First published on the Digital Strategy Conference blog, authored by Barret Murdock.
In 2014, Canada Science and Technology Museums made the news when a large outbreak of mould had been discovered in their Ottawa location. Brian Dawson, their Chief Digital Officer, explained how while it may have not been the best way to get on TV, it was this challenge that highlighted the need to to stay up-to-date in a culture that is in constant flux and that requires organizations to continuously battle the threat of digital irrelevancy.
“Digital Irrelevancy is Canada’s Biggest Threat”
Culture has become globalized – anywhere in the world one can receive information instantaneously from common sources such as Google and Wikipedia. This can present a problem because region-specific information and history can be overlooked by these global websites. Brian Dawson suggests that this is particularly true with Canadian history – if Canadians are not active digitally and on the web, then who will tell our stories?
Canadian Science and Technology Museums want to tell the story of science and technology in Canada and they have begun to offer a variety of digital opportunities to open up this public dialogue.
Examples of this are:
- The creation of educational video games like Ace Academy, where the player goes to flight school and experiences a series of first world war missions
- Digitization of their collection and giving the public open access to the data.
This free reign on information definitely carries a risk, but Dawson indicates that maintaining their collections relevancy in a digital landscape required a structure where enthusiasts can easily use the collections data in their personal projects. This collaboration with the public also includes crowdsourcing – asking the public to share their individual stories through text and videos, as well as encouraging social media contribution through hashtags.
Driving these initiatives, Canada Science and Technology Museums have formed Innovation Teams comprised of a wide range of experts specializing in areas relevant to a given project. Teams work in four week cycles, during which they assess and integrate both user and stakeholder feedback. This process ensures that their projects are up-to-date and that the museums remain relevant in this digital age.
The Canada Science and Technology Museums took some negative media attention and used it as an opportunity to self-evaluate and initiate positive, digital development throughout the entire organization.