The State of Digital Exhibitions in 2023

By: Christina Aube

The last several years have illustrated how critical it is for museums to maintain a robust digital presence and engaging site content to reach audiences in their homes, on their phones, and across the globe. But has that necessity actually translated into a wave of compelling digital exhibitions?

Digital exhibitions are online presentations of exhibition content. They may be born-digital or produced as evergreen complements to onsite displays (past, present, or future). As resources that preserve and promote the scholarship and creative contributions of team members, online exhibitions can capitalize on the significant time, effort, and collaboration that went into these unique projects.

To explore the state of digital exhibitions in 2023, I started with three central questions:

  • How many museums present exhibitions online?
  • How do you actually find these on a museum’s site?
  • How many online exhibition projects are hosted at a third-party domain?

I then visited and collected information on around 700 digital exhibitions and added them to EXH.CAT, the color-coded catalog of exhibitions. N.B. For our statistics, we did not include virtual, 3D-gallery walkthroughs of onsite exhibitions in the counts.

  • Of the 417 museum websites surveyed, approximately 20% feature easily discoverable online exhibitions (meaning I didn’t have to look too hard to find them).
  • Of those sites with digital exhibitions, most provide a prominent way to access online projects in their site navigation (referring to them as “Digital,” “Online,” or, less frequently, “Virtual.”)
  • Of the digital exhibitions visited, around 16% were hosted on a third-party website (not on the museum’s own website).

Why aren’t more museums presenting exhibitions digitally? For many, it may be that online exhibitions have historically been too costly and labor intensive to produce, requiring substantial effort from staff and/or consultants.

We believe it shouldn’t be difficult, expensive, or time consuming for museum teams to create amazing online presentations. Especially when organizations often already have insightful, edited content, professionally photographed images of objects, and built-in audiences eager to learn more about projects and collections.

Create Modules with the MOON Object System

This July we’re introducing modular content creation tools to share objects online. They’re thoughtfully designed, responsive, and perfect for informational exhibition web pages, blog posts, announcements, and digital object labels. Learn more about the MOON Object System.

Create and present exhibitions online

Soon we’ll be introducing a user-friendly platform for composing and sharing outstanding digital exhibitions. Sign up for a free Objects and Order account for updates!

Want to explore online exhibitions? We just added almost 700 to EXH.CAT, Objects and Order’s color-coded catalog of exhibitions!