Immersive opera and audience analytics – government unveils digital culture vision

Royal Opera House and National Gallery sign up to technology programmes as DCMS publishes major policy paper


Institutions including the Royal Opera House and the National Gallery are participating in digital and data initiatives as part of a multimillion-pound government plan to foster greater collaboration between the cultural and technology sectors.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has this week published its Culture is Digital report, which includes a number of policy measures designed to help artists and cultural establishments use technology in their work. 

Chief among these are funding commitments of more than £2m. 

Over the next two years, Arts Council England will invest £1.1m in establishing and running a Digital Culture Network. The scheme aims to allow those involved in the sector share knowledge and best practice with peers in their region.

The network will also work with technology companies and help the arts sector develop partnerships with the tech industry, as well as providing support and backing to cultural organisations that wish to improve “their digital maturity”. 

Meanwhile, the Heritage Lottery Fund will invest £500,000 per year year in a two-year campaign “to attract high-quality projects to build the sector’s digital capacity”. The fund will also focus on building skills among its own staff.

The National Gallery and the Royal Opera House will each work on projects dedicated to exploring how digital can transform audience experience. 

The gallery will work with Nesta to set up an Innovation Lab, the aim of which will be to help the museum sector “make best use of advanced digital technologies in enhancing visitor experience and creating content”.

The Royal Opera House will establish an Audience Lab. The lab intends to foster collaboration between representatives of different sectors as it aims “to explore developing new skill sets to create innovative content using emerging technologies”.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, National Gallery director, said: “The National Gallery is committed to an ambitious five-year programme of digital change. This goes from evolving our approach to ticketing through the use of big data, to launching new mobile services, to embedding innovation in immersive media in the gallery through our forthcoming lab.”

Royal Opera House Chief Executive Alex Beard added: “The Royal Opera House is exploring immersive technology to open up a suite of new experiences, sharing the extraordinary qualities of ballet and opera with audiences old and new in our digital age. This report acts as a useful framework for all in our sectors to explore this territory.”

Other policies outlined in the report include initiatives to help cultural organisations improve how they collect, share, and use audience data to best effect. Innovation charity Nesta and the BBC will work with consultancy The Audience Agency and The Space – a publicly funded social enterprise focused on the digital culture space – to help use digital tools to bolster audience engagement.

The Intellectual Property Office and the British Library will also take part in initiatives to further organisations’ understanding of digital intellectual property regulations, while The Space will “develop a Cultural Digital Rights Code of Practice”.

A Digital Culture Code – which will be “a set of guidelines and principles which cultural organisations should sign up to in order to demonstrate a commitment to developing their own digital maturity and the maturity of the wider cultural sector” – will also be created by Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Matt Hancock, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Our cultural output has always been our unique calling card to the rest of the world and, when combined with the latest digital developments, there is no limit to our creativity. We want the UK to be the best place in the world to trial pioneering technology, while also maintaining our world-leading status as a centre of artistic and cultural excellence.”


Sam Trendall

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to our newsletter