“...much large scale digitisation has been funded, piecemeal, over the past 20 years…with little thought to sustainability and connected growth,” (Terras et al., 2021) tell us in their article: The value of mass-digitised cultural heritage content in creative contexts. This claim has led us to consider what the future might hold for the born digital and digitised collections of today (and tomorrow) in terms of expectation, engagement and reach.
Without question, a DAM system is an entirely efficient option for the storage and management of an organisation’s digital assets, but it’s prudent to ask if this is your main priority for 2022, or are there additional values and benefits that could be gained from your digitised assets? We would say, yes, there most definitely are. We would also go as far as to say that organisations would do well to consider these values and benefits when contemplating their next digitisation project, or when looking at the next steps for their pre-existing digitised and digital born items.
It goes without saying that digitisation helps to enhance your catalogue and manage your collection, but it also primes your content for online access and discovery. Our publishing platform, PastView, was created to meet these demands and offer intelligent digital solutions, making your assets more accessible and discoverable – with the additional benefit of collection management included! So what exactly does PastView have to offer and why is it perfectly suited to your digital collection? It’s perfectly suited because PastView offers everything you need to achieve the ultimate access and discovery of your digital assets and access and discovery should be your number one priority for 2022, and beyond. Here are three reasons why:
1. Public access drives innovation
Publishing your content provides a gateway to innovation. Once live, the opportunities for how you showcase your digital assets are limitless. Visitors can enjoy instant searchability, features that recreate the physical ‘real feel’ experience, such as page turning, object viewing and virtual experiences. Further, everything is joined up: items link to items, to collections, to additional features, taking your visitors deeper into their journey of exploration and supporting them to find exactly what they are looking for – revealing relations they didn’t even know existed! HSBC’s exhibitions are a great example of exactly what can be achieved with PastView.
2. Opening opportunities to provide sources of income
Your digital items are capable of generating revenue and this can be used to help maintain your collections and support the digitisation of future collections. Through monetising access with paid downloads, subscriptions, prints, or online shops, you can offer visitors enhanced opportunities, such as unique access, a chance to subscribe to their favourite magazines or own physical copies of their favourite items. In turn, revenue generation offers greater financial security and this is significant: “While leaders overall predict a clear shift from ‘culture’ towards ‘commerce’ in the next five years…many leaders are clear that, invariably, they will need to respond to both”. (Smets et al., 2018). These very same museum leaders acknowledged the challenges associated with a commercial focus, yet reported that commercial orientation and self-generated revenue afforded them the freedom to, “do more of what we want to do”.
3. The benefit of unrestricted access through periods such as lockdown
Heritage Lottery Fund reported in their rapid response survey that, “98% of heritage organisations were impacted within the first three weeks of the pandemic,” leading Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, to conclude that, “The UK’s heritage faced its gravest threat since the Second World War”. Interestingly, this survey identified that, throughout 2020, and as a result of successive lockdowns, organisations looked to, “innovate their business model, primarily by increasing their digital capability”.
COVID-19 called many organisations to action more quickly than anyone could have anticipated with events such as the Edinburgh International Festival having to cancel for the first time since 1947. In his message communicating the cancellation of the Edinburgh Festival, Festival Director, Fergus Linehan, reflected:
Though a time of anguish and uncertainty for everyone, our PastView clients could at least be confident throughout this period that their visitors would not be overly disadvantaged by the closure of their buildings and archives. We were incredibly thankful that organisations using the PastView platform were still able to organise events and exhibitions, generate revenue, and excite their loyal visitors, attracting many new ones along the way. The HSBC History Website, released in 2021, shares the story of an incredible journey, offering a perfect example of enhanced communication and visitor engagement.
So what’s the takeaway?
We would suggest that industry priorities need to evolve with a move away from digitisation being the primary focus (with ‘value added’ reserved for some distant point in the future). Best practice would put long term vision at the forefront with digitisation as a means to that end. In fact, Terras suggests that this is about putting users “at the heart” of the decision making process. Using PastView, this approach would mean that, by the time your collection has been digitised, the most important decisions about the future of your data have already been made. Your data will have been considered and primed, ready to import into our platform; a seamless process whereby digital items will flow, segregated into an infinite number of categories, presented through an ever growing bank of glossy features, and strategically linked to drive the powerful search that will enable your content to be discovered again and again.
The added beauty of this approach is that PastView never claims or attempts to replace your physical collections. Rather, it seeks to complement and enhance them in new, exciting and engaging ways and Terras tells us that “...novel patterns and outputs can drive publics back to the library, gallery and museum to better understand the collections themselves”. This is a holistic approach that puts access and discovery first, both physically and digitally. By doing so, you will level out the playing field on which your conflicting priorities will likely collide. Suddenly, staff have the time, space and resources to be able to do their job more effectively, visitors get an experience beyond their expectations, and collections are effectively managed, organised and made discoverable.
With PastView, you will be ready to generate revenue, to showcase your content through state-of-the-art features, to confront whatever adversity the future might hold. This is why discovery and access should be your priority for 2022 and beyond. A focus that has always been, and will continue to be, our priority too.