On the last day of March we launched a quick survey asking UK museums whether staff and volunteers are able to access their museum’s collections data from home.
To judge from the first week of our survey, the majority of respondents (62%) report that they can at least view their museum’s collections data from home (for example, from an online version of the database on a website). A smaller majority (56%) say that staff and volunteers can access the collections database remotely in order to carry on working as they would at the museum. That’s good news as and when the people in those museums are able to turn their thoughts to curating new online content or cracking on with existing projects.
But it also suggests that staff and volunteers in at least a third of UK museums don’t have remote access to the information they need to do any kind of collections-related work, even if they wanted to. And it’s not just smaller museums that are locked out of their collections data; some major ones are in the same position, at least as far as most collections-related staff are concerned.
It’s clear from the responses so far that, for many, other concerns are understandably more pressing. Some museums may close for good; quite a few respondents have been furloughed; many are within hard-pressed local authorities where the focus of IT effort and equipment is rightly elsewhere at the moment. A common theme of the responses is the wider problem of how to allow people to work remotely without compromising cybersecurity.
This is just a quick snapshot after a week of responses. We’ll keep the survey open another week and do some more detailed analysis then. If you want to tell us about the problems your museum is having – or to let us know you’re fine – please do take five minutes to respond to the survey. Where people have given their contact details and said we can share the information with their relevant system suppliers and other sector bodies, we will do our best to help. We can’t make any promises, but we will try to coordinate efforts to find workarounds where possible.