By Moira Sun, recently a Visitor Services Host for Museums Wellington
2017 is my year for travel. I had the chance to explore quite a few museums and galleries when I traveled to Singapore and Melbourne. What appealed to me the most was the beautiful blend of the practice of technology.
In this blog, I would love to share some of the technologies that were used, and how these affected my museum/gallery experiences – not only those I visited but also those I work for.
Mobile App + Free-Wifi – great that you have it all!!
At National Gallery Singapore, I had unlimited time engaging with the mobile app to better understand how to self-explore a variety of exhibitions. This was something that I had heard about but never come across before. The free app National Gallery Singapore: Gallery Explorer made it easy to surf for exhibitions and art works with various options. For example, by choosing the category ‘Tours’, you can either go on a self-guided audio tour of selected key works of a specific exhibition you are interested in, or see the highlights of the building history. You are also able to tap on the artwork to see more information.
For someone who likes to enjoy themselves alone in a gallery, having a pair of ear plugs with the free app downloaded onto your smart phone is perfect for taking your own time to learn all the new things. However, the museum or gallery should enable super speedy connection with free Wi-Fi so that audiences can actually download all the videos and pictures and navigate for themselves without requiring human interaction!
2D or 3D? Maybe 4D! – it’s kind of mind blowing…
When we talk about technology, we often think of the future. At the Future World: Where Art Meets Science exhibition in ArtScience Museum Singapore, I experienced how some artists explore innovative ways to make art into a new form.
I had such a fun time at one of the projects called Sketch Town in the TOWN section. I became a player who was so fascinated by how I could transform my 2D colour-in into a 3D animated apartment building through a digital scanner! I still couldn’t believe I waited for almost half an hour in front of this ‘fictitious town’ (‘Sketch Town’) to see where my building would be dropped!
At that point, I thought I had spent too much time just in the Town section, but when I walked into a space with more than 170,000 wonder stars (LED lights), I found myself lost at the centre of this ‘scintillating Crystal Universe’ where the contiguously changing lights in the universe responded to people’s movement. Created with TeamLab’s Interactive 4-D Vision technology, this spectacular artwork also allows you to interact with it by releasing stars, planets, and even galaxies on your fingertips (i.e. control the LED lights from a smart touch screen within the installation). By combining art, science and technology, Crystal Universe really gives you a hint of the power of 4-D.
VR (virtual reality) + AR (augmented reality) – you can go big, or you can start small
Working in small-medium sized museums doesn’t mean you stay away from trendy technology. In fact, you can start small and still put up something pretty cool, especially with VR and AR technology. You don’t really need very complex equipment, according to the picture above, this experience can be ‘generally achieved by holding your smart phone’… or ‘by wearing a helmet or goggles’.
For example, Being There from Otago Museum’s Far from Frozen exhibition (hosted at Space Place in the 2017 July school holidays) showcased the use of ‘the latest virtual and augmented reality combining holographic computing and animated projection mapping technology’ (Otago Museum); by simply wearing a helmet, audiences were actively engaged to explore Antarctica and the potential impact of climate change.
Large museums sometimes face difficulties around members of the public being able to access the exhibitions up close in large spaces. For example Wild at Melbourne Museum, which ‘features over 600 animals in a spectacular vertical array’ (from Amazing animals in a changing world) where Panoramic Navigators were used to allow audiences to ‘orientate themselves’ and effectively ‘access information’ about the selected animal specimen (J Shaw). These ‘interactive augmented-reality multi-media information terminals’ (J Shaw, 2010) presented a smart way to learn ‘which animals are thriving and which are merely surviving’ (Amazing animals in a changing world) via touch screens and computer generated visual displays.
Audio + visual – it’s the ideas behind it that matter
Fancy technology can sometimes turn away your non tech-savvy visitors; plus not every museum is able to afford this. So, what’s the most important thing here? Well, I think it is the intriguing ideas behind the use of new technologies.
The most outstanding exhibit when I was in Melbourne was the interactive Interview Room from the Getting In exhibition at the Immigration Museum. With a flat screen TV, a touchscreen monitor and a set of audio speakers, you get to travel back in time and role-play a government official in charge of interviewing people who applied to migrate to Australia in the 1920s, the 1950s, or the present day. Although they used a more common technology of audio and visual media in the Interview Room, the audiences were still very well engaged – neither losing interest, nor feeling the technology was distracting from the content.
Social media (Instagram/Facebook/Twitter) – you can know more about who we are and what we do
Compared with some fun and smart technologies practiced in the museums and galleries, social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, etc. could possibly be considered as one of the best everyday life tools/icons that engage and connect with people. In fact, it’s probably one of the best networking tools.
I was very inspired by seeing that many arts and cultural organisations have embraced social media, including the museums I work for. It is a great way to advertise products and events, to promote exhibitions and programmes, to socialise with each other, and to share information with audiences on a daily basis.
This isn’t the end.
My 2017 trips were great. I have seen some very interesting, interactive and educational shows and exhibitions, but, this isn’t the end. I’d love to see a wider diversity of technologies used in future museums and galleries, which can maximise the creativity and innovation which enables us to inspire more visitors, to make more of a difference, to create more multi-sensory experiences, to be more accessible, and to take on more challenges.
Sketch Town. (n.d.). In TOWN. Retrieved from http://www.marinabaysands.com/museum/future-world/town.html#DTj7LtjsF2j76v88.97
Crystal Universe. (n.d.). In SPACE. Retrieved from http://www.marinabaysands.com/museum/future-world/space.html#rd3ToiYGgBsBPbVO.97
Otago Museum. (n.d.). FAR FROM FROZEN: ANTARCTICA AND US [Pamphlet]. Retrieved from http://otagomuseum.nz/whats-on/do/programme-and-events/event/far-from-frozen
Amazing animals in a changing world. (n.d.). In Wild. Retrieved from https://museumsvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/whats-on/wild/
Shaw, J. (n.d.). PANORAMIC NAVIGATOR. Retrieved from http://www.jeffreyshawcompendium.com/platform/panoramic-navigator/
Shaw, J. (2010). WILD Panoramic Navigator (2010). Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/137804005