Image by: Nico Trinkhaus
Museums have changed little over the centuries; objects are presented in a one-way medium, as all the information about the life and times of any given object are presented on information placards behind a velvet rope.
Human tour guides are available in most museums, and they will happily recite to you all you need to know about each object in a linear fashion. From start to finish, they will provide details with prescribed descriptions and historical anecdotes.
And this process may have been all fine and good in previous centuries, before technology raised our expectations for the availability of information, and the experience to which it is delivered.
In order to remain relevant, museums such as the Smithsonian, Andy Warhol Museum, Roald Dahl Museum, and the National Media Museum, to name a few –are fighting hard to keep visitors flowing through their corridors, and they are turning to technology to accomplish this.
Art has the ability to cross borders, break language barriers, and speak to every unique individual who observes it –and museums are beginning to follow suit.
Here are a handful of ways museums are enhancing the “personal discovery” element that contemporary museum-goers are looking for.
More Focus on Visitors: Socially Integrated Exhibits
Today’s “selfie culture” provides a number of opportunities for museums to increase online visibility while engaging with visitors.
Exhibitions are going above and beyond, by creating immersive experiences that leave digital crumbs in visitor social feeds.
Contemporary museums effectively engaging in a digital strategy are aware that cross-platform social media engagement includes a blog, and spreads deep across multiple social media channels including; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Flickr, and Tumblr – the focus will be on social networks with a high probability for reshares.
Some examples of how exhibition stand contractors are changing the way we experience museum exhibits;
Free Portraits at Headlining Exhibits
Providing free portraits for exhibit visitors by sending them over social media create a stir on social feeds, and compelling (branded) subject matter increases reshare probability.
One of my favourite examples of visitor focus which museums might choose to draw from is Intel’s “Museum of Me”.
“By visualizing elements such as your Facebook friends, photos and Likes, The Museum of Me reveals who you are as a reflection of your social graph.”
Share Options on Touch Screen Exhibit Terminals
Touch screen terminals are an excellent way to provide a complete set of non-linear data on a particular object to a visitor. Visitors have the flexibility to explore points of interest, as opposed to a pre-canned description. Additional information may include video, images, or live feeds.
If a museum is already providing touch screen terminals at their exhibits, it is a small jump to add social share functions. Implementing a share or Like option on existing or proposed systems could highlight the information the visitor found interesting, with comments, or a photo.
Live-Tweeting events is also the norm, from the Pistorius trial and TED talks, to NASA’s recent Philae comet landing –allowing the world to join in an event, exhibitor seminar through Twitter, Google+ Hangouts, or the like is definitely key to raising awareness of your subject matter to a much broader audience.
With larger museums possessing millions of objects, the process of three dimensional scans for each will take decades. In the meantime, museums are also engaging with visitors through crowdsourcing their research and exhibits.
Building upon how museums will integrate digital platforms in the future, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, G. Wayne Clough sums it up best;
“In the past, the creative activities were entirely behind the walls of museums and collection centers. The public only got to access that through labels in exhibitions, which told them what we thought. Now, in this new world, people actually will help us design exhibitions, and it will be interactive.
The future of the museum is interactive, and location independent.