Digitising the museum experience - Michael Festenstein Special Projects Manager, Crown Fine Art

February 4, 2014

Over the past two decades changes in society, culture and consumerism have caused museums to re-evaluate how they present their collections and how they deliver their experience to their audiences. Funding pressures, diversifying cultures and new technologies will continue to place new demands on the sector to embrace innovation and appeal to a wider audience.

Digital images of artworks, be it on a museum or gallery’s website are now commonplace; but the role of technology in museums and in enhancing the museum experience continues to evolve as technology becomes more and more integral to all aspects of our lives.

As technology continues to transform our culture and how we receive it, the creation, management and use of digital assets is becoming a core function for many museums. Investment in digital content brings tremendous opportunities for engagement and audience development, as well as challenges in terms of preservation and planning.

As our lives become increasingly digitalised, our experiences and the way we consume the world has become more personalised and tailored to the individual’s tastes; museums are having to look for new, intuitive ways to engage with visitors as individuals in order to maximise and broaden their appeal.

A number of factors are driving this change within the museum sector. The rapid rise in new technologies, coupled with decreased funding sources and audiences who are digital savvy, mean that museums’ offerings are being reviewed and transformed in reaction to today’s consumers - who demand content and experiences pertinent to them.

The move toward digitalisation within the museum sector has had significant implications on how collections are displayed in order to engage audiences and tell stories - giving people greater control over the museum experience and making the relationship more interactive and dynamic, rather than the traditional passive/observational experience.

With the prevalence of smart phones and contactless technology, museums will need to create experiences that extend into new physical and digital space. As our world becomes more digitalised, how will the physical space that museums occupy and the experiences that people have within them be affected?

Social and cultural shifts continue to influence the types of experiences that people expect, while limited funding puts added pressure on museums to be profitable, more innovative and inclusive to attract new audiences. As people become accustomed to having unlimited access to information, museums are having to find new ways to appeal to different groups within society.

With limited funding, museums are thinking more about what the visitor wants and how they want to see it in order to encourage them through the door. Temporary or moveable museums mean that exhibits can potentially reach a much wider audience in a way that is more personal and appealing to the recipient.

Use of technologies such as 3D printing mean that it’s possible to print parts of artefacts as souvenirs for people to take home - which is a great way of providing new and interactive experiences for the visitor. There’s even the scope to replicate damaged or lost items, so in the future there may be less and less emphasis on the validity of the original as copies and spin offs are created.

The overall museum experience is increasingly one of collaboration and interaction to attract more varied audiences and engage with them in a way which is meaningful and resonates with them. As audiences become accustomed to receiving experiences that appeal to their senses, the role of museums as curators of experiences, educators and platforms for cultural exploration outside the traditional museum space will continue to develop.

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