Who are One by One? 

‘One by One’ is a multi-partner international initiative, bringing together cultural organisations, policy makers, academics, professional bodies, support agencies, and communities of practice, to build digitally confident museums.  ‘One by One’ helps museums of any size better define, improve, measure and embed the digital literacy of their staff and volunteers in all roles and at all levels.  

One by One UK-US 2020

Based on our unique research approach, ObO UK-US runs for 9 months over 5 phases – Discover, Define, Design, Deliver and Disseminate. This project asks:  

  • What are the forms of organisational leadership, business processes, institutional cultures and professional practices that need to be in place, inside the museum, to support new forms of visitor experience and participation? 
  • How can new transatlantic partnerships between both existing and new communities of cultural organisations and digital scholars help to identify, understand and develop these new practices and processes? 
  • What are the effective and scalable collaborative tools and methods that can be used to support and sustain these new research partnerships within the profession and the academy? 

 Our project partnership team includes:  

  • Commissioning Partners: American Alliance of Museums (US); and Museums Association (UK). ObO brings together the two leading museum professional bodies, each with tens of thousands of members across the sectors in the US and UK. Their role will be to oversee the direction of the partnership and to identify its strategic opportunities.  
  • Community Partners: Museum Computer Network (MCN) (US); and Museums Computer Group (MCG) (UK). For over fifty years and almost forty years respectively these two nationwide communities of practice have connected and supported museum professionals working in the area of digital technology. On ObO, they will work together not only help to disseminate the findings of the research, but to reach out and recruit practitioners to take an active role in the four ‘Community Days’ staged through the project.  
  • Research Partners: Haitham Eid (Director, Museum Studies Program, Southern University at New Orleans); and Ross Parry (Professor of Museum Technology, and Deputy Head, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester). Drawing upon their leading scholarship in the area of museum digital maturity, innovation and transformation, they will co-ordinate a wider network of digital heritage scholars in the US and UK respectively – contributing to the ‘Deep Dive’ meetings in Phase 2 (‘Define’).  
  • Museum Partners: four US partners – Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; Smithsonian American Art Museum; American Women’s History Initiative, Smithsonian Institution; paired with four ‘critical friend’ UK partners – Science Museum Group, Victoria and Albert Museum, Amgueddfa Cymru -National Museum Wales, and National Museums Scotland. 

To reduce expenses and maximize resources, this research project was designed to operate in a digital-first mode, meaning most of our messaging and collaboration would occur using a mix of fit-for-purpose, asynchronous communication technologies including Microsoft Teams and Mural, a visual collaboration workspace. Whilst this research project is identifying the conditions and contexts required to increase the digital literacies of our museum partners, all research participants are experimenting with and profiling alternative ways of working beginning with how we function as a research team. In addition to Microsoft Teams and Mural, we have established the Digital Commons, an online community for all participants of the previous and current ‘One by One’ projects to communicate with and learn from each other. The Digital Commons consists of public/private/secret cohorts, resources and agreements for designing and managing co-operative ways of delivering digital activities. Within the Digital Commons, participants discuss how digital is understood, managed, used and created across leadership, culture, visioning, people, and processes.  

One by One UK 2017-2020

One by One (UK) was a 30 month national digital literacy building project for UK museums of all sizes and types, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), led by The University of Leicester in partnership with Culture24, and delivered together with a range of museums, strategic sector agencies and academic partners.

One by One (UK) was designed to help UK museums of any size better define, improve, measure and embed the digital literacy of their staff and volunteers in all roles and at all levels. By introducing a new approach to digital literacy, understanding and development, this project created new organisational mindsets in museums to help support their digital transformation needs.

The project also aimed to practically up-skill all staff and volunteers (not just those in technical roles) with comprehensive, ongoing, formal and informal digital learning initiatives covering a range of professional and individual digital literacies, enabling staff to more confidently embed digital skills and knowledge in their work.

For the final 14 months of the project, five Digital Fellows were embedded as action researchers across 6 UK museums – National Galleries Scotland, National Museum Wales, Royal Pavilion & Museum Brighton & Hove, Museum of London, National Army Museum and Derby Museum – where they undertook a range of research interventions based on the specific needs of their partner institution.  

What does ObO offer?  

Most significantly, One by One adopts a person-centred, context-based and practice-led approach to digital transformation in museums, grounded by the idea that digital literacy must start with the individual, not with the technology. One by One takes an interdisciplinary approach to qualitative research – drawing together design thinking, agile practices and management theory with ideas from organisational ethnography, museum studies and the digital humanities.