Museums that are embracing digital today

“Why isn’t this a touch screen?” – asks a modern day youngster while pressing an information panel for more information about the skeleton. Children nowadays take it for granted that they will be able to interact with displays and exhibits, searching for for more information or finding points of interest near them. Although it’s not possible quite yet, an increasing group of people are getting used to those benefits and it’s great that we can help museums work towards that.

In this blogpost, we will shine light on what today’s museums care about, when it comes to digital media and strategy, what is already out there and what can be done better.

 

So, what do Museums really care about? It boils down to two main areas:

1. Customer experience and engagement
2. Content of their exhibitions

Both of these are related and as one increases the other often follows, although sometimes slowly. With great content, visitors leave with a sense of satisfaction and are more likely to talk about it, generating word of mouth referrals which encourage more visitors. A museum that has an increasing demand and popularity will be in a better position to curate relevant and interesting content, to keep the cycle going. However, creating a great experience without improved content is much harder and requires foresight and planning, while embracing change to drive innovation in the museum. Sadly with modern day finances the way they are, this is often what museums have to do.

Where are people innovating already?

Art traffic at Louvre

Here, Bluetooth® signal tracking was used to map how visitors move through the museum, which galleries they visit, what paths they take, and how long they spend in front of certain artwork.

Visitor behavior and interaction are among the most important factors for informing museum management about how to enhance operations – yet data is traditionally generated by limited observations and mundane surveys. This means the data gathered is limited in quantity and is subject to human interpretation and bias. With the recent emergence and adoption of technologies such as NFC and Bluetooth, this has revolutionized the process of collecting data on human behavior.

With some user benefits to build into this experience, the data would have been even more insightful and meaningful. Not many people like having data captured about them when there are no immediate benefits. Google Maps is a perfect example of a situation where the data is used to show useful information such as traffic jams.

Canadian Museum of Nature

The ability to provide a compelling digital experience based on a location or physical interaction has not been viable until recently, but with the emergence of Bluetooth beacons, the Canadian Museum of Nature launched a pilot project to demonstrate how evolution works in the Mammal Gallery. As users walk around the gallery, they are automatically prompted to download an app onto their phones, and this app is an interactive game to show how things change over time.

 

While walking around, visitors were given one of five creatures randomly – for example a fish or a bird – and as they came within range of another beacon in the gallery, their creature would ‘evolve’ to develop a number of randomly selected attributes from each animal. After interactions with all beacons, the output was an odd creature with a combination of unique characteristics, which users were encouraged to share with their friends through Twitter.

Thus connecting the offline and the online world together.

NY Museum – United Nations & Raising Awareness for mine fields

Although there have been a number of innovative use cases for beacons, this is definitely one of the most unique ones we have seen so far.

As visitors move through the exhibit space, they can trigger “digital landmines” if they get too close to a beacon. If this happens, visitors hear an explosion through their headphones, followed by a short audio excerpt telling the story of a person affected by landmines – powerful location based, interactive, storytelling. Users were also invited to make a small donation of $5 to help ensure no one ever has to go through what they did.

Simulating a virtual minefield is a powerful way to let visitors experience the danger mines pose, not just during wars, but after they have ended. The exhibition was created for the UN’s International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action in New York.

 

Pointr Technology in Museums

At Pointr, we go a step further than the examples above and rather than using proximity, which misses many of the benefits of Beacons, we generate a true position. With 1 metre accuracy, we can position a user or an item within the map of a venue, giving accurate, turn-by-turn navigation and all of the interactions related to this position.

In a simple case this could be used for guided tours which are personalised based on chosen interests, helping school children, tourists or the visually impaired experience the best the museum has to offer.

In addition to this, powerful data is generated with regards to how the space is utilised, ranging from things such as “the most searched for points of interest”, to “average dwell times”, “popular locations”, “visitor density heat maps” and much more. This way, a museum could analyse and compare which exhibition performed better, and when combined with knowledge of how it was different, start to understand visitor interaction on another level. This app could also create a new channel of communication between the museum and the visitor, enabling much more personal feedback and a conversation that extends beyond the physical space of the museum, for example notifying them of upcoming exhibitions.