Small But Mighty: How Small Museums are Achieving Big Success in Digital

Small but Mighty

Technology is a powerful storytelling vessel, and museums large and small are jumping aboard the tech-wave to communicate their stories and educational content. But, there is a common misconception that innovative digital solutions are exclusively reserved for the big and mighty – that is, organizations willing and able to invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into the development and implementation of, say, a new app, or digital experience. We’re here to debunk this myth. Here, we’ll highlight just how museums with tight budgets and small staffs have worked with Cuseum to develop sustainable, creative, digital solutions to drive visitor engagement as well as cut costs and save time with their membership programs.

Mobile Engagement

Smartphones have transformed the way people experience, learn, and explore the world. Museums have followed suit, seeking new ways to find and meet their visitors where they already are. We’ll take a look at a few small organizations using mobile devices to engage their visitors sustainably and in a cost-effective manner.

Museums don’t need a tech department or Chief Digital Officer to take advantage of these digital tools – in fact, they don't even need to be tech-savvy. It's easier than ever to leverage digital solutions with limited staff capacity. The Wistariahurst Museum, with only two administrative employees, and Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens, with around ten, have both successfully implemented mobile platforms to engage their visitors more deeply.

In collaboration with Cuseum, the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, Massachusetts, launched a mobile app offering tours of the museum grounds and the nearby historic district, emphasizing the historical significance of the city and the importance of historic preservation. The Morikami Museum in Florida launched a Cuseum-powered app providing tours through their historical gardens, guiding visitors through the bonsai garden, a tea house, and ancient Japanese ceremonies. In 2018, Morikami Museum took another step into digital by working with Cuseum to roll out a digital membership program.

Fairfield University Art Museum, Lyman Allyn Art Museum, and Dallas Contemporary have worked with Cuseum to launch mobile apps offering audio guides for current and past special exhibits, and in-depth gallery guides with specialized educational content. These solutions are accessible to organizations with limited resources. Leadership at Fairfield University Art Museum and Lyman Art Museum came from much larger organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. With less than 1% of the staff and resources they previously had, they were able to present their visitors with a digital offering worthy of the world-class organizations they came from.

Digital Memberships

Consider the time and money that organizations pour into manual membership acquisition, fulfillment, and retention, from postcard printing to every office employee’s favorite: envelope stuffing. Nowadays, digital membership is actually more affordable and cost-effective than traditional membership programs for large and small organizations alike. Digital memberships eliminate costs and save office employees time (not to mention pesky paper cuts!).

In 2018, both Academy Art Museum in Maryland and Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco (with approximately 16 and 13 employees respectively) launched digital membership cards with Cuseum. LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, with around 20 administrative employees, also launched a digital membership program. Their members entered 2019 with the ability to take full advantage of their membership benefits, which are now more easily accessible than ever before. The museums will cultivate happier long-term members while cutting the costs previously devoted to operating a traditional membership program.

This is a shout-out to the small organizations out there. The notion that digital solutions are uber-expensive, resource-heavy, and out of reach for small operating budgets is simply false. While it's easy to assume that new, shiny technological tools are beyond the capacity of small museums with limited staff, in reality, digital solutions can be a cost-effective way for small organizations to extend their reach.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Cuseum regularly works with organizations of every shape and size to find sustainable and affordable solutions tailored to meet the unique needs of every organization. Don’t avoid the tech-wave just because you think your organization is too small. Jump on board and get your feet wet – there’s something on this boat for everyone!


Interested in creating a mobile experience or learning how digital membership cards can benefit your organization?  Schedule a free consultation with a Cuseum expert today

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