From website discussions to transforming the organisation

by Nikita Mathias, Project Coordinator for Digital Visitor Experiences, The Munch Museum

Good things happen when people across departments meet and think together! As part of the GIFT Action Research, we ran two workshops to discuss how to employ our digitised collection at our new website. The discussion ended up being about much broader ideas on how to transform the organisation – by establishing hackathons and a tech lab as tools for organisational change.

What did you want to find out?

We wanted to explore what kind of culture and structures we need in our organisation in order to find valuable and productive solutions to better connect our collections and storytelling.

What did you do?

We ran two workshops, with a length of two hours each, with the following participants:

  • A curator working on an exhibition project that attempts to connect to the Museum’s online collection.
  • The project leader responsible for the new website of the Munch Museum (that will also facilitate the online collection).
  • The project leader responsible for digitising the museums collection.
  • The IT director (involved in the new website project).
  • The project coordinator for digital visitor experiences, co-curator for the exhibition mentioned above and involved in the new website project.

What all participants have in common is that they work in one way or another on and with our digitised collection. The first workshop was very structured and focused on the question of what kind of organisation it takes to successfully employ our digitised collection for entertaining, interesting and personal art experiences on the new website of the Munch Museum. How do we have to run and organise the project in order to succeed?

The second workshop happened because of the enthusiasm and productive atmosphere in the first one. At this second workshop, we had a more open discussion about potential solutions for transforming our organisation.

Was it successful?

Yes, both in terms of the quantity and the quality of the ideas we came up with. The most tangible ones were establishing hackathons as a tool for organisational change and for establishing a culture of productive failing, as well as a tech lab. Both ideas are still alive in our organisation, and we try to find ways to realize them.

In addition, the form, process and atmosphere of the workshops were in themselves cases in point for how we want to work at the museum in the future. That is, in small, agile and interdisciplinary project groups that work together in a friendly and productive atmosphere on the basis of mutual respect, thereby overcoming silo thinking within the confines of department structures.

What did you learn?

I learned that good things happen when people from across the departments meet and think together. We find out that we have common goals and ideas, and that we can speak the same language. I realised to a greater degree the potential of new employees who have recently joined the organisation. Their outside perspectives on the structures, routines and culture of the museum are extremely valuable. They bring a disruptive quality (in a positive sense) to the discussion.

What surprised you?

The enthusiasm of the participants. Initially, a second workshop was not planned. It was only due to the motivation and enthusiasm of the participants that we decided to carry on. We have in fact become a small digital think thank at the museum that meets on a regular basis to talk about the digital transformation of the Munch Museum. We (with just a few individual changes) have become formalised as an operative unit working with digitisation at the museum.