Last month, the annual Museum Connections conference took place in the Porte de Versailles de Paris. Hosting a panel to discuss digital exhibitions, the organisers invited Vastari to present data from our Exhibition Finance Report, alongside an esteemed panel of museum professionals and exhibition producers from across Europe.

There are a number of touring exhibitions with purely digital content listed for hire on the Vastari Exhibitions Platform. Analysing these exhibitions provides interesting findings, and gives an unexpected comparison when looking at available exhibitions generally.

Firstly, the available digital exhibitions command larger hiring fees - 75% of digital exhibitions have high hiring fees of over $100,000 for a three month period. This is in stark contrast as only 37% of all exhibitions ask for a high hiring fee. These increased costs are applicable for a number of reasons, ranging from the cost of the technology involved in producing a digital exhibition, through to licensing fees and copyright payable to artists’ estates.


However, one of the benefits of hosting a touring exhibition of digital content is the flexibility in areas other than cost. For example, digital exhibitions have flexible space requirements - they can fit venues of a small or larger size. Given the nature of digital exhibitions, sizing restraints that often apply to other exhibitions, such as those focused solely on paintings, are not as constrictive. For example, digital-only exhibitions available on the Vastari Exhibition Platform have sizes ranging from 500m2 upwards, whereas paintings-only exhibitions have a maximum size potential of 1,500m2. This flexibility of size allows museums to fill a larger space with a digital exhibition, therefore it could be cost-effective to fill a space by host one larger digital exhibition rather than multiple smaller exhibitions.

The Vastari Exhibition Finance Report details that 65.4% of surveyed museums host travelling exhibitions, and 2% are actively seeking digital-only exhibitions. Of those museums that host, we know that for the right exhibition, many are prepared to increase their average hosting budget, in several cases even doubling to achieve their maximum budget. Looking further at the 2% of museums seeking digital exhibitions, and comparing this with data compiled by Vastari for annual global museum hosting budgets, museums have about $118 million annually to spend on hosting digital exhibitions. Despite only 2% of hiring budgets being allocated to digital content, this demonstrates that the market for digital content is of an attractive size globally.

So are digital exhibitions a money saver? The question was not answered during the panel and I cannot answer it now. It is clear that there is both an appetite and provision of digital exhibitions, due to their flexibility and the endless possibilities of configuration. With museum hosting budgets of potentially $118 million annually, this is certainly a section of the touring exhibition market that should not be ignored.

Image courtesy MEDARTEC, digital exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci "Experiments on Flying". More information available on the Vastari Exhibitions marketplace