Connecting the Dots – Collaborating for Physical-Digital Exhibit Design

Professional Forum

Friday, April 05, 2019: 3:00pm - 3:50pm - Back Bay AB: Professional Forum: Connecting the Dots

Hanna Cho, NGX Interactive, Canada, Clare Brown, NMAH / Smithsonian Institution, USA, Christina Sjoberg, Lord Cultural Resources, Canada

Exhibits have always been a prime opportunity for visitor interactivity. But the need for digital/physical experiences in the museum has never been more urgent. Visitors now have connected digital experiences as part of their every day life; their expectations from museum exhibitions are consequently higher than they’ve ever been. 

The list of technologies being used to create these digital/physical experiences is long. When we touch walls, we are no longer surprised when they react; when we peer through a pair of binoculars, we can see dazzling VR scenes; when we tap our RFID-enabled card onto a display, we now expect a personalized snapshot to reflect back. Augmented reality, advances in projection mapping, IOT/networked objects, and virtual simulation technologies continue to evolve in retail, marketing and beyond. 

In addition, the pace of change is staggering. Museum staff might feel pressured to experiment, from both personal experiences and the experiences of their visitors. Knowing that visitors are committing time and money to ticketed experiences, we are essentially competing for visitors who have more options than ever. More and more, these other options are already using a hybrid approach.

As digital and physical worlds are converging inside the museum, the practical ways by which we approach, create, and evolve these experiences merge as well. Traditional hierarchies are replaced and closer collaboration and mixed expertise, become essential. 

This session will begin with a brief overview of different kinds of physical-digital experiences, including trends and relevant examples, sharing insights from institutional and industry partners. Projects such as the award-winning Montreal Biosphere, Smithsonian NMAH’s “Within These Walls” renovation and Perlan Museum AR viewers, will be presented as case studies. This will be followed by a practical discussion that explores, “what is museum agile? What is the process for changing process?”