A Museum’s Guide To Blockchain: What You Need To Know

A Museum’s Guide To Blockchain: What You Need To Know

You might have first heard about blockchain in the news or maybe a friend was really excited about the technology, but if you are like a lot of people, it might have seemed more like something from a science fiction movie than anything remotely resembling reality. 

But blockchain has been used for over a decade now and it’s probably the most important invention since the internet, changing how we deal with transactions and record keeping.  

As it becomes faster and less energy-heavy, blockchain is becoming more integrated into the business community, which, in turn, is causing more companies to test out different applications for the technology. Companies like PayPal, IBM, Microsoft, and Intel are already successfully using blockchain for various applications, but its’ also making roads in retail, real estate, transportation and healthcare.

In fact, the bank JP Morgan Chase predicts that blockchain will have as big of an impact as the internet in our daily lives –it’s only a matter of time. It is predicted it will change how we interact on every level and how we experience the world – including how we visit and interact with museums. 


What is Blockchain? 

 Blockchain is a decentralized database that allows for secure, transparent and tamper-proof transactions. It does this through an ever-growing chain of data structures – known as blocks – connected together to form a chain of networks (hence the name blockchain). Each blockchain contains a virtual record of all transactions taking place across the network and a timestamp when it is added.

All new information that follows is added to new blocks that are then added to the chain. This data structure makes an irreversible timeline of information. 

Perhaps the most important aspect of blockchain is there is no single party – government, company, or organization – has control or can alter its contents. This is called decentralization. And since the records are public and permanently recorded, it offers greater security and trust throughout the entire system.

To add new information, consensus must be reached among the members of the blockchain network, ensuring no malicious activity can occur.

This way of verification means that no one person can have control over the blockchain. Each person in the network has the same power as the next. While big banks, governments, international conglomerates, and special interest groups would not have undue ability to sway the blockchain to their advantage.    

Another advantage with blockchain technology is that organizations and businesses can streamline their processes and conduct secure transactions with less complexity and risk by cutting out middlemen and third parties.

As blockchain technology continues to evolve, it is opening up a variety of new opportunities for entrepreneurs and companies who need to seamlessly record or transfer data without intermediaries like a bank, governments and other third parties, reducing red tape, organizational costs, and even mix-up. 

And while the technology has gained momentum and popularity in recent years due to its use in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, the potential uses for blockchain extend far beyond digital currencies and even into museums. 


Why is Blockchain Important for Museums? 

 Utilizing blockchain technology can provide museums with a number of valuable benefits. The first, of course, is that creating and then selling digital collectables opens up an entirely new way to fundraise and make money for the organization. 

The most notable examples are the British Museum, Uffizi Museum and the State Hermitage Museum, which have experimented by distributing digital collections in the past couple of years.

The British Museum, for example, created digital collectables from some of Katsushika Hokusa’s works. He is one of Japan’s most famous artists. The digital collectable launch coincided with the exhibition opening of another exhibition that displayed over a hundred drawings by Hokusai that have not been seen before. The works were produced in the 1820s-1840s for an illustrated encyclopedia that was never published. 

Blockchain can help with the governance of a museum. Instead of a board of directors making all the decisions about which artwork to buy, which exhibits to focus on and where to spend the money, blockchain can make the process more inclusive with the ability for more people to vote and decide on the direction.

This, which is also called a decentralized autonomous organization (DA), will allow museums to build transparency into their workflow and decision-making process. 

And while museums are by no means a political organization, politics does come into play and can cause infighting, distrust, and even dissension, especially among board members which is why transparency is so important. As museums are generally a public organizations, it makes sense that the transactions and records are kept to be viewed by the general public. 

Lastly, blockchain allows for museums to stretch beyond the boundaries of their physical location. It has the potential to foster knowledge sharing between museums, enhance educational opportunities and collaborations between other institutions, schools and build aninternational community dedicated to innovative exhibitions. The technology interconnects resources and information which can be securely shared and accessed. 


Blockchain Strategies For Your Museum 

If you’d still feeling confused, then don’t worry because you’re not alone. However, blockchain technology is increasingly being implemented by museums worldwide in order to promote digital decentralization and protect digital art pieces. 

When more museums testing out the applications for blockchain, and there are no plenty of resources to learn from. While it can be a steep learning curve, the industry support is helping museum curators solve problems of getting their institution on the blockchain. 

Creating digital collectables is often seen as the first step in using blockchain technology partly because it is the most straightforward but also can be the most profitable.

To get started, it’s best to work with an experienced company that can help you with the digitizing process, the marketing, and the selling. The learning curve is huge and it helps to partner with companies with the specific expertise to make the launch of the digital collectables a success.  

Last Thoughts 

With the popularity of blockchain continuing to grow, it could provide a great opportunity for museums that are struggling with their financial and organizational issues. Blockchain has yet to hit the tipping point so for museums and art galleries that want to get ahead of their competition and blaze new territory, blockchain is the perfect medium. 

And even for museums that want to wait and see how the industry plays out, it’s important to learn as much as they can about blockchain as is adopted by other industries. According to Blockchain Market, the industry currently sits at around $5 billion annually, but is suspected to grow by almost 70% in the next five years as companies and investment firms pour more money into it. This means that we can expect to see drastic changes