Skip to content
>> Home > Discussion Papers > Research by Themes > R&D and Innovation > Pivot to digital: How museums and galleries responded to COVID-19

Pivot to digital: How museums and galleries responded to COVID-19

Pink interior with blue plant

As the UK went into full lockdown in March 2020, museums and galleries were faced with the prospect of having no visitors and limited audiences for the foreseeable future. 

As a result, many institutions turned to digital as a way of staying connected to their audiences. They began to experiment with new ways of opening up their collections through online platforms. For some organisations, this meant accelerating the digital strategies that they already had in place. For others, they needed to quickly learn how to innovate in order to retain and build audiences through digital systems. 

This research looks at how museums and galleries experienced this ‘pivot to digital’. It examines some of the lessons learnt by these organisations, and sets out some best practice principles for the sector going forward.

There are some fascinating insights that shed light on a sector that has struggled in the face of lockdowns and restrictions on physical visitor numbers. Communications officers who were responsible for producing digital outputs suddenly had a hugely increased workload and more responsibility. Some people reported that this pivot forced their organisation to change for the better, transforming how they engage with audiences and plan for the future. Others felt that they were put under pressure to create products and deliver online services that weren’t feasible or necessarily what they felt audiences actually wanted. 

The research is based on a series of interviews held with the people working for museums and galleries who are responsible for producing digital content during the pandemic. Among other questions, the researchers wanted to find out how the pandemic has changed people’s approaches to digital engagement,  whether they were engaging with audiences in new ways, and whether attitudes about the value of digital platforms had changed. 

Credit for hero and thumbnail images to Mo on Unsplash

Related Discussion Papers

metal wire art installation - courtesy of Alina Grubnyak
International Trade Challenges and the Effectiveness of Support Measures for the UK’s Creative Industries

The formidable challenges confronting the UK’s creative industries in the realm of exports, st…

High Street
Northern England’s Creative Industries

The Creative Industries are already a driver of growth across the UK economy. Export-intensive and m…

Side of building with artwork of man and a robin
Creative Destruction? Creative firms, workers and residential gentrification

A new study by Tasos Kitsos, Max Nathan, and Diana Gutierrez-Posada finds only a minor influence of …

Family watching a tablet
Speaking with One Voice

A fundamental remit of the BBC, and other public service broadcasters (PSBs) like ITV and Channel 4,…

Dance performance
Transitioning to Sustainable Production across the UK Theatre Sector

This discussion paper examines transitional pathways to sustainable theatre production in the UK. By…

clothes hanging on rail
Identifying and analysing UK fashion micro-clusters

The UK’s Fashion and Textiles industry contributed almost £20 billion to the UK economy in 202…

Tree close up in a forest
Net Zero as a catalyst in fashion micro and small enterprises

This report identifies examples of work taking place across three levels of change – social, e…

Union Jacks over Portobello Road, London
The Motives of Inbound Foreign Direct Investors in the UK Creative Industries

The UK’s creative industries have a global reach. British arts, technology, and design are internati…

EU Flags on flag poles
Brexit uncertainty and international trade in services: Evidence from the UK creative industries 2014-2019

This discussion paper is based on one of the first studies to look at the impact of Brexit on the Cr…

Arts centre
Working Together – Cooperatives as a creative industry business model

This authors looks at how creative workers and students typically understand cooperatives, explore t…

Music Concert
Building sustainable regional music industry clusters

This report looks at the role the creative industries can play for the Levelling Up agenda, as well …

Monkey sign on lamp post
Crypto art and questions of value

Crypto Art is a novel, emerging creative form that is entirely digital, and native to the internet. …


Sign up to our newsletter