Heritage risk barometer

26 October 2020

How can the heritage sector adapt and thrive in a digital age?

heritage barometer vector image - bonnet and headphones

Collaborating with industry experts

The report was developed with an advisory panel made up of leading heritage experts and identifies both the risks and potential opportunities for the use of technology.

The panel included:

Along with tech experts:

  • The Heritage Alliance
  • BlockWorks
  • Historic England
  • Arcade
  • English Heritage
  • National Trust
  • University College London

To support our findings, we also conducted a survey of 102 senior leaders working in UK heritage organisations in January/February 2020 and added a further 500 for additional research in September 2020, to look at the impact of COVID-19.

Key themes from the report

The report covers some of the key concerns in the heritage sector and gives some useful best practice examples of the different uses of technology – from risk management to visitor engagement.

Funding, increasing costs and maintenance are the top three concerns in the research, with a number of other themes highlighting the need for the industry to adapt.

Adapting post COVID

Without physical visitors, attractions have had to act fast in creating or relying on digital experiences to engage audiences.

87% have started offering digital attractions, accelerating their adoption of technology in very challenging circumstances.

Pre COVID-19, only 20% believed that technology was not fundamental to the running of their organisation. In September, with the impact of COVID-19, 87% feel the use of digital attractions will be important to their organisation in the future.

The digital skills gap

A lack of digital skills in the sector is an increasing concern over time, with less than one in three agreeing their organisation has the skills to keep pace with changes driven by technology.

More than a quarter (29%) had to improve their workforce’s skills during lockdown with 81% finding this extremely challenging.

59% agree that they risk losing relevance without technology – in fact in the September research, 83% fear for the future of the heritage sector post COVID-19 if it doesn’t adapt and use digital attractions.

Using technology and attracting visitors

Improving the visitor experience and attracting new visitors were the top two areas where it was felt technology could have the biggest impact.

60% plan to offer virtual events as a result of COVID-19, 50% video content, 44% virtual tours and 40% social media Q&As.

Post COVID-19 many organisations will look to charge for offering digital attractions, more than half (57%) via a membership subscription, 48% via a small donation and 44% a one-off fee. Only 6% say they won’t charge.