In an interview with a New York Times journalist, Phoebe Segal, the Curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, was asked for her thoughts on how technology could improve her work. Segal emphasised that it is the responsibility of curators to maintain the interest and relevance of their content. She cited the growing significance of digital media in achieving this goal.
The incorporation of digital media into a museum’s displays can transform the way visitors experience and engage with cultural institutions. However, it is important to remember that the core objective of museums is to offer insights into the past and to promote reverence for our predecessors. By utilising technology to create interactive and immersive experiences for visitors, museums can further enhance engagement and comprehension.
Museums across the globe are embracing technology to develop imaginative exhibitions and offer visitors novel experiences. From augmented reality and 3D computer modelling to sound design, a range of exciting tools are being utilised to modernise exhibits. Below are some examples of remarkable outcomes.
Expanding One’s Perspective with Unfamiliar Experiences
When the pandemic struck, museums worldwide were forced to close their doors to the public. In response, many institutions sought ways to offer their services virtually, enabling remote access to their content. This initiative enabled people to enjoy museums from the safety and comfort of their own homes with ease and convenience.
Numerous museums have taken up this approach and launched virtual exhibition tours. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Guggenheim are some of the institutions that stand out for developing digital tours that enable visitors to remotely explore their galleries and view displays at their leisure.
Yet, this was just the start. To acclimate to the evolving circumstances, museums have enlarged their digital departments.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) showcased its groundbreaking ingenuity with the implementation of several pioneering initiatives. These encompassed the creation of a platform enabling players to integrate artwork from The Met into Animal Crossing, utilising augmented reality to interact with tangible objects, and establishing MetKids – an interactive hub designed for children to discover and engage with historical artefacts and traditions.
Following the reopening of museums, there has been a decline in visitor numbers. However, demand for virtual exhibitions has continued to remain strong. Whilst nothing quite matches the experience of exploring a museum in real life, these digital shows provide an avenue for curious individuals to access works of art that may have been previously out of reach.
Museums with State-of-the-Art Digital Displays
For museums, the opportunities presented by technology are not confined to the digital sphere. In fact, the museums themselves offer the most thrilling prospects for discovery. By integrating diverse forms of technology into their exhibitions, museums can offer visitors an even more immersive and fulfilling encounter.
George Scharoun, Manager of Exhibition and Gallery Media at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, aims to elicit the same emotive response from visitors that one would experience whilst watching a historical film when exploring the museum. An instance of this is the sound installation augmenting the 3D rendition of the 6th-century Temple of Athena at Assos.
This immersive sculpture affords viewers the chance to encounter a vast projection of the temple, accompanied by the atmospheric sounds of the natural surroundings that encircled it. By this means, visitors can undergo a lifelike experience of the temple rather than simply observing it on a screen.
By leveraging 3D sculpture, museum curators can offer visitors a distinctive vantage point. With the aid of digital technologies, artists and historians can restore damaged or lost items, enabling visitors to employ augmented reality on their smartphones to behold the works in their entirety. Additionally, 3D models can be augmented with supplementary information that enriches the exhibition.
Exhibition of Technological Progression
The Smithsonian Institution is at the forefront of modernising the museum experience with the debut of their FUTURES exhibition. Covering an impressive 32,000 square feet, the exhibition comprises of four distinct immersive zones, creating an unparalleled and distinctive encounter.
The exhibition utilises a medley of interactive components, artworks, technologies and ideas to showcase the array of possible future scenarios that we could encounter. The Co-Lab is a striking feature of the exhibition, touted by the Smithsonian as the premier collaborative design encounter that enables visitors to craft their own future metropolis powered by artificial intelligence.
The Smithsonian is dedicating resources to interactive exhibits, museum installations and futuristic artefacts that complement Co-Lab, which symbolises a redirection towards technology as the primary allure and prompting visitors to reassess their rapport with the digital realm.
In partnership with Autodesk, a renowned supplier of design and manufacturing software, the museum conceived the FUTURES exhibition. This initiative exemplifies the significance of collaborations between established institutions and pioneering technology firms, given that Autodesk played a pivotal role in developing the interactive components that feature throughout the encounter.
FUTURES is an excellent illustration of how technology has the potential to transform the museum landscape. The pandemic highlighted that people are open to engaging with museums in novel ways, and technology can supply an array of inventive solutions to aid this.
Museums are already accommodating the requirements of their visitors by devising bespoke exhibits and events, alongside incorporating interactive encounters that reflect the significance of scrutinising relics and artworks from the past. What’s more, technology could facilitate the connection of these historical elements to hypothetical future prospects, ultimately enhancing our grasp of the timeline that has led us to this instant and is propelling us into the future.