Avoiding Icebergs Whilst Steering the Titanic

Professional Forum
Ryan Donahue, USA , Erin Coburn, USA, Dana Mitroff Silvers, USA, Timothy Hart, New Zealand, Carrie Barratt, USA

Organizational Change is a perpetual topic of study at Museums and the Web. Building upon the research over the last ten years, this session would serve to discuss the breadth and depth of institutional culture and to discuss specific strategies for changing that culture, particularly with large institutions.

Over the last few decades, museums have struggled through a rapidly-changing technology landscape: digital assets, the web, web 2.0, now mobile and immersive experiential technologies such as 3D scanning, 3D projection and augmented reality. Each of these presented unique challenges to traditional museum culture, and each of these transformations have taught us a lot about what leadership in the museum technology sector is all about.

Museum technology is a unique intersection of art and technology. Many institutions are building departments of technologists and content people, combining resources traditionally positioned in collection management, curatorial, Information Technology and education areas, and often these organizations can have strenuous relationships with the areas of the institution that they sprung from. This presents unique inter-departmental cultural differences, and can necessitate significant effort to guarantee a productive working environment.

Additionally, most of the academic work done in this area falls into one of two distinct groupings: technology management and museum management. Rarely, if ever, do these two worlds collide, and it can be difficult to cultivate a culture that can be effective both in the museum and in the technology world. It’s no surprise to find integrating these departments into the larger culture of the institution can be tough, and it can be even tougher for these groups to stay ahead of the pack on the technology side.

This forum will bring museum leaders together with the folks in the trenches to discuss the challenges, successes, failures and methods for characterizing current culture, determining necessary cultural adjustments and implementing organizational cultural change at the macro and micro level in large organizations.

Specific topics will include instilling an agile and responsive culture, integrating a non-traditional culture into the larger culture of the museum and establishing a cross-cultural working environment with more traditional IT departments.


Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Erin Coburn, Head of Digital Media
  • Ryan Donahue, Senior Information Systems Developer
  • Chad Coerver, Chief Content Officer
  • Dana Mitroff Silvers, Head of Web
Melbourne Museum  / Museum Victoria
  • Tim Hart, Director Public Engagement
  • TBD