Research highlights opportunities and risks of AI

© Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo / Alamy Stock Foto A blue 3D installation forming a network.

© Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo / Alamy Stock Foto

A report shows how heritage organisations in the United Kingdom are adopting AI technology in their work. Main uses of AI include managing collections, visitor experience and commercial operations.

Mathilde Pavis, University of Reading, was commissioned by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to research emerging uses of AI across museums, galleries, libraries and archives. It built on results from a survey carried out in June 2023 by the NLHF which found that 24% of these organisations are already using AI. On the other hand, 65% of respondents had not considered how they might use AI in the future. The survey also showed that attitudes towards AI were mixed. 39% surveyed said AI presented an opportunity, while 26% felt it posed a risk. And 35% were either neutral or said they did not know.

The research identifies some risks, but also states that there are solutions to these risks, from rigorous testing for discrimination, inaccuracies and transparency issues to developing policies around the use of AI. Potential risks include discrimination when using AI to identify people in images; copyright infringement when AI is used to source protected content; and misinformation from chatbots. She also warns of a lack of transparency around AI-produced content that could damage public trust, and that AI may also replace some jobs or volunteer roles.

Pavis said that “Many risks come with using AI, but as cultural leaders, heritage institutions are uniquely positioned to mould AI innovation. Realising the technology's promise requires sector-wide collaboration on its challenges."

NEMO will look into this aspect further at an upcoming conference on museums and AI that will be held in Brussels this spring within the framework of the Belgian Presidency of the council of the EU.

The research by Pavis includes examples of how organisations are using AI, such as the British Museum producing more insightful analyses of visitor behaviours by using AI systems to link and process information contained in emails, comment cards, online reviews and Wi-Fi access.