Museums Thinking Phygital. Between Museology and User Experience

University of Malta

Museums have embraced the digital in varied ways slowly acknowledging its relevance and significance over time. The Covid-19 pandemic has underpinned the strategic use of digital tools by museums much more than before as they became unexpectedly obliged to function from behind physically closed doors. Indeed, it is fair to state that museums have come to recognize the relevance and significance of the digital to a far greater degree than they did prior to the pandemic, and museums have also acknowledged an opportunity to experiment and engage with audiences through the strategic use of digital tools. With the return of physical museum audiences (albeit in fits and starts), museums might consider this to mean that digital tools are now less relevant, rather than identifying opportunities to strike a measure of equilibrium between the digital and physical going forward. Acknowledging what has been achieved so far is certainly one point of departure, although it provides only a limited view of the broad range of possibilities that museums might have to choose from in the future.

This keynote speech shall explore the possible spectrum of museum experiences within the remit of the ‘phygital’, and how the physical and the digital can potentially interact to define a museum experience. I shall speak about the possible ‘phygital’ scenarios, ranging from what we will term ‘sustained physical’ to ‘autonomous digital’ as identified through a futures literacy methodology also anticipating possible scenarios for the phygital in terms of museums goals, objectives and available resources.