The 21st century is calling; on cell phones, iPads, smart watches, Facebook, Twitter, web sites, texts and emails. The question is, are museums ready to answer?

On the one hand, it is a great time to be in the museum business. New learning and communications technology allow us to disseminate our educational messages and content to millions of learners simultaneously. We can reach out to where learners work, play, learn and live. The good news is that these networks are hungry for content and contact. We have that high-quality, trust worthy content learners are after and much of it is ready to go. So where do museums begin?

We would suggest taking a breath and beginning with an integrated digital plan that looks at the digital potential and capacity across the entire museum simultaneously; from curatorial to education, marketing, fundraising, management, and finances. The digital solutions in one area can instantly be repurposed to serve another. Synergy and cross-platform applications are at the core of these new technologies, so museums need to be systematic in their planning, integration, and applications of these new technologies. These new technologies can not only evaporate the four walls of the museums, they can also eliminate the dozens of internal walls that separate functions, outcomes, staff, and communications within our museum.

Museums like the Menil, San Francisco Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, and Brooklyn Museum of Art have all made admirable starts in this direction and their models can be useful to analyze. However, it may not be enough to admire and celebrate episodic moments of success, rather, it may be time to step back and construct a whole museum response and plan for the effective integration of digital capacity into our work and missions; to develop the first principles that will guide a museum’s decision-making and priority-setting in this critical area for 21st century museums.

We have developed integrated digital strategies for clients and believe it is an essential first step.