Creating Relevance & Accessibilty Through Intentional Digital Expereinces @ Cultural Institutions

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!)

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.

One Reply to “Creating Relevance & Accessibilty Through Intentional Digital Expereinces @ Cultural Institutions”

  1. Hi Caroline,

    This is a great idea for a project!

    I like the way you are framing this. Focusing on in museum digital experiences is a great idea and I think you have identified a number of great example projects. As a few more suggestions, I think it could also be interesting to look into some of what the Cleveland Art Museum did with “The Wall” a few years ago. https://web-development.cioreview.com/cioviewpoint/transforming-the-art-museum-in-the-21st-century-nid-26172-cid-121.html and also potentially at Brooklyn Museum’s Ask App https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/ask

    I think your idea of focusing analysis on the design of these experiences and their use of technology is going to be useful. Along with that, there is a good chance that you can find papers or presentations about these at conferences like Museums and the Web that would be useful to draw on for literature. With that noted, I think it would also be interesting to reach out to the teams that worked on these projects and see if any of them would be willing to share some of their thoughts on what parts of these projects were particularly successful and why they think so. I imagine the lessons learned they have from this would be really rich and useful to draw into the study. Beyond that, I think this could then also be a great opportunity to do some networking and connecting with people doing the work behind these kinds of projects.

    Overall, this is a great concept for a project and if you do run with it I think there are a lot of folks that would be interested in results from it.

    Best, Trevor

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