The canned answer for how museum integration is evolving is that it’s important to push the technology envelope in order to compel more discerning visitors. Well, that’s only sort of true, says Maris Ensing, president of Orange, Calif.-based Mad Systems.
Traditional Meets Non-Traditional
“On one hand, we’re seeing a continued conventional-type approach, where museums incorporate basic media, and in terms of interactive exhibits often want off-the-shelf solutions, and more or less copies of what they have seen elsewhere,” Ensing says. “On the other hand, we’re seeing more inventive approaches where museums will take a new approach to providing information.”
How does the inventive side manifest itself?
“Instead of fixed media, interactivity is becoming more and more important,” Ensing begins. “We see more complex touch-based exhibits, non-touchscreen-based interactives, and electro-mechanical interactives coming through that are distinctly different from previous exhibits. We are seeing a market where museums want technology that goes beyond basic AV, and where it is important to integrate AV and other technology to provide complete solutions that go beyond traditional museum AV systems, typically based on networked systems.”
Today’s museum visitors want to participate in the learning versus observ-ing, almost like having a back-and-forth conversation with the exhibits.
Learning Goes Both Ways
Today’s museum visitors want to participate in the learning versus observing, almost like having a back-and-forth conversation with the exhibits. That leaves museums looking to design systems aimed at “digital natives,” says Jennifer Davis, chief marketing officer of Leyard and VP of marketing and product strategy for Planar.
“Yesterday’s exhibit design ideas don’t work. Museums don’t hold the world’s knowledge, and visitors are bringing competing sources of information and entertainment into the museum on their own phones and devices,” she says. “Visitors may be physically there, but not really present. That is why experience design is more important than ever. Museums must provide experiences that people can’t just do on their phone or at home.”
Virtually every museum visitor has a smartphone in their pocket, so many museums are looking to leverage that with mobile options for content delivery both while visiting and for general consumption, according to Glenn Polly, president of New York-based VideoSonic.
“Visitors who are unable to visit a museum in person would be able to experience its collections and respond to conversations about exhibitions and programming occurring in the physical space,” he says. “Curators of exhibits are moving away from describing what the visitors will experience instead encouraging the visitor to find, interpret, and make their own connections with collections and ideas by capturing what their interests are on a handheld device.”
From all this stems collaboration, user-generated content that ends up enhancing the overall understanding of what museums are attempting to display. Polly says using display devices such as Mersive Solstice allows multiple visitors to display content on a screen that can be located in a classroom or in the exhibit space itself.
“In the future, as handheld mobile devices evolve to become wearable devices a visitor’s focus and interests may be tracked,” he explains. “Museums are uniquely suited to maximize the impact of collections and exhibitions by configuring custom, technology-enhanced spaces that can personalize the visitor experience with what a visitor may be viewing or by their location in the space.”
Technology Needs to Blend
With all this talk about interactive tech-nology solutions, it’s easy to forget that museums still have to look spectacular. That means they’re “often challenged to design exhibits that incorporate technology into the architecture often making it difficult to remove or repair,” says Bryan Boehme, director, location based entertainment for Christie.
Of course, Boehme says Christie’s MicroTiles come in handy in that regard because they’re modular and lock together like building blocks.