This year, the humanities-loving world was swept away by the “Van Gogh Exhibition: Immersive Experience,” set in over 20 cities across the world. The ad for this attraction has popped up on my Instagram upwards of 50 times and I’ve seen it on other people’s stories almost as much, my family group chat suggested it as an activity for Christmas (alas, Omicron), and the tickets, even at over $30 a piece, are always in high demand. Even in a pandemic, people are showing up for Van Gogh! Suddenly it was extremely trendy and a ‘can’t miss’ to go to this museum type experience. What made this so popular? Was it the ‘Instagram-ability’ of the experience? Was it, as I’m sure the exhibit designers hope, the ingenuity of the exhibit design that truly created an interactive, immersive, and emotionally connected experience?
Museums across space and subject often get a bad rap for being boring, stuffy, and all about walking around and reading. As academics, educators, and the world around us have adjusted to the reality that people learn in a variety of ways and exhibit labels are not always the way, museums are beginning to include innovative methods to educate visitors. In this research project, I would like to investigate the ways in which museums are successfully creating digital interactive experiences to both enhance visitor experience and become relevant and accessible to a wider audience. As the amount of amazing digital educational content piles up around us, people need to know that leaving their house for a museum is going to be a worthwhile experience for their whole group.
Through analyzing failures and successes, I hope to define a handful of attributes that lead to relevant and effective digital interactive experiences in cultural institutions. For this project, I will look at a variety of examples and ask why did they succeed? Who do they work for? Who don’t they work for? Are the adding to the learning expereince or mission of the institution?
- A few that are catching my eye now:
- Cooper Hewitt museum’s Pen (thanks, Trevor!)
- Useful implementation of QR codes
I am also contemplating taking this down to the local level and asking these questions specifically within the Smithsonian museums. Within SI, I could look at the new exhibit FUTURES, and see how they are implementing digital strategies in older exhibits throughout the institution as well. However this project progresses, I am looking forward to learning more about creating accessible, relevant, and fun museum expereinces for all.