The Challenge & Context
Museums have multiple remits, but with year-on-year reductions in budgets, they increasingly have to demonstrate their ability to have broader educational and societal impact.
Over the past decade or so, museums have been quickly getting up to speed with ways in which they can harness digital technologies and interaction design, and experiential exhibits are the perfect medium to do so.
Here are some standout examples…
Cleveland Museum of Art, ArtLens Wall
The Cleveland Museum of Art’s ArtLens Wall, is a 40-foot interactive, multi-touch, MicroTile display wall.
Why it’s significant?
- Viewing a collection in person is constrained by how fast you get around, it’s very linear, dependent on layout, and, your experience is limited by how you get around physically.
- Visitors’ “favouriting” and sharing activity creates metrics that enable museum staff to understand what artworks visitors are interacting with, and in turn, this provides a useful feedback loop for the museum.
- The docks at interactive stations in the ArtLens Exhibition interact with the app to save artworks directly to the camera roll.
- It uses the visitors own device in conjunction with an app, to assist in way-finding.
The Mona’s O
The Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) is often cited as the museum operating at the cutting edge of “in-museum” visitors’ mobile experiences, and it does this through a specially developed app.
The Mona’s ‘O’ is an iOS app, on visitors’ own devices or museum supplied devices and its aim is to replace the text on the walls. The O tells visitors what they are looking at, wherever they are in the 8,000 square metre museum, using indoor positioning and proximity based technology.
Varying levels of interpretation can be sought from the app, and more interestingly, user-generated content takes the form of being able to ‘Love’ or ‘Hate’ the artwork and leave comments!
20% of the visitors then create their own account which encourages repeat visits and opens up a channel for the O which can fuel future experiences and marketing. According to Mona, a study of the visitors stated:
- 92% of visitors used the The O at least part of the time.
- 73% of visitors used The O throughout their experience
- 80% said The O enhanced their experience of the museum
- 59% intend to return to the museum again.
The most striking aspect about having locative technology like this in your museum, is what it enables in terms of analytics and visit replay!
What’s special about ‘The O’?
- Although multimedia and audio tour guides are not new in the museum space, they are the premium extra and optional layer of experience. The value proposition with the Mona is bucking this trend and providing it as standard.
- Object labels and signage, usually serve different purposes. Most of the public don’t need to know what the accession number is, or who bequeathed the item to the collection. The Mona acknowledges that the traditional interpretive approaches to work in Museums are outmoded and a bit stuffy, and to this end The O really respects the visitors attention space. Visitors are encouraged to get lost and curate their own experience without being assaulted by all the information available on a piece of artwork. The onus is on the visitor choosing the level of interpretation that mostly speaks to them.
- The museum is saying it’s okay to “love” or “hate” these works, opening it up to personal interpretation.
New Museum in New York – X APPLE.
The New Museum in New York worked with a number of distinguished artists such as, Nick Cave and Pipilotti Rist, to curate a specially choreographed [AR]T Walk—a guided walking tour of six AR art pieces starting at select Apple Stores around the world. Through the curated works of the artists, poetry and visual content are conveyed at various stops along the walk to the participants.
Why this is significant?
- AR has its place in cultural experiences, and demand will continue to rise for richer experiences; everything from interactive works, to personalised ones. People want to be shown fantastical things, with significant polish.
- Artists are always pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology creatively and technically, so for this nascent medium there is still a lot of fertile ground for exploration.
Royal Armouries RA/ID Museum Mission and Escape Room Experience
Not all experiences have to incorporate technology at their core. Some can be low-fi in nature, utilise the collection meaningfully, and have a great engagement value for the participants.
To this end, the Royal Armouries has introduced its collaboration with The Great Escape which consists of a puzzle trail with clues situated in the museum’s galleries, as well as a traditional escape room component.
Why is this significant?
- The Royal Armouries house some 70,000 examples of arms and armour, with only around 8,500 of those on display at any given time. This is an entertainment product which creates a new relationship with some of those exhibits on display through gaming interactions, and does so in a social way.
- There’s a long history of theatrical techniques and re-enactment used by museums to great effect, and a great deal of learning that can be embedded in entirely new contexts and modes of interaction.
- There’s also a real chance to make the audience or participants come away having felt like they have not only seen and learned something, but experienced it.
These projects seek to redefine the relationship between collections, visitors and curators. They’re trying to meet new expectations in an age of dwindling attention spans and redefine what a museum experience should be through the lens of emerging technologies. They’re also seeking to explore the role of partnerships with specialists who have domain expertise of their own.
At Creode we believe that Museum strategy and digital strategy are integrated, we offer consultancy services, workshops and tailored support for Arts, Culture and Heritage organisations looking to enrich their visitor experiences and boost their audience development agenda strategically.
Get in touch to find out how we can work with you.