well as seeing some fantastic examples of this in action.

Through the application of digital, we can see it bringing benefits in four key areas for museums:

1) Collections: By digitising artefacts, artworks and specimens, it allows museums to share knowledge with audiences and researchers in new and interesting ways. The Science Museum for example combined video game technology with documentary-style storytelling in virtual reality as part of the Space Descent VR with Tim Peake – this was something guests were excited to experience on the night!

2) Sustainable growth: the cultural changes surrounding us driven by digital technology mean that customers can have very high expectations. But by using technology to elevate, simplify and enhance their visits to a museum can be a game-changer. This is something the NHM spoke about in our white paper:

“Integrating mobile experiences with CRM is massive game changer for us. Optimising a visitor’s digital content for their interests changes everything and that’s for the long-term rather than just one-off visits.” Dave Thomas, Chief Information and Technology Officer – Natural History Museum.

3) Income generation: from smarter donations, to creating new e-commerce routes to customers, museums are embracing new ways of raising funds. On top of this, according to the Government’s Strategic review of DCMS-sponsored museums in November 2017, online sales could improve customer service, reduce costs and increase revenue.

4) Operational excellence: Smart buildings is one area where we have a deep interest at Cisco – at the launch event we were able to see how NHM is able to manage the space more efficiently with the use data associated to the movement of people through the galleries.

“The UK’s future will be built around our twin expertise in culture and technology. I am delighted that leaders such as Cisco and the Natural History Museum are coming together to help museums capitalise on exciting digital opportunities.” Michael Ellis MP, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism 

Cisco’s architectural approach

Digital transformation can’t be treated on a project-by-project basis – it has to look at the entire big picture of an organisation.

At Cisco we encourage customers that we work with to take an architectural approach. In simple terms, this means technology planning that starts with the business.

This means that the involvement of business leadership is vital throughout the technology planning process and can be achieved through continual consultation to ensure business leaders clearly understand the benefits any technology investment will derive.

This is the way that we have worked with both NHM and the Science Museum Group and we’re already seeing some amazing use cases emerge in these digital museums.

Want to see the digital museum of the future for yourself? Visit and download our white paper.

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