Analog to digital transition

Museum Digital Revolution

Mark Walhimer Future of Museums, Museum Digital Revolution, Museum Strategic Planning Leave a Comment

Museum Digital Revolution

World’s technological capacity to store information in analog & digital format. Graphic by Martin Hilbert

Museums are in the middle of a museum digital revolution, changing is the way people relate to museums, the way people visit museums and a visitor’s requirements of museums.  Much of this revolution is being driven by Generation Z (people born between 1995 and the Present) the first generation to have access to the internet from an early age.  73% of 13–17 year olds own or have access to a smartphone as of August 2105 (1), Gen Z is a generation influenced by online communication and online education.

Characteristics of Generation Z:

  • Content, “Hyperconnecting. With the power of the Internet, everyone has access to the same information, meaning anyone can learn and develop skills.” (1)  Shifting from affluence to influence. It used to be that money was power, but these days the most powerful form of influence is a strong personal brand. By developing your skills and knowledge, (Generation Z ) …can influence others.(1)
  • Lifehacking, A view that “you can hack through just about anything, which means you can change the rules and break tradition to achieve great results.(1)
  • Altruistic, Gen Z wants to make a difference and they believe they can. They’ve grown up in a post 9/11 world and experienced the great recession as reminders of what can go wrong and they want to make a change.  
  • Customer Experience Oriented, A generation that has become accustomed to on-demand, simple, mission-driven businesses such as Uber and Zappos.  They are quick to notice any divergence between corporate mission and the customer experience reality.  Generation Z will align themselves with corporate images that are closely aligned with their own objectives.(1.0)
  • Social Media, “iGen (Generation Z) cannot remember a time before social media. In fact, social media is not media at all to iGen but, rather, the medium for connecting, learning, showing off, expressing oneself, debating, dating and so much more. Social media is the medium that connects iGen to the world around them and connects the world to iGen, more than any other channel or communication option.”(1.1) “Forty-two percent of iGen, more than any other generation, says social media affects how people see you. This “outside looking in” assumption affects what iGen posts, how they think about social media as a tool for making a statement and the fact that the world looks at you through the prism of social media.(1.2)”(42% of ) iGen say social media determines their happiness, well-being and self-esteem” (1.3)
  • Multicultural families, “between 2000 and 2010, the country’s Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population, according to the Census Bureau. The number of Americans self-identifying as mixed white-and-black biracial rose 134 percent. The number of Americans of mixed white and Asian descent grew by 87 percent.”(2)
  • Blurring of gender roles, “(Generation Z’ers)…felt strongly that public spaces should provide access to gender neutral bathrooms, with 70 percent of Gen Zs coming out in support”(3)
  • More independence than millennials, “To start, they tend to be independent. While a 2015 Census Bureau report found that nearly a third of millennials are still living with their parents, Gen Zers are growing up in a healthier economy and appear eager to be cut loose. They don’t wait for their parents to teach them things or tell them how to make decisions. “(4)
  • Multigenerational, “The number of people who identify themselves as being of two or more races is projected to more than triple, from 7.5 million to 26.7 million over the same period (2012 to 2060).” (5)(6)
  • Entrepreneurship, “72% of high school students and 64% of college students want to start a business someday”. (7)
  • Multi screens,
  • Inclusion, “They are inclusive. They are accepting. This is a unique quality that separates them from prior generations, and a quality these prior generations will learn from Gen Z.” (8)
  • Shorter attention spans (8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000)(8.1)
  • Multidimensional, spatial thinkers, “Some research has shown that the brains of Generation Z (Digital Natives) are structurally different than those of earlier generations. This has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with how we use our brains to respond to things in our environment. The brains of Generation Zs have become wired to sophisticated, complex visual imagery. As a result, the part of the brain responsible for visual ability is far more developed, making visual forms of learning more effective. Auditory learning (lecture and discussion) is very strongly disliked by this age group. Interactive games, collaborative projects, advance organizers, challenges, and anything that they can try and see are appreciated. (9)  Gen Z has always known how to zoom, pinch and swipe.  They have grown up with hi-def, surround-sound, 3D, and now 4D – 360-degree photography and film is their normal.  (10)
  • Global social circles, 26% of gen Z would need to fly to visit most of their social network friends (11)
  • Co-create, “Gen Z gravitate to live-streaming media, such as Twitch and Ustream.  Two-way live-streaming and video-conference (think: FaceTime and Skype) are their preferred ways to communicate.”(12)

A few museums that start to incorporate the requirements of Generation Z  (Museum Digital Revolution);  The RijksmuseumMuseum of Pop Culture, The New Museum and The Tate Modern (I welcome suggestions for other museums for Gen Z – Mark).

Requirements of the Generation Z Museum (Museums of the Digital Revolution)

  • Personalized content that can facilitate visitors to influence others
  • Content that can assist with “Lifehacking”, “how can the museum help me to change my life ?”
  • Call to action, How can I get involved?
  • Customer Experience Oriented, information that is on-demand, simple and mission-driven. A clear museum vision that allows the visitor to align themselves (or not) with the museum’s objectives.
  • Social Media, to facilitate connecting, learning, showing off and expressing oneself
  • Multicultural, multistory, muti-history approach
  • Gender neutral
  • Multigenerational
  • Event Driven
  • Multi screens (smartphones, touch screens, digital signage, changing content)
  • Multidimensional
  • Global
  • Facilitate co-creation by visitors

In the next post, I will start to further define the requirements and needed changes of required to create museum digital revolution.  Museum Digital Revolution Part II


Greatest Generation (1901-1924)
Silent Generation (1925-1945)
Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
Generation X (1965-1976)
Millennials/Gen Y (1977-1995)
–Younger Millennials (18-27)
–Older Millennials (28-36)
Generation Z (1995-Present)






















The above post is part of the research for upcoming book Museum Customer Experience (CX) to be published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2017.

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