Digital Innovation: The digitalisation of the Imperial War Museum

Digital Innovation: The digitalisation of the Imperial War Museum

The digitalisation of the Imperial War Museum presented by Carolyn Royston (@caro_ft) at Digital Innovation August 2013. 4 years ago the Imperial War Museum had nearly no digital presence, now they have embraced technology and see it as a critical part of their business. Carolyn discussed some of the ways they have taken their wealth of content and given the world access.

  • The Imperial War Museum receives about 2.3 million visitors to its physical locations a year.
  • There are 4 physical museums.
  • They have:
    • The oldest film archive in the UK going back to 1916.
    • The second largest sound archive after the BBC.
    • Over 11 million photographs.
  • They are super content rich but most of it is yet to be digitalised, they want to be able to show it to people who can't get to the museums.

2009 - How it was

  • No digital media department
  • Little social media
  • Complex copyright and IP issues
  • A very old website not fit for purpose
  • No digital budget
  • Fear if content was put out they would lose control

2013 - How it is

  • 20 person digital media team considered to be critical along with their creative team.
  • The museum is no longer just physical and is open online 24 / 7.
  • New website launched in 2011 with over 500,000 new items from their collection and 45% of their sound library.
    • Multimedia put on galleries for the public to access online and download freely for non-commercial use.
    • Website traffic grew to 5 million visitors last year and is looking to surpass that this year.
  • After just 3 years (2012) the Director said "Digital is our most important channel moving forward"
  • Digital has been used to help financially
    • There is an online store which never shuts.
    • Thousands of images have been added to Getty Images which can be purchased and licensed for people to use in their own work.
  • Interaction has been increased through pushing social media, building partnerships and allowing post moderated comments in the galleries.
    • Regular events such as the war museum day where they regularly tweet an image from their war photography libraries helps increase engagement.
    • Using Flickr has provided further online presence.
    • The Google Art Project opened more paintings to an audience who may never have heard of the Imperial War Museum before.
  • Other innovative ideas have included:
    • Creating a family application to be used on tablets whilst exploring the physical museums to act as a guide.
    • Building web pages containing incredibly immersive stories which often receive over 15 minutes of engagement from users.

New challenges

  • Further increase digital activities.
  • Train non-technical staff in using technology.
  • Embed technology into their work rather than trying to add it in afterwards.
  • Enhancing their websites to better serve different audiences, giving children and adults the right experience.

2014 - A new project

  • Centenary of the First World War.
  • Launching a new website to allow people to discover, build and share the life stories of people from the first world war.
Carolyn Royston presents The digitalisation of the Imperial War Museum
Carolyn Royston presents The digitalisation of the Imperial War Museum.