Museums and digital

Museums: innovate through digital technology to find new sources of revenue.

Digital, a
new source of revenue for museums!

This week in the United Kingdom, the Minister for Culture, Oliver Dowden, is reported to have told museum directors in the UK to focus more on the commercial aspects, suggesting in particular that they should monetise their websites. Even without this outside intervention, it is clear that museums are seeking to increase their revenues. One museum director recently asked how much money his structure could make from YouTube ads (response: "Not much.").

Museums have considerable opportunities to rethink their existing activities and generate more revenue if they take advantage of digital technology.

Rethinking Membership

Membership is an important thing these days, from Netflix to Spotify, everyone has monthly subscriptions. There are even monthly subscriptions for socks!

Museums have used membership programs for years, but these are limited to a visit to a single institution. For a person living in the wilderness of northern England, a £90 membership to the Tate Modern cannot be appropriate since that person visits London only occasionally. Of course, with nearly 9 million Londoners, the Tate Modern may not have to worry about the rest of the UK. However, as a museum with an international reach, they are missing out on an opportunity. And it's not just in the north of England, the right offer could attract a large number of members from all over the world.

One solution is a digital membership that would allow members to log in and view exclusive content: interviews, films, curatorial visits and gifts.

The Brooklyn Museum had a digital membership ten years ago and one of the benefits was an exclusive artist's print. That's subscription-worthy content.

Patreon, the website that helps creators earn money through member micropayments, offers other interesting examples. For example, space photographer Andrew McCarthy charges his fans $6 a month for exclusive wallpapers of his incredible photos. 

Rethinking membership for the digital age is a huge opportunity for the sector. 

School trips

What will school trips look like next year? They will be virtually non-existent due to health and safety concerns. We have seen many layoffs in museum educational services, probably due to the fact that museums believe that revenues from schools will be greatly reduced.


There is a huge opportunity to rethink school trips using digital tools. How do we bring the museum experience into the classroom or the home? Is it with boxes of objects, virtual reality, 3D printing, cinema, audio or games?

Are telepresence robots that children can control remotely the answer? The Van Abbemuseum offered them before the crisis at a price of 40 euros for a guided tour.

What classroom activities are valuable enough for parents to be willing to pay for their children to participate, can museums create?


Online Courses

E-learning is a real business, with over 100,000 courses available on one of the largest online course sites. 

What knowledge do you have in your organization that could be turned into a course? The National Gallery in London offers a series of courses on art history. A 70-minute course on Zoom, which explores masterpieces of painting from the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, costs £75.

The audience for these digital courses is global, so a niche course can work. If your museum has one of the greatest specialists in early locomotives, there will be enough train enthusiasts to sell it several times.

Once a course has been created, you will be able to use an online course platform like Podia to automate everything. Probably the biggest challenge for museums that produce online courses is marketing them. How to find your audience


Museums are under more pressure than ever to generate online revenues. Nevertheless, they have interesting opportunities to earn money and keep key staff (such as educators) during this difficult period.

Commercial enterprises also have a role to play and could fill some of the gaps in the museums to make these ideas a reality. For example, an audioguide company could think about how to get these stories out of the museum and into the classroom.

Sophia Baladi

Sophia Baladi

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Visual Solene crop

Solène Jimenez

Would you like to carry out a data & CDP diagnosis of your organisation? Take advantage of 30 minutes of free consulting by reserving your slot.

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