Over the last two decades, technology has established itself as a critical component of contemporary civilization. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a world without digital devices, the Internet, or computing tools from where we are today. From business and pleasure to communication and information, our dependence on technology pervades nearly every area of everyday life, altering our perceptions of and interactions with the environment.
Yet some continue to believe that technology has no place in museums.
This is probably comprehensible in some instances, where the museum space serves as a refuge from the rush of modern life; a place to reconnect with more human behaviors and experiences. However, there are just too many examples of technology enhancing the museum experience in 2020 for us to overlook its potential.
We’re going to dive further into the link between technology and museums, examining how some of the world’s finest cultural institutions are enhancing the visitor experience via the use of new digital solutions.
Technology And The Museum Experience In The Prado
Institutions worldwide are utilizing technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to make history more tangible both within and beyond the museum environment.
The Prado Museum in Madrid launched the world’s first 360-degree immersive experience in 2019. This endeavor brought users closer than ever before to the institution’s artworks and artifacts.
The museum collaborated with four prominent digital platforms to create this VR experience: Patron 2.0, Feeel, 3intech, and Krill Audio. Marta Tabernero of Patron 2.0 stated the following about the exhibition:
“Through this immersive 360-degree experience, we can immerse ourselves in the Prado, learning about time and moving through it. We are reviving the cinematic tradition by incorporating innovation and emotion. It is a translation of a cultural area into a modern language with the goal of bringing it to new audiences.”
Rather than being a distraction, technology can be used to connect visitors to the artifacts and history explored in a museum exhibit.
Bringing People To The Museum
However, what about bringing visitors closer to the museum? In the United States, gallery spaces draw more than 850 million visitors each year, more than the majority of sports arenas. This represents around $21 billion in economic activity, according to the American Alliance of Museums.
In the proper hands, technology can be an effective conversation starter and marketing tool. At times, an attention-grabbing gimmick – a term not held in high respect, but still effective – is necessary to entice visitors to explore the depths of a museum’s offerings.
When the National Museum of Singapore opened its “Story of the Forest” exhibition, it transported visitors into another world through the use of vibrant projections and jaw-dropping exhibits. Additionally, guests may receive extensive information on the animated creatures leaping amid the lighted trees via a smartphone app.
Science Museum, London
In 2017, visitors to London’s renowned Science Museum were able to immerse themselves in one of the most significant moments in British space exploration history. Visitors may take part in a mission that re-enacted the European Space Agency’s first British astronaut Tim Peake’s 400-kilometer return to planet Earth via virtual reality.
The display includes a 12-minute video experience giving a look inside the Soyuz space ship, narrated by Peake himself. It’s difficult to fathom how a non-technological show could have brought the audience as close to the experience as this VR expedition did.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Oftentimes, a museum’s use of technology is motivated by a desire to be accessible. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York decided a few years ago to digitize approximately 380,000 pictures from its collection. The objective? To make its work more accessible to the general public.
This was important for anyone who lacked the resources or skills to visit the museum on their own. Individuals may now examine several of the museum’s most renowned works from the convenience of their own homes. Not only does this foster positive feelings for the museum, but it also enables it to reach a far larger audience.
The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Tokyo
We are all aware of Japan’s penchant for technology, whether through Sony, Toyota, or Seiko. As such, it should come as no surprise that when it comes to incorporating technology into museum spaces, Japan has fully embraced the trend.
This is most emphatically true when it comes to Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. One of the museum’s most iconic items is its famed LED globe, which depicts the Earth as visualized through geodata.
Visitors may also engage with AI robots and models depicting a representation of the internet, among other things. Numerous exhibits offer a broader statement on sustainability, human interaction, and the environment.
Technology should not be viewed as an adversary to culture. On the contrary, when technology is used properly, it can help bring visitors closer than ever to a museum and the history it is attempting to convey.
Technology, like any other tool, is only as effective as its implementation. The examples we’ve discussed today demonstrate how, with the proper use of technology, museums can increase focus and interest in their collections.