Museums all over the country are exploring new avenues to bring in visitors. Gone are the days of static exhibits with the occasional movie or music feature. Now, museums must work to provide visitors with ways to interact, engage, and even transform exhibits.
New technology presents myriad ways to captivate audiences. If you’re venturing into one of these new options, here are four things to keep in mind.
1. Increase investment in physical collections and experiences Museums are destinations that offer rich educational experiences, so when you’re looking to implement technology make sure to keep physical collections in mind. Evaluate each technology option to make sure it complements what’s happening inside the museum. The last thing any museum curator wants is to walk into an expensive exhibit and see visitors engaged in technology that transports them outside the museum.
2. Staff resources As you’ll learn later in the post, some technology options require extensive staff supervision and training. From a budgetary and staff perspective make sure you’re equipped to handle any increases that may arise.
3. Hardware considerations In order to use any form of technology, you’ll need hardware. Hardware can range from a single projector or digital table, to a floor to ceiling television display. Will the new technology or digital exhibit use existing technology or can hardware purchases be budgeted? Read on for more specific recommendations.
4. Ability to accommodate large groups Your museum most likely accommodates large groups and field trips - if that’s the case, you’ll need to evaluate how each individual visitor will experience the technology. Some technology will allow multiple visitors to have the same experience at the same time, while others will offer a more personalized experience. Keep those large groups in mind when planning to add a digital exhibit.
Keeping these four things in mind will help you select an interactive experience that makes a lasting impression on your visitors. Now that you have an idea of the types of considerations for planning a digital exhibit or interactive, let’s take a look at some options.
Interactive Floors and Walls A popular exhibit technology in museums (and even some malls) is interactive floors and walls. These projector-driven experiences allow the visitor to transform the exhibit by moving pieces around and experience a 360-degree digital adventure. Perhaps best of all, these interactive tools complement a current exhibit, meaning visitors experience a combination of physical and digital environments they cannot receive anywhere else. As far as hardware and staff resources, setting up interactive floors and walls requires dedicated interactive space and a projector, but they’re relatively inexpensive and staff training/supervision is reserved to projector reboots and minimal maintenance. Plus, interactive floors and walls are easily able to accommodate large groups of visitors.
The New York Hall of Science is just one museum exploring interactive walls and floors to engage visitors. The museum uses 20 projectors in their Connected Worlds exhibit to highlight the intricacies of environmental sustainability.
Interactive Tables Offering guests a digital way to further explore physical exhibits is possible through interactive tables. These multi-touchpoint tables encourage deeper exploration, problem solving, and collaboration relating to existing exhibits. Similarly to interactive floors and walls, these tables require minimal staff training, require a dedicated space, and are able to accommodate large groups. The relatively inexpensive price-point of interactive tables affords to the opportunity to set up several stations with the same or different digital experiences.
The Cooper Hewitt museum offers several digital experiences for its guests. Museum visitors can explore the museum with a digital pen, interact with items, and bring information back to digital tables to learn more about museum artifacts. Interactive tables also allow guests to create their own images and project them onto walls throughout the museum.
Oculus Rift or Vive VR Headset If you’re looking to add a more personalized digital experience to your museum, consider new technology like the Oculus Rift or the Vive VR headset. While this technology is cutting-edge and exciting, it does run on the expensive side and would require a substantial amount of staff monitoring and security. The digital content presented in the immersive experience can relate to museum exhibits, but keep in mind that these devices have the ability to transport a user’s experience outside of museum walls. Another thing to keep in mind is that only one visitor is exposed to the technology at a time however; the use of digital projectors could allow large groups of guests to see the digital environment.
The expense of these devices is a barrier to adoption, but if grant funding is available, there are some amazing things you can do with VR technology.
Take the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, for example. Through a partnership with Disney, museum patrons are able to not only view a painting, but experience it. VR headsets allow museumgoers to step inside a Salvador Dali painting and move through a multi-sensory environment. In a Tech Times article, Hank Hine, Dali Museum Executive Director said,
"'Disney and Dalí' heralds a new era in art exhibitions ... Visitors can expect a multi-sensory environment of moving image, soundscapes, and the transformative aura of exquisite individual paintings. Disney and Dalí broke new ground as artists - the Walt Disney Family Museum and The Dalí will deliver a brave new world of experience.”
Hololens VR One way to get the excitement of VR while highlighting physical space in your museum is to take a look at the Hololens. This technology allows viewers to explore a digital world on top of physical exhibits. As with the VR headsets, a high degree of staff monitoring would be required and only one visitor can participate at a time. Even with all of this in mind, this new technology is getting everyone excited.
Mobile Immersive Games Mobile immersive games take advantage of technology that already accompanies many visitors to the museum. Designing mobile games provides guests with a way to use their own technology to enhance their museum experience. Mobile games can be created to encourage visitors to find physical objects in the museum, scan codes to learn more about an exhibit, or collect artifacts in a scavenger hunt. With nearly two thirds of Americans owning a cell phone the financial investment is fairly reasonable. To accommodate visitors without smartphones, offer a device checkout station at an existing front desk or service area.
Taking museum murder mystery to a new level, the Metropolitan Museum created a mobile game that guides visitors through their exhibits while examining clues. Guests explore the museum’s paintings and artifacts for traces of the fictitious murderer. With multiple paths to explore during the game, visitors experience something new with every visit.
Advancements in technology offer museums new ways to provide lasting memories, deepen visitors’ learning experiences, and participate in exciting adventures. Interested in hearing about a custom interactive for your museum? Drop us a line, we’d love to brainstorm with you!