Digital Fellow Update: Karin de Wild at National Museums Scotland

What problem or challenge are you addressing in your museums? i.e. what is the main objective of your research?

In Phase 1 of the One by One research it was identified that within museums, there is “little evidence for coherent, sustainable programmes to upskill staff in relationship to digital” (Barnes et al. 2018, 36). One of the recommendations within this report is that the museum sector would benefit from sustainable digital capacity-building.

Within the National Museum of Scotland we will further investigate this question: What are processes that can help the museum to build their digital capacity?

What principles / experiences / methodologies are you using to help solve this problem?

Following Argylis and Schon, I am taking an action science approach, in which the researcher helps individuals to see their assumptions and routines (Argyris and Schon 1978; Argyris 1999). By testing them and re-designing actions the goal is to stimulate learning, solve problems and eventually improve the current situation.

In Phases 3 and 4 of the One by One research, we are investigating with the museum staff: they are actively involved as co-researchers. Within the National Museum of Scotland we are developing a process which will help to systematically identify and assess digital capabilities across the museum, in different departments, teams and functions. We will test this within the museum and critically reflect on it to further improve the process. For this we make use of the action research spiral (Kemmis and McTaggart 2005), which represents a research cycle that includes ‘planning’, ‘acting’, ‘observing’ and ‘reflecting’.

A spiral-shaped diagram showing planning, acting and observing, reflecting and iterating

Action Research Spiral (Kemmis and McTaggart 2005)

What’s your next step going to be?

Together with the Digital Media team and the HR department we have developed a first iteration of the process, which we titled the ‘Developing Digital Potential Process’. In the upcoming months, we will test this process within various teams to generate new insights into its effectiveness and how we can further improve it.

Next week we will also distribute a survey, the outcomes of which will give insights into the staff’s perception of how the museum is supporting (or could improve their support of) their digital development.

Furthermore, we have set up a focus group to discuss how one can advance digital capabilities within the museum. This includes representatives from teams and departments across the museum. We are meeting monthly for advice; to discuss feedback; and to stimulate collaboration and identify further actions. Each meeting is devoted to a particular theme, and our next meeting will be about ‘collaborations and networks’.

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