Senior heritage leaders are ‘firefighting’ to keep their organisations afloat while also trying to provide digital alternatives to real-world conversations and innovation.

That is one of the findings of the Digital Attitudes and Skills for Heritage (DASH) survey report from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which aims to represent how the UK heritage sector’s use of digital has evolved during the pandemic.

Published today, the report brings together the responses of 4,514 individuals from 323 organisations. The survey ran from September to November 2021.

According to the report, senior leaders say they are currently concentrating on accessing sufficient funding, carrying out business-critical workflows, ensuring effective communication across the organisation while working from home, and, in many cases, providing virtual alternatives to their normal real-world offering in order to stay relevant.

The report says “the focus on functional digital activities over the past 14 months is not surprising given the impact of the pandemic: time is limited, and survival comes ahead of innovation.”

It suggests that innovation is bolstered by ‘opportunistic’ discussion and reflection both internally and with other organisations face-to-face.

The feedback, it says, suggests “an important form of information-sharing has been lost, despite the rise of ‘digital working’ and the availability of formal support materials such as those funded by Digital for Heritage.”

To further support innovation, the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s report suggests promoting the importance of informal interactions and relationships, both between people and between organisations.

“While it would be useful to consider how this might be facilitated virtually, it may well be the case that physical opportunistic interactions are preferred by some, in particular those who don’t currently feel enthusiastic about using digital as a way to meet others.”

Josie Fraser, Head of Digital Policy The National Lottery Heritage Fund writes in the report that “although the changes that have taken place over the last two years have sometimes been difficult, they are enabling more people than ever before to actively engage with and benefit from heritage. We will continue to work with the sector to secure these gains and build on them for the longer term.”

Read the full report here.

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