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The Andy Warhol Museum recently drafted a new plan for digital engagement (graphic Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Art museums might have a lot to gain by upping their digital game, according to a new report released by Southern Methodist University’s National Center For Arts Research (NCAR).

The third edition of Data, the research group’s analysis of the US arts and cultural sector, found that growing online programming has helped art museums almost double their community engagement in recent years. Engagement is defined as “touch points,” or interactions with everyone from volunteers to artists to donors to audiences.

Between 2010 and 2013, the average percentage of in-person engagement grew only slightly, by about 1%. But online engagement mushroomed from 1.6% to a whopping 26.1%. That meant art museums increased their total engagement from roughly 28% to 53%, with online interactions making up about half of that.

The jump in communication engagement for art institutions may, of course, result from the fact that audiences online are automatically larger. And it mostly worked for museums with budgets of at least $6.7 million. Virtual engagement was less effective for medium-sized museums, and not at all for small museums with budgets less than $845,228.

Outside art museums, several other cultural sectors also had enormous success with digital engagement. According to the authors, the arts education, opera, and symphony orchestra sectors “more than doubled, tripled and quadrupled, respectively, their total touch points through digital programming over time.”

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...