British Museum harnesses big data to analyse visitor trends

British Museum harnesses big data to analyse visitor trends
Microsoft Azure and Power BI being used to help sculpt visitor experience 

Toby Ingleton |

The British Museum in London, UK, is using big data analysis to help ensure its visitors have the information they need to make the most of their trip.

The largest visitor attraction in the UK, the British Museum is the second most visited museum globally with around 6.5 million people from all corners of the earth heading through its doors each year.

The museum has previously been unable to find out how visitors explore its building, which exhibits they engage with and the routes they take to explore.

But in partnership with Microsoft, the British Museum is now using big data analysis to provide its visitors with pertinent information in the right place at the right time, and in the right language.

The museum has been able to gather information about visitors with their consent via audio guides, exhibits that visitors can interact with, and digital services. But using this data in a holistic way to enhance the museum offering was proving problematic.

A team of data scientists is now aiming to turn the British Museum into a data-driven operation by 2018. To achieve this, they will use data to identify the experiences visitors want. The team will also use data to inform decisions made within the museum regarding decisions around exhibits.

The team of data scientists recently ran a hackathon alongside experts from Microsoft, in which they aggregated anonymous data from audio guides, wi-fi hotspots and other points of interest.

This information was used to identify how long visitors spent in certain parts of the museum, which devices they were using, and their preferred language.

The data was then run through Microsoft Azure and Power BI, with interactive dashboards being created. This provided a clear and easily digestible picture of visitor data.

“We asked where most people start their journey,” said Siorna Ashby, senior project manager for big data at the British Museum. “We assumed it was the Rosetta Stone on the ground floor, but we also saw people start on the second and third floor. Power BI made this very visual for us.”

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