Why and How Technology Is Changing the Museum Visiting Experience

When asked by a New York Times reporter how technology could enhance her work, Phoebe Segal, Curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, quickly highlighted that it is the duty of a Curator to ensure the content remains relevant and engaging. She remarked that digital media is increasingly playing a part in this.

The museum’s implementation of digital media demonstrates how it can revolutionize visits to cultural institutions. Despite this, its primary goal remains to provide visitors with an understanding of the past and to foster respect for the lives of our ancestors. Technology affords a more comprehensive and interactive experience, thereby enhancing the level of engagement for guests.

Museums worldwide are harnessing the power of technology to create innovative displays and engage visitors in new ways. Augmented reality, 3D computer modelling and sound design are just some of the exciting applications being used to bring exhibits into the 21st century. Examples of noteworthy cases are included here.

Innovating One’s Worldview Through Novel Experiences

At the onset of the pandemic, museums across the globe went into lockdown. To ensure visitors could continue to access content, museums began to explore ways to provide services online. The result was a straightforward solution: allowing people to enjoy the museum from the comfort of their own home.

Many museums have adopted this approach to create online exhibition tours. Notable examples of this include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Guggenheim, all of which have developed digital tours that give visitors the opportunity to virtually explore their galleries and view the displays at their own pace.

However, it was just the beginning. To adapt to the changing times, museums have increased the size of its digital departments.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) demonstrated its pioneering spirit by introducing a range of innovative initiatives. These included the provision of a platform which allowed players to embed artwork from The Met in Animal Crossing, the use of augmented reality to interact with real objects, and the development of MetKids, an interactive space where children can explore and engage with historical artefacts and practices.

As museums reopened, there was a decrease in visitor numbers, however, interest in these virtual exhibitions remained high. Whilst there is no substitute for the experience of visiting a museum in person, these virtual shows offer the opportunity for those with an inquisitive mind to gain access to artwork which may otherwise be unattainable.

Museums with Cutting-Edge Digital Exhibits

For museums, the possibilities offered by technology go far beyond what can be achieved online. The museums themselves provide the most exciting opportunities for exploration. By incorporating various forms of technology into their static displays, museums can provide visitors with an even more engaging and rewarding experience.

George Scharoun, Manager of Exhibition and Gallery Media at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, states that they aim to evoke the same emotional response from visitors as when watching a period film when exploring the museum. An example of this is the acoustic installation accompanying the 3D recreation of the Temple of Athena at Assos, which dates back to the 6th century.

This atmospheric sculpture will enable viewers to take in a large-scale projection of the temple, whilst also hearing the sounds of the natural environment that once surrounded it. Through this, individuals will be able to experience the temple as if they were truly there, as opposed to just viewing it on a screen.

Utilizing 3D sculpture, museum curators are able to present a unique perspective to visitors. Through digital technologies, artists and historians are able to reconstruct objects that have been damaged or lost, allowing visitors to use augmented reality on their smartphones to view the works in full. Furthermore, 3D models can be enhanced with supplementary information that enhances the presentation.

Exhibit of Technological Advancement

The Smithsonian Institution is leading the way in revolutionising the museum-going experience with the launch of their FUTURES exhibition. Spanning an impressive 32,000 square feet, the exhibition features four distinct immersive zones and offers a truly unique experience.

The exhibition utilises a range of interactive elements, artworks, technology and concepts to demonstrate the range of potential future scenarios we may face. The Co-Lab is a unique feature of the exhibition, advertised by the Smithsonian as the first-ever collaborative design experience that allows visitors to create their own AI-powered metropolis of the future.

The Smithsonian is investing in interactive displays, museum exhibitions and futuristic artefacts to supplement Co-Lab, signalling a shift towards technology as the main attraction and encouraging visitors to re-evaluate their relationship with the digital world.

In collaboration with Autodesk, a leading provider of design and manufacturing software, the museum developed the FUTURES exhibition. This project demonstrates the value of working together between well-known organisations and innovative technology companies, as Autodesk was instrumental in creating the interactive elements featured throughout the experience.

To demonstrate how technology can revolutionize museums, the FUTURES offer is a great example. The pandemic has revealed that people are willing to interact with museums in new ways, and technology can provide a range of innovative solutions to facilitate this.

Museums are already adapting to the needs of their visitors by creating tailored exhibits and programming, as well as introducing interactive experiences that demonstrate the value of studying artefacts and art from the past. Furthermore, technology may help to link these historical elements to potential future perspectives, thus enabling us to better comprehend the timeline that has brought us to this point and is continuing to move us forward.

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