Ross Parry, University of Leicester, UK, Doris Ruth Eikhof, CAMEo Research Institute, University of Leicester, United Kingdom , Sally-Anne Barnes, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, UK, Erika Kispeter, University of Warwick, United KIngdom
Skills matter. The digital literacy of the workforce remains one of the key challenges for the adoption of technology within museums (NMC, 2015; 2016). According to Nesta, the AHRC and ACE (2014; 2015), over a third of museums in England still feel that they do not have the in-house skills to meet their digital aspirations, and rather than improving, some digital skills areas have decreased. The latest findings (Nesta and ACE, 2017) report a “lack of confidence” as a barrier—more so than the cultural sector as a whole. Addressing this pressing issue, the aim of the UK’s “One by One” national project, is to work over the next two years to understand how to deliver a transformative framework for museum workforce digital literacy.
This paper is the first sharing, internationally, of the emerging findings of the initial phase of the “One by One” research. Combining museology with leading-edge employment studies, the paper attempts to evidence the development, supply, demand, and deployment of digital skills in the UK museum sector, identifying key actors and mapping typical employment patterns and skills policies. The paper shares how digital skills are currently developed and recruited, how demand is articulated, what skills gaps exist, and what challenges impede skill development and deployment. Furthermore, it explores the shift from “technical skills” to “digital literacies” — what this shift represents, and the facilitators and inhibitors related to this shift that are recognized within the sector.
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This paper builds upon a body of scholarship that has focused on museum workforce skills and literacies. Importantly, this is work that has shown that: perceptions of the literacies required by professionals have changed over time (Marty 2006: 331); that, with IT orientated roles, the museum sector can struggle to compete with other sectors (Davies 2007); that the creative industries sector skills gaps are intensifying in part due to the speed of digital change (Creative and Cultural Skills 2011: 45); that the interplay of skills and knowledge required for modern digital curatorship is complex (Kim, Warga and Moen 2013); and that some modelling of these literacies and how they might be leveraged by the sector is possible (Baker 2013). However - as mostly surveys of existing provision - what this existing research has not attempted or investigated are substantive approaches to developing alternative and progressive approaches to digital literacy development within the museum sector. It is this methodological gap that our project aims to address, and that this paper will introduce.