Museum Displays and Media

In the last few decades, museums have reshaped their agendas and ways of presentation, in order to adjust to shifting communication cultures and to address themselves to wider audiences especially of younger generations. Whereas in the 18th century the function of museums was compared to that of encyclopedias, nowadays the aim of the contemporary museum is considered to entertain as well as to inform the visitor, to tell a story, to educate through its agenda, to “translate the otherwise unfamiliar and inaccessible into the familiar and accessible”. In this respect museums compete with other forms of entertainment and   employ agendas more aligned to the pervasive domination of the moving image (cinema, television) in current popular cultures. The New Acropolis Museum has a permanent video projection, at the entrance to the Parthenon Gallery, narrating the history of the monument.

 

In the last few decades, museums have reshaped their agendas and ways of presentation, in order to adjust to shifting communication cultures and to address themselves to wider audiences especially of younger generations. Whereas in the 18th century the function of museums was compared to that of encyclopedias, nowadays the aim of the contemporary museum is considered to entertain as well as to inform the visitor, to tell a story, to educate through its agenda, to “translate the otherwise unfamiliar and inaccessible into the familiar and accessible”. In this respect museums compete with other forms of entertainment and   employ agendas more aligned to the pervasive domination of the moving image (cinema, television) in current popular cultures. The New Acropolis Museum has a permanent video projection, at the entrance to the Parthenon Gallery, narrating the history of the monument.

 

A common and widely used museum device is the audio guide, which provides a predetermined experience of the exhibition. The audio guide follows a structured path and provides additional information to the visitor, which may be missing from the display. It has a structured narrative which follows a specific route and viewing of the exhibits. Despite the wealth of information provided by audio guides, their imposed regimentation and long duration often deter casual visitors. This is confirmed by the study at the BM, where the random monitored cases, spent far less time than required by the audio guide.

 

Thus the question of interactive flexibility of audio guiding systems arises. How can visitors use an audio guide but also have their own choices on how much they are interested about an exhibit? How can they choose the level of information they require, and how can the system respond to their choices?  “The ideal audio guide should not only guess what the visitors are interested in, but also take into consideration what they have to learn; orienting visitors, providing opportunities for reflection and allowing them to explore related ideas, thereby greatly enhancing the visit’s educational value.” The audio guide’s role is to provide new interests to the visitor and to enrich the exhibition with the historical and contextual facts that are not visible by the exhibits at their own. A desirable multimedia guide should give the visitor of the museum the opportunity to personalize his visit and to be able to interpret his experience according to his own regard. That would provide a more meaningful and rich learning outcome to the visitor.

 

This has intrigued museum curators and academics, so a number of projects which try to enrich the functionality of audio guides have emerged. The ‘Museum Wearable’ by F. Sparacino from the MIT Media Lab is a wearable computer device which apart from the headphones has also a “lightweight eye-piece display” attached. The ‘Museum Wearable’ responds to the path and the stops of each visitor into the museum and creates a personalized model guide, according to the visitors interests.

 

Furthermore, the original audio guides tend to be replaced by multimedia guides which apart from providing an audio description and guidance, they also offer animations, plans and some choices to the audience. They enable collection of information which can be taken outside the museums’ physical boundaries and be further explored at the personal computer of the visitor. Another example is the applications that have recently been developed and can be used at the mobile phones of the public. The museum of Louvre and the New Acropolis Museum have guides for their exhibits which include narration and pictures that can be downloaded at the mobile phone for free use by the public. As Orphan Kipcak mentions, “the main problem is that museums are traditionally conservative, they need to collect and conserve. But the development of new technologies will continue, and as people get used to these new technologies, the museums will also have to react and adapt to new solutions.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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