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This analysis of Australia's galleries, libraries, archives and museums finds that digital innovation in the sector is inconsistent and isolated, and provides a roadmap to maximise the potential of the digital economy.

Executive summary

The GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector in Australia is a diverse group of public interest organisations collecting and exhibiting cultural and environmental material. The GLAM sector currently spends approximately $2.5 billion, around 80% of which is provided by government (local, state and federal). The combined collections contain over 100 million objects (e.g. natural and human-crafted objects, records, books, artworks, recordings etc. but excluding archive material). Around 5% of this is on-display at any one time and 25% of it is digitised. The organisations that constitute the sector are charged with preserving this material as well as facilitating public access to it for research, education and inspiration.

The sector is undergoing profound shifts driven by a number of trends, chiefly those arising from the dramatic changes in how people access, share and engage in digital services and social media enabled by broadband and mobile networks. This is creating new forms of competition for the GLAM sector, challenging the sector’s traditional positions of authority and expertise and driving fundamental changes in people’s interactions with GLAM organisations and their collections.

While the study identified many examples of innovative practice from Australian organisations, Australian initiatives tend to be isolated, episodic and difficult to sustain in the long term. There were also areas where Australia is trailing international best practice, specifically concerning the digitisation and access to artworks, books and audio-visual collections, most of which require new approaches to managing copyright and other clearances.

The study identified that only a few Australian GLAM organisations have made fundamental changes to their planning, structures and operations to place innovation and digital services at the core rather than as add-on activities. While nearly all GLAM organisations in Australia have started to make this sometimes-difficult transformation, most are yet to complete this process.

The innovation study team consulted with the people from state, national and local galleries, libraries, archives and museums, researchers and international experts – people actively involved in either sponsoring or managing innovation projects – to ask what are the key transformations this sector needs to make to thrive in the emerging digital environment of the next two decades?

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