Last Friday, I was invited to a local museum along with some friends as part of a museum take over day. We were asked to explore various concepts that might help move the museum forward into the 21st century, by examining new, digital ways of enhancing the museum’s experience, and its public appeal.
My friend and I were tasked with delivering museum content to people on an iPad. The notion was based on the idea that future visitors might be able to carry an iPad, provided by the museum, as they explore the museum. Through the use of QR codes and specialised software, the iPad could be used to view and consume a wealth of museum content regarding various exhibits. Now, everything we did was only explored on a concept level, but we had an incredibly productive day, and the work we did really got me excited about the prospect of using a similar system for real, so I thought it would be cool to share some of the things we considered with you.
One problem that we discovered in the museum was the plethora of text to be found at nearly every juncture. In some places we decided that this was simply overwhelming, and that it would be much more intuitive to view this content on an iPad, in a way that was fluid, colourful and interesting. Think about it, instead of trying to navigate a huge swath of text on the wall near an exhibit, you could simply scan a QR code alongside the exhibit, and this would take you to the relevant piece of information on that particular exhibit. For example, if you were viewing a painting, you would be able to view information solely about the artist, the subject of the painting, or the style of the painting and the context it was influenced by. A categorised system such as this would eliminate a lot of searching through substantial pieces of text to find the information you were looking for. It’s also quite a promising prospect for the museum itself, because these huge pieces of text take up a lot of floor… well, wall space in the museum, and so it would definitely allow for a better use of space, perhaps leading to reduced costs, or more exhibits in a certain area. Furthermore, the use of an iPad gives scope for the viewing of a wider range of content, such as pictures, videos and graphic rendering.
This kind of media makes a customers museum experience incredibly immersive and entertaining experience. For example, instead of reading about a weapon, you could view a video that shows the weapon being demonstrated by an expert.
We explored some more ideas appropriate to the museum that we were working in. The museum is situated in Carlisle, on the very northern border of England. The area has a tremendously rich Roman history, and the museum itself is built with a gallery overlooking the site of a Roman fort. Use of an iPad could allow users to look out onto the site, whilst viewing a 3D rendering of the area as it would have looked at the time. There’s also a mockup of a section of Hadrian’s wall, and an iPad would allow for similar viewing as though one were looking out from the top of the wall onto an attacking enemy.
Imagine pointing your iPad at a castle such as this, and seeing a re-enactment of an invasion or a siege, pretty neat right?
This is the kind of immersive media experience would make a museum experience incredibly exciting for people of all ages. We explored further ideas, such as the viewing of videos feauturing actors interacting with exhibits, perhaps as a peasants caught in the stocks, or a Roman soldier.
Sadly, it’s probably about time for me to cease the history talk and look at the wider picture. I’ve used the specific examples to make the principles more realistic, but I think it’s safe to say that there is huge potential to use iPads in museums. There’s the chance to use iPads as fixed exhibits displaying media content, but also the chance for users to access content on an iPad that they’ve been given to carry around. There’s the potential to eliminate the boring, monotonous text on the walls of museums, and replace it with a wealth of multimedia content including pictures, videos and 3D rendering.
Personally, I’m really excited to see how the iPad, and similar technology can enhance the museum experience.