Museums and heritage sites are moving forward into the digital sphere. They are experimenting with a range of digital technologies from AI; virtual reality; digital exhibitions; 3D scanning and even the use of tablets and apps to enhance visitor experience.
AI (deep neutral networks) is being used to create new formats of exhibitions that would not necessarily have been put together by human curators or in a way that is obvious to average audience. An AI analyses the collections for similarities in colours; facial expressions in paintings etc. and matches images together. This could possibly shed light on unnoticed connections and create new ways of looking at the collections. Google has developed their own platform which uses AI to create exhibitions in the same way that museums such as the Norwegian National Museum have used this technology. Google Arts & Culture compiles a database of images of art, artists, historical figures and places. It allows you to explore exhibitions on different art styles and movements but also create individual exhibitions by using Arts and Culture Experiments.
Museums have started using this technology in a similar way. One example is the Norwegian National Museum principal components project. This project uses AI to create algorithms which show compositional similarities. The data from this was used to create several displays based on categories such as style, motif or design. These exhibitions are available to browse through on their website.
Digital technology is being used to create new ways of visualising exhibitions.
One part of this is museums creating exhibitions that can be viewed online. In 2010 Getty Museum used augmented reality to showcase a 17th century display cabinet Augsburg in Germany. This is done via a 3D object overlay which is sent to a live video feed through the viewer’s webcam. This technology has enabled the museum to display the network of complex drawers and cupboards, allowing for a more interactive experience as the viewer can move, rotate and tilt the object. Museums are also branching out into virtual reality exhibitions. The Franklin institute Space Command exhibition uses virtual reality to allow visitors to interact with a simulated space environment. These types of exhibitions engage visitors in a more active way than traditional exhibitions. As one of the main aims of museums is to educate, new more visual exhibitions could engage different types of learners.
Another way museums are engaging visitors with visualisation technology is by making exhibitions accessible online. The British Museum has created a virtual reality tour of their Ancient Egypt section which allows users to navigate through the museum without the crowds!
A different type of online exhibition is one that is only available online. For example the London Sound Survey is an online exhibition of the sounds of London. Visitors to the site can listen to clips of noise from around London and browse historical references to sound and listen to old radio clips. This type of museum or exhibition would be very difficult to put together if it wasn’t online.
Digital technology is being used to enhance the viewing experience when visiting the museum itself. The Louvre Museum in Paris have designed a piece of software for Nintendo 3DS that downloads a guide that can be used around the museum or from your own home. The software also provides a virtual reality tour with audio commentaries.
Tablets and interactive screens are being introduced into museums to make the experience more engaging and interactive. One example of this is the ARTLENS gallery in Cleveland museum of art. The gallery uses tablets that visitors can use to look more closely at pieces of art and interact with them. You can also use the tablets to take pictures of any art you like and it will bring up more detailed information on the piece. You can watch their video below:
Museums and heritage sites are also branching out with the use of QR Barcode readers. Manchester Art Gallery launched an exhibition in 2008 called Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery Trail. Large QR barcode labels were placed around the city next to places of significance or objects to create a trail. Users could then scan the barcodes using their phones to find out more information.
In 2013 Ashby- de- la- Zouch museum launched a project that archives their collections with QR barcode readers. This will make organising collections easier as an object can just be scanned with a barcode reader to show all its details. While this does not enhance visitor experience, it does make administration and organising collections a simpler task, meaning that museum employee’s time and effort can be put into other areas.
The Roman town of Palmyra in Syria was destroyed by ISIS meaning that many artefacts and Roman temples were demolished. However some of the artefacts have not been lost forever. Before the site was destroyed a team of archaeologists and scientists scanned a number artefacts with 3D laser technology. This means that some of the artefacts have been restored or made into replicas.
Use of other advanced technologies include:
Nick Squires, 2017, Stone sculptures smashed by Isil in ancient city of Palmyra restored to former glory by Italian experts, The Telegraph, Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/16/stone-sculptures-smashed-isil-ancient-city-palmyra-restored/
Kareem Shaheen, 2017, Isis destroys tetrapylon monument in Palmyra, The Guardian, Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/20/isis-destroys-tetrapylon-monument-palmyra-syria
"Examining the Impact of Artificial Intelligence in Museums." MW17: MW 2017. Published February 1, 2017. Consulted December 20, 2017. https://mw17.mwconf.org/paper/exploring-artificial-intelligence-in-museums/
The J. Paul Getty Trust, 2010, Getty Museum debuts cutting-edge technology to showcase intricate Augsburg cabinet, available from: http://www.getty.edu/news/press/center/augsburg_cabinet.html
The Franklin Institute, 2017, Virtual Reality at the Museum, Available from: https://www.fi.edu/exhibit/virtual-reality-museum
The British Museum, 2017, New Virtual Reality Tour of the Museum with Oculus, Available from: https://blog.britishmuseum.org/new-virtual-reality-tour-with-oculus/
London Sound Survey, 2017, London Life in Sound, Available from: http://www.soundsurvey.org.uk/
Google Arts and Culture, 2017, Available from: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/
Nintendo licenced by the Louvre Museum, 2013, Available from: http://louvreguide.nintendo.com/ http://www.modes.org.uk/news/latest-posts/2013/04/23/coding-your-collections/
Nancy Proctor, 2010, The Museum As Distributed Network, p48, Museum Identity, Issue 5. Available from: http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/cultural-heritage/category/qr-codes/index.htm