Technology is changing the way museum and gallery exhibits are displayed and viewed
I like to visit museums and galleries when I travel. In our modern, digital age, the idea of spending time in a museum may seem boring or old-fashioned, but museums, art galleries and tour companies are increasingly making use of technology to enhance their exhibits and the visitor’s experience.
This spring I visited the Hollywood Costume Exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibit is on tour from Londons’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Costumes are displayed on mannequins and dress forms. Information is displayed in a fairly traditional manner, text printed on easel-like stands in front of the costumes. However, television screens scattered throughout and integrated into the exhibit bring a more modern touch. The screens feature costume designers, actors, and directors talking about the costumes and the films. What an appropriate way to provide information about something so integral to the movie experience.
Although quality has improved, headphones have been used for years to provide personal commentary at museum and art exhibits and are no longer a leading-edge use of technology. However, I encountered an interesting twist to this concept when my sister and I visited Mesa Community College Rose Garden. The garden is a large outdoor area accessible to the public at all times. In place of a headphone system, which wouldn’t be practical in this environment, posts at 11 stations throughout the garden list a phone number and a station number. I called the number on my cell phone, punched in the station number, and put the phone on speaker so both both sister and I could hear. A recorded message provided information about that section of the garden and directed our attention to specific roses.
A touch screen is mounted in front of the huge Boar and Bear Hunt Tapestry, circa 1425 – 1430, covering one wall of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The screen contains a photograph of the tapestry. Visitors can zoom in on any part of the tapestry and obtain information about the story depicted in that section and the threads used.
Tablets are becoming standard equipment for tour guides. On a historical area walking tour in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba, our guide used the tablet to show us past photographs of the architecturally significant buildings we saw and photographs of historic events in the area. On a tour of a nature preserve in Arizona, our guide used a tablet to show us pictures of the preserve in other seasons and various stages of the plant life we saw.
Museums and galleries are now creating apps for your mobile devices to augment more traditional ways to experience their offerings. I learned about the Time Tremors app at the Art Gallery of Ontario from Sarah Pittard’s blog Solo Mom Takes Flight. The app is aimed at children aged 6 to 12. You turn on the app when you enter the museum and select one of four missions. You are then given clues and directions to navigate through the gallery. You can read about Sarah’s family’s experience with this app here.
What other interesting and innovative uses of technology have you discovered at museums, galleries and historic sites?