News from the Field

Like, Link, Share: How Cultural Institutions are Embracing Digital Technology

By Sarah Lutman

The Wyncote Foundation releases a special report on digital innovation in cultural institutions.

In its continuing effort to understand the non-profit public media sector, the Wyncote Foundation has released Like, Link, Share: How Cultural Institutions are Embracing Digital Technology. The downloadable report and its accompanying website are the result of a year-long inquiry into the organizational capacities required for pioneering work, the investments nonprofit cultural institutions are making in media and technology, and the benefits accruing as a result of the work.

Foundation staff, policymakers, journalists, and peers helped identify the forty field leaders the report examines. During summer 2014, author Sarah Lutman made site visits to eight of these organizations, including the Philharmonia Orchestra (London), The Exploratorium (San Francisco), the Cleveland Museum of Art, and The Henry Ford (Detroit) to see the work first hand, talk with organizational leaders, and learn what conditions are fueling their innovation. The Like, Link, Share website is a gallery of digital projects, evaluation reports, and links to further information for all forty cultural institutions. Media funders will quickly see that these institutions are content-rich, expansive in their approaches to media production, and are in some cases reaching significant audiences that rival those of media organizations in size, loyalty, and engagement. Further, most of these institutions believe they are just getting started with discovering the potential of digital technology to animate their mission.

Digital innovation presents special challenges for legacy cultural institutions –- those operating for many decades –- even centuries. Converting long-standing internal systems for patron development, audience engagement, and content management is a major undertaking that requires long time-lines and significant expense. At the same time, the skills and mindset needed to participate fully and nimbly in digital culture are outside the career experiences of many senior staff and governing boards in these institutions. As community and audience expectations for engagement change, and contemporary artists and practitioners forge new definitions of their practice, legacy institutions can struggle to adapt.

Yet Like, Link, Share demonstrates the ways legacy institutions are forging bold new paths in digital culture, paths that are resulting in new avenues of public service and landmark artistic projects. Among the benefits are larger and often younger audiences, deeper audience engagement, new community relationships, new revenue, and renewed program vitality.

For further information contact Sarah Lutman at likelinkshare@lutmanassociates.com.

Sarah Lutman is Principal at Lutman & Associates

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