We discuss some of the reasons museums may explore using augmented reality, as well as several real-world examples from throughout the world. Over the last few years, augmented reality technology has advanced tremendously, making the leap from the gaming industry to attractions and museums worldwide.
Museum augmented reality is being used in a range of organizations worldwide. For example, visitors to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History may now utilize an augmented reality app to explore the museum’s famed Bone Hall. This app, titled Skin and Bones, depicts how the skeletons would have appeared in their natural state.
Meanwhile, visitors to the Kennedy Space Center may see a recreation of the second-ever spacewalk, which took place in 1966, superimposed on the genuine Gemini 9 space spacecraft.
Thus, what are the benefits of augmented reality and how can it assist museums in engaging their audiences in novel ways?
Why Should Museums Embrace Augmented Reality?
A well-designed augmented reality experience may be an interesting method to communicate information, allowing museums to engage with visitors. Rather than presenting a passive show, organizations can leverage this technology to engage guests and foster new connections as scenes come to life. The material might be in the form of video, text, or three-dimensional pictures.
Additionally, augmented reality can enhance the museum experience. Institutions can overlay pertinent augmentations on top of artifacts in their collections to provide a more complete view. Additionally, museums may employ this technology to contextualize exhibits. They may repurpose things and works of art, peeling back layers and retell their story in new ways.
This type of technology has a broad appeal and can help museums reach a younger demographic. AR may be utilized to include family-friendly activities in museum spaces, creating an interactive experience for visitors to share.
Additionally, unlike virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) is quite easy to include. Due to the fact that this sort of experience can be operated on the majority of smartphones and tablets, it may be a very affordable method to update a museum’s collection. Particularly given that the majority of current visitors have their own gadgets.
Here are some examples of museums from across the world that have employed augmented reality in a variety of novel ways.
ARTours At The Stedelijk Museum
The Stedelijk Institution in Amsterdam, an international museum devoted to modern and contemporary art and design, launched an early augmented reality project. The museum began its ARTours program in 2010, with funding from the Dutch Ministry of Culture and in conjunction with design firm Fabrique.
The objective of this project was to devise a novel approach to displaying the museum’s collection. The organization desired to investigate other methods of understanding and examining its objects and their stories. Additionally, it desired to develop new methods of interacting with its collection outside of the usual museum environment.
One of the events planned as part of the ARTours project was for the famous Lowlands music festival in the Netherlands. ARtotheque was the name given to this concept, which aspired to ‘lend’ pieces from the museum’s collection to the public. It enabled festivalgoers to rent an augmented reality replica of artwork from the Stedelijk Museum. They could then place it someplace on the festival grounds so that others may enjoy it as well using their smartphone.
Additionally, the Museum requested artist Jan Rothuizen to develop concepts for a completely augmented reality show as part of the ARTtours initiative. This could only be witnessed via the use of augmented reality technology.
Hein Wils, the project’s leader, stated in an interview on the ARTours experience, “[AR] reaches out to new audiences.” Utilizing immersive technology, it revolutionizes the way our collections are shown. Museums have the opportunity to reimagine their connection with their audiences and to provide a new platform for artists.”
The Art Gallery of Ontario
In 2017, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada, also hosted an intriguing augmented reality project called ReBlink. The museum collaborated on the project with Alex Mayhew, a digital artist. Mayhew recreated some of the museum’s works of art in order to encourage the audience to view them differently.
Using augmented reality technology, museum visitors were able to observe the subjects of the paintings come to life and be put in a contemporary context.
For instance, Mayhew redesigned George Agnew Reid’s Drawing Lots for the project. Three individuals are playing together in a calm, serene moment in the original.
When visitors saw the artwork via their device, an augmented reality layer displayed a contemporary retelling. The characters are no longer interacting as a group in this scene. Rather than that, they are absorbed in their own phone displays while noisy traffic rushes by.
According to the team behind the project, Impossible Things, which Mayhew co-founded, “we believe that ReBlink is so successful because it leverages the power of augmented reality to transform a mundane interaction — viewing a painting in a museum — into a visceral, exploratory, and magical experience.”
The juxtaposition of past and present establish links that contribute to the effectiveness of the statement. This is a quick, direct method that appeals to a primal human drive for exploration and discovery.”
Latvian National Museum of Art
Visitors to Riga’s Latvian National Museum of Art may have an in-depth tour of the museum using their smartphone. This means students may learn more about the museum’s collection while exploring at their own leisure.
Guests can access this additional augmented reality material by downloading the museum’s app. This is accessible in Latvian, Russian, and English for free. To begin, the material concentrated on a selection of the museum’s permanent exhibitions. The additional information in the augmented reality layer enables visitors to learn more about the paintings, their artists, and the themes they portray.
Additionally, users may learn more about the structure. The app displays notable architectural aspects while also informing users about the museum’s recent restoration.
Following the app’s first success, the museum created a new display utilizing just augmented reality material. “We created an exhibition in our halls that resembled a collection of framed QR codes,” Annija Sauka, Head of Communication at the Latvian National Museum of Art, explained.
“In order to view the artwork concealed inside the codes, users were required to download the app and scan them. It piqued users’ interest about the concealed material, which increased app downloads.”
Apart from benefiting the tourist, the app also benefits the museum. It lacks the staffing ability to provide such an in-depth tour on an individual basis.
The FBI’s Expedition
The FBI Experience is a self-guided tour built in collaboration with Smithsonian Exhibits at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The public may learn more about the FBI’s work here via interactive displays, engaging material, and artifacts. There are also exhibits of objects from well-known instances.
The renowned FBI tour has long been a popular stop for Washington, D.C. visitors. Following a lengthy hiatus following 9/11 and the establishment of an Education Center, the Bureau collaborated with Smithsonian Exhibits to reopen a fresh, modern experience in 2017.
One of the FBI Experience’s centerpieces, a bank robbery interactive, is powered by augmented reality technology. Here, the augmented reality layers assist guests as they seek clues and evidence at a crime scene recreation. The interactive demonstrates how the FBI conducts an investigation into a bank heist. Additionally, it invites the visitor to participate in the activity.
The National Museum of Singapore
The National Museum of Singapore is now featuring an exhibition titled Story of the Forest. Almost 70 photographs from the museum’s William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings are included in this immersive experience. These are then converted into three-dimensional animations that engage viewers.
“The artwork alludes to a variety of eras. That of the setting in which it is shown, as well as the muses included,” the exhibition description states. According to the museum, it serves as a bridge between Singapore’s colonial past and contemporary modernism. “Through breathtaking beauty and innovative technology, it encourages you to engage with animated creatures from the Malay Peninsula during the nineteenth century.”
TeamLab created Story of the Forest, a digital art group responsible for a number of notable attainment attractions. For instance, teamLab Planets TOKYO and teamLab: A Forest of Gods are two examples.
It is a well-known installation in and of itself. However, there are augmented reality software available to improve the museum experience and provide family-friendly entertainment. Visitors may look for and capture flora and creatures within the artwork after downloading the app. They can then add them to their virtual collection whenever discovered.
Along with being amusing, this also aids in user education. This is because the app provides intriguing information and data about the collected things.
England’s Historic Cities app
AR is currently being used to bring many of England’s most prized cultural landmarks to life. This is made possible through the app England’s Historic Cities. The app includes important cultural and historical landmarks such as the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford, the Chester Roman Amphitheatre, Hadrian’s Wall, and Stratford-upon-New Avon’s Shakespeare’s Place.
The smartphone guide, first launched in 2017, utilizes augmented reality technology to provide users with unique perspectives on twelve iconic destinations. There are information kiosks located throughout each facility. When consumers scan them with their own smartphone, the augmented reality displays are activated. These provide more information via 3D reconstructions and 360-degree panoramas.
Additionally, visitors may listen to stories related to prominent local historical personalities. This provides them with more perspective on the sites’ history. For instance, William Shakespeare, Bede the Venerable, and the Seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion all recount some fascinating tales.
Nicola Said, Marketing Cheshire’s Head of Digital and Funding, oversaw the initiative on behalf of the Heritage Cities. “This is one of the most interesting tourism goods on the market,” she stated following its introduction. A real mingling of the ancient and the new. It’s an entirely novel technique to motivate an increasingly digital society to take a step back in time.
“It will help all of the cities in question to reach new audiences and highlight our famous cultural legacy.”
The Application Of Augmented Reality In Museums
These examples demonstrate the breadth of possible uses for augmented reality in a museum context.
It is critical to notice that they are well-thought-out and planned enterprises. They include material that significantly enhances the experience. Adding a layer of augmented reality to a museum only to stay current with technology is not necessarily a successful strategy. Organizations must ensure they have a specific objective in mind.
The examples above are effective because they deliver something unique and valuable to the visitor. When applied intelligently, augmented reality may improve what is already there, broadening the appeal and promoting repeat visitors.
Museum augmented reality has the ability to engage, entertain, and educate visitors in a fun and interactive way. Not to mention how affordable it is to install. Thus, it appears as though museum augmented reality will be a trend worth following.