Case: Museum Card – five years later – Devolon

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Case: Museum Card – five years later


In early May 2015, exciting days were underway as the Museum Card system was first introduced. On the same day, 180 sites were opened where the card could be sold and used, and an online shop and customer pages were activated.


Everything was ready just in time. At the beginning of February, after a year and a half of negotiations, we had entered into an agreement with the Finnish Museums Association to supply the system. The starting date was agreed to be 1 May, but as the date approached it was realised that the museums would be closed on May Day, so the opening was postponed to Tuesday, 5 May.

From the system supplier’s point of view, the Museum Card had and still has two critical features: being sold by the online shop, and registration of visits. If these are successfully handled, the rest is just ‘icing on the cake’.

In making the technological choice required to record visits, it had to be noted that museum environments, from local museums to state museums, differ greatly from each other – and so do their telecommunications networks. As there is no common cash register system for museums, the system had to be ‘stand-alone’.

The system also had to be easy to use for customer service, and fast and secure for recording visits. Moreover, the user interface had to be customisable and open to development. And since there is a vast number of museums, the price mattered a lot. On Devolon’s recommendation, the Museum Association chose a system based on RFID and Android technology, and customers were identified by plastic cards with an RFID chip and a Google Nexus tablet for museums with an RFID reader.

Whether museums would know how to sell the card and, of course, how people would take to it, also added to the excitement. In the spring, the Finnish Museums Association had organised a provincial tour, discussing the card in museums in various provinces, but since the system was not yet ready, the program could not be properly presented.

This was no cause for concern. We stayed by our phones on the first few days, but there was little feedback from the museums. We concluded that everything was going well.

Admittedly, some wondered why an old-fashioned plastic card system was set up. The simple truth of the matter was that a mobile app was not an option. Until 2015, smartphone coverage was not the same as it is today, and card buyers could not be required to own one.

Museum visitors reacted in two ways. Regular visitors to museums embraced the card quickly, but the general public seemed to take some time to understand the card itself as a simple idea. One elderly lady said that it took her months to realise that she could really visit every museum as many times as she wanted to.

It wasn’t until the second Christmas that the whole thing went off with a bang. The Museum Card gift card was launched – and word about the new product spread like wildfire. Thousands of new cards were registered during the Christmas holidays.

New museums were constantly enrolled in the system. What was initially 180 museums has grown to over 300. Free-of-charge museums have also been included, because they gain so much visibility through the card.

It was strange to see how an idea at the design desk led to yellow cards being flashed around in people’s wallets, and people wondering about the new product all over the social media. People said they were now planning trips within Finland based on museums, and new exhibitions were a continuous topic of conversation.

The Museum Card mobile app was finally launched in early summer 2020, just as museums closed by the pandemic re-opened. The app has further increased museum visits by providing users with a convenient view of nearby museums and their opening hours. The app quickly became one of the most downloaded in Finland.

The Museum Card is now an established feature of the Finnish museum sector. Together with the Finnish Museums Association, we have discussed the benefits of the card with professionals from other countries, who have visited Finland to find out more. The system is definitely an export product, but it is not easy – several things have to be handled at the same time. There must be desire, courage, expertise and resources.

It was almost unbelievable that the Finnish museum sector was ready for such a sudden, major transition. For example, the Dutch Museum Card, which served as a model for the Finnish version, gradually went nationwide on the wings of good experiences provided by the joint card for museums in Amsterdam.

Many people believe that the museum sector is rigid and conservative, but the Museum Card proves the opposite, at least in Finland.

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