Initiated by Ars Electronica, MUSEUM BOOSTER and Ecsite, DOORS — Digital Incubator for Museums, seeks to give small and medium-sized museums across Europe an opportunity to steer the direction of the sector’s digital transformation. The challenges of digitalisation are disproportionately found within small museums where the technologies and expertise to launch and sustain digital strategies are usually unattainable. DOORS wants to reduce the digitalisation gap by creating the space for small institutions to voice their needs and offering them access to knowledge, resources, expertise and an incubation and skill-building programme.

The starting point will be an assessment of the sector, including an analysis of the needs, in-depth research of best practices and a self-reflexive diagnostics process participating institutions will engage in throughout the programme. This assessment will provide a comprehensive overview of the sector that will be the basis for the adjustment and refinement of the digital pilots conducted in two incubation stages.

DOORS aims to set up a space in which institutions and their staff, the DOORS consortium, the Orbit around the programme – advisory board members, jury members, mentors, together with experts from the creative and tech industry, engage in continuous conversation to expand each other’s understanding of what is possible, needed, and desirable in the field of museum digitalisation.

DOORS is committed to finding meaningful ways to incorporate diversity, accessibility, and inclusion strategies both at an institutional, as well as a project level. The project also adheres to the greater sustainability goals of the EU Green Deal and will stress the importance of implementing green digital solutions.

Deep Space Visualisation by CandaÅŸ ÅžiÅŸman, NOHlab/Plato Media Lab, Credit: Ars Electronica / Christopher Sonnleitner

The roadmap towards impactful digital transformations

We believe DOORS can be an important steppingstone for small museums that urgently need access to technologies and expertise. But to ensure that existing practices integrate this moment of experimentation, and that, in the future, digital strategies are present in museums across Europe, we must develop future-proof frameworks.

DOORS combines in-depth analysis of the status-quo and a self-reflexive diagnostics framework with the practical implementation of a wide array of digital pilots. We invite museums to join DOORS and submit pilot proposals to take part in a two-stage incubation programme. The incubator focuses on innovation areas crucial to any lasting transformation. Developing new revenue models, innovating audience analysis and engagement, and designing skill-building programmes for museum staff will be our overarching priorities.

The goal of the first stage in the incubation programme is to define the general terms in which digital strategies can be conceptualised and embedded into existing contexts. Forty museums will have a chance to refine their initial pilot proposals and decide on a focal innovation area, whether it is audience analysis and engagement in hybrid and digital environments, new distribution and revenue models, strategies for digital infrastructure integration, or an experimental ICT programme.

In the second stage, twenty of these institutions will work on the implementation of their digital pilots together with tech and creative industry partners and supported by members of the Orbit. The cross- and inter-sector collaboration will help overcome the discourse of competitiveness between technology and culture and fears of the digital cannibalising the analogue, to promote instead, the importance of preserving diverse forms of content distribution in society.

We want to raise awareness about the need for digital transformation in the structure of museums among policymakers and museum practitioners and will share the knowledge gathered with the broader community in two conferences organised by Ars Electronica and Ecsite. The conclusions will also be made public as a guideline for other museums looking to start their transformation. Thus, we hope to contribute to the sector’s collective knowledge and reach beyond the timeframe and geographies of the project.