Because good research needs good data

Data-Driven Museums

Adrian Richardson | 22 February 2017

What would a 250-year old museum look like if it were data driven?  What are the benefits that can be delivered to museum visitors – and to staff – if we use institutional and operational data in innovative ways?  And how best do we start data conversations with staff members who are handling data in their daily work but don’t identify themselves as data practitioners?

Those are the kinds of questions that Alice Daish is currently wrestling with in her role as Data Scientist at the British Museum, London.  In her keynote address in Wolfson Hall, at 16.30 on Wed 22 February, Alice will be describing the British Museum’s journey over the last two years as it focuses on dealing with its institutional and operational data.

Alice and her colleagues are analysing operational and institutional data – for example, data generated by the sale of tickets, use of services such as audioguides and wifi, and from use of the Museum website - in order to better understand how the contemporary user wants to engage with the museum environment, and to work towards the intelligent application of analytics in order to help identify and ease visitor problems such as crowding or facilities faults, as well as improve visitor experience and engagement opportunities.  

At IDCC, Alice will also discuss some future activities by the British Museum’s team, including development of a data pipeline to encourage staff across the institution to access institutional data, and so to foster effective data-driven decision-making throughout the daily life of the museum.

It’s clear from Alice’s enthusiasm for her work that she’s determined to make the case for the value of open data to staff and in so doing, to demystify what data is and does in order to break down barriers between different institutional data silos. Empathy for the user is an important part of her plans - whether it is the museum staff or visitor, the data science team at the British Museum is keen to deliver the benefits that are genuinely of use to different users and are tightly scoped to their requirements.  Given that there are approximately 55,000 museums in the world, but that Alice can’t find any others with a directly-employed Data Scientist, it seems that we are in an exciting time for the museum sector with plenty of scope for the emergence of new data-driven museums and new examples of the benefits that open data can bring.

Alice Daish delivered her keynote address, “Data-Drive Museums” at 16:30 on Wed 22 February at Wolfson Hall, Surgeons' Hall, Edinburgh.

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