You’ve heard us say it many times before: technology will play a huge role in establishing new creative museum experiences. Smartphone apps, digital art projection, gesture-based devices… There are so many options, there’s definitely one that fits your story. But before you embark on an undoubtedly inspiring journey with museum technology, there are some things to keep in mind. To conclude our series of posts resulting from the panel discussion with industry experts, we’ll sum up their three tips to include tech in your museum.
If one thing is clear, it’s that you should never use tech for tech. Don’t start handing out VR glasses or replacing artworks with digital projections just because you’ve read it is ‘trendy’. Think about how a certain technology enables artists and supports curators to get your exhibition’s narrative told in the right way. Hilary McVicker, from The Elumenati, thought leaders in technology applications in the themed entertainment industry, confirms: “You want people to remember the story, and technology is there to serve that. The key is to be thoughtful and make sure we’re not diving in technology blindly, but ensuring that it reinforces the narrative, the engagement and the overall experience.”
In order to do this, “technology should always be invisible,” adds Dorothy Di Stefano, founder and director of Molten Immersive Art, a collective of experiential artists who create large-scale digital immersive experiences. Reliability, flexibility and quality are crucial for this non-intrusion. “Poor technology really disconnects people from the experience you’ve envisioned.”
If you’re looking into new ways for innovative storytelling in your museum, try to think outside-the-box. New people bring new ideas. As Dave Patten from the Science Museum in London says: “If you only ever looked at museums, you’ll only get what museums already do. I don’t just want a museum voice in the room, that’s not taking us to an interesting place, that takes us to somewhere I already know and understand.” Why not look at what high-end retail does, or theme parks, or the event industry?
McVicker’s roots, for instance, lie in the game industry. “Coming from that interactive industry and bringing these technologies from the broad entertainment world to new applications can be beneficial for museums. And thanks to the democratization of the content development tools, you can easily get access to the potential of these new technologies to transform engagement levels in museums”.
Arnold van de Water confirms. He’s a partner at Factorr and acting as general manager of the touring Meet Vincent van Gogh experience, but has an extensive background in the live entertainment and theater industry. “I always try to incorporate things I’ve learned from large festival or concerts into the world of museums, especially with touring exhibitions,” he says. “I believe that crossing borders within our industry and outside, can only fuel the creativity!”
There’s no innovation without experimentation. “Digital is still relatively new and it’s changing at such a rapid pace that we’re still learning what works and what doesn’t,” says Dave Patten. “I’ve read the biography of the Science Museum’s first director in which he documents discussions with his curatorial team about writing museum labels. The labels the curators were writing were too complicated, too long and not appropriate for the public audience. That’s 1920, and we’re still bad at it. We’ll write labels that are not interesting, or just blindingly obvious. We still struggle with most basic thing, so why would we think that digital comes in and is fully formed and ready.” It’s not possible to do everything right from the get-go.
The future of museums is infused with technological innovation. So it’s time to embrace the change, be inspired by the creativity of others, take your time to explore the possibilities that are out there in the big wide world, and ultimately get your story told in a unique and engaging way.
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Arnold van de Water is partner at Factorr, a creative consultancy agency, founded in 2005, that provides global services in Strategy, Spatial Concepts, and Transformations. In addition, Arnold is acting as general manager of the Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience for the Van Gogh Museum. With over 15 years of experience in the arts and culture and touring exhibitions sectors, Arnold believes in using technology to create more personalized experiences and immersive storytelling.
Dave Patten is Head of New Media at The Science Museum, London, where his role includes managing all aspects of new media and AV, from conceptual design, prototyping and production to project managing external developers and production companies. He has a background in electronics and computer science, and has worked at the Science Museum for over 30 years, developing exhibitions and leading development teams. Dave Patten runs the Science Museum Groups Digital Lab Initiative which experiments in emerging technologies and visitor experiences.
Global thought leader, speaker, creative strategist, founder and director of Molten Immersive Art, Dorothy Di Stefano leads a collective of experiential artists who create large-scale, site-specific, digital immersive experiences. As an ambassador and consultant for the arts and with 20 years' experience, Dorothy sits on many cultural committees and is the International Partner representing Australia in the Global Startup Leaders committee of the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF).Awarded LinkedIn's Top Voice for 2019, Dorothy has a worldwide following on this platform which she uses to highlight the importance and impact of art on our world and to showcase global artists to a business-focused community.
Hilary McVicker is Communicatrix at The Elumenati – a title that would translate to VP of Sales and Marketing at most companies. The Elumenati are thought leaders in the field of immersive projection design, creating innovative applications in education, enterprise and entertainment. Partners and clients range from NASA and NOAA to Dreamworks and Deloitte. Hilary has managed collaborative projects for The Elumenati with leading museums from the California Academy of Sciences to the American Museum of Natural History, with a focus on incorporating technology to create transformative learning experiences.