Museums and Digital Culture: interview with Maria Elena Colombo

In the beautiful setting of the Boccascenacafé at the Teatro Litta in Milan, we had the opportunity to interview Maria Elena Colombo, digital consultant for museums and cultural institutions such as the Egyptian Museum in Turin, author of the “Museums [digital] matter” column for Artribune, university lecturer of tomorrow’s museum workers, on digital and communication subjects.

A new book of his, published by Editrice Bibliografica, entitled “Museums and Digital Culture – Between Narrative, Practices and Testimonies,” in which he gathers new insights and voices to interrogate the now decade-long relationship between museums and digital culture, capturing its stereotypes, resistance, illuminations and opportunities, will be released in 2020. Foundational themes on both sides, mutual conditioning and hybridizations are investigated, reading between the lines of the narrative and profiles of the protagonists, crossed with critical reading of the literature of the last decade.

For Showtimezone’s blog, we asked her for a live interview where we asked her opinion on hot topics in the process of digitizing culture, ranging from technologies to the organizational context of Italian museums, through a focus on audiences that is evolving as innovations. Interviewing her was Claudio Buda, owner of Mango Mobile Agency.

Here are our 8 questions for her and the full video of the interview:

  1. At the last LuBeC, I was struck by the words of the director of the Galileo Museum in Florence who stressed the importance of digital vendors getting more training in the characteristics of the museum sector. There is no denying that the alternative of doing everything in house is difficult; institutions rarely have the strength to have all the expertise in-house.
    So apart from the purely technical ones, would you point us to an organizational or humanistic skill that you think is necessary for those working externally or that you have been impressed to see applied in your experience?
  2. I have often heard you reiterate the importance that an institution’s digital space should reflect its brand. Is it just a matter of aesthetics or also of marketing actions taken within the channels?
  3. You’ve done a number of interviews with international practitioners and you continue to do interviews for Artribune, right? Tell us about one of the mindset differences that you think is most important, if any, between Italian and foreign institutions.
  4. I address to you a question you have often asked the interviewees of your latest book “Museums and Digital Culture” published by Editrice Bibliografica. “Are there two separate worlds out there? One online and one offline, or is there only one world? How to relate them?”
  5. NRP: Better to invest economic resources to train internal figures (who are already at the limit of their efforts) or find ways to provide more staff to agencies? If so, do you see a way to do that?
  6. The“Metaverse,” a topic to jump in on so as not to be left behind, or a technology to study but maintaining some awareness of what is most useful to do now?
  7. What do you think of tools offered as software-as-a-service, that is, tools that allow you to pay for a subscription while guaranteeing continuity and prices under control? Feasible or too complicated for the sector, especially when it comes to public institutions that have to comply with the procurement code?
  8. Do we know that in offering our apps to museums we have to accompany a device rental service because visitors seem not yet ready to agree to use only their own? Will it ever be possible to do this, leaving only the ability to carry out the experience from one’s own device?