One of the most difficult questions that libraries and museums have to answer in today’s digital world is how can they remain relevant to a culture that expects instant gratification. There will always be historical enthusiasts and scholarly individuals that continue to support these institutions by visiting them in person and taking advantage of the knowledge stored in their vast collections, but those numbers are dwindling every year. If Europe’s finest memory institutions are going to survive in the modern age, they need to embrace the modern world. Here are a few thoughts on what these fine institutions can do to remain vital moving forward.
Digitize their Collections
The simplest thing that libraries can do in particular is to digitize their collections and share them online. Many of Europe’s finest libraries are onboard with this reality, including The Vatican Library, which has much of its collection transformed into digital form and makes it available upon request. Digital library collections aren’t new, but the finest libraries in Europe have been a little reluctant to share their prestigious collections. This type of short-sighted thinking is slowly being replaced by a more open approach, and not a moment too soon if these collections are going to be preserved for generations to come. Europe’s greatest libraries feature extensive collections; making even a small portion of them available online is a massive undertaking, but essential if they’re going to remain relevant.
It isn’t just libraries that need to embrace the modern ways – some of Europe’s most famous museums are also struggling to hold onto prominence in today’s world. Museum curators ideally want people to visit their collections in person, and while sites such as the British National Museum and the Louvre in Paris will always have their fair share of visitors, they can’t ignore the vast amount of information available online. We can find just about anything we want online if we’re resourceful enough; if these museums aren’t on board there are plenty of other places to find the resources we’re looking for. One of the best ways major museums can address this competition is through the creation of rich virtual tours that serve to bring their fine collections to life. The best virtual tours are likely to leave the visitor wanting more, and there’s a good chance they’ll book a real-world visit in the near future.
One other way that many of Europe’s memory institutions are tackling the inevitable march of change brought on by the digital age is to create interactive online exhibits. These actually allow the visitor to engage in various fun and enlightening activities, based on the collections. These exhibits are a great way for parents and teachers to introduce children to the impressive archives and museum pieces housed in some of Europe’s greatest landmarks. This is also a useful technique for lesser-known museums to use, in order to increase their online profile and potentially convince those virtual visitors to make an actual trip to their museum.