Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CHIN Digital Heritage Symposium - Part 3

Keynote: Interactivity in Museums
Agnès Alfandari – Head of Multimedia Department, Musée du Louvre

In 2005 the Louvre’s website went interactive.  The goal was for it to be an element of the Louvre in its own right, an arena of exchange, sharing and creation.  Visitors have been encouraged to highlight their Louvre experience before, during or after a physical visit, or just use the website on its own if they can’t make it to Paris.  The website was organized to be intuitive to the visitor instead of being based on how the museum thought things should be organized.  On-site multimedia would also be pushed, with changes being made in temporary and permanent exhibit rooms.  Mobile tools such as self-guided tours and other downloadable interpretation enhancing materials were also made available.

The museum asked itself how new technologies could help serve the missions of the Museum in key areas – curation & display of collections, reception & audience development; education, transfer, and dissemination of knowledge, and scientific research.  It was determined that communication and knowledge dissemination could be much improved, promotion could be very cost-effective using new multimedia, and visitors and professionals could explore the collections in new and exciting ways.  Concerns were also raised over the Louvre’s audience demographics, being well-off people who feel privileged and exclusive to be able to enjoy the museum.  They wanted to actively reach out and change that image and be viewed as a museum where all are welcome.

Museum Lab:
In determining how new technologies can contribute to a better understanding and grasp of art, individual pieces and groups of artworks were selected to have their interpretation enhanced by various forms of multimedia.  Considerations during the research process included managing visitor traffic, the need for multilingualism, and intellectual and physical accessibility.  Corporations or other groups wishing to partner with the museum can pay to have a mini-Louvre lab in a designated space using virtual displays of selected Louvre collection holdings.
Presentation methods:
  1. Handling, experimentation and appropriation – allow visitors to gain a better view & understanding of the artworks through various hands-on approaches.
  2. Immersion, whole body involvement – sensorial spaces for an intuitive, immediate approach to artworks or an artistic context.
  3. Contextualization, reconstruction & exploration – art history and archaeological displays provide historical and geographic markers, such as the use of animated maps to show invasions, political powers, etc.
  4. Observation – displays designed to guide or train the eye to view artworks or particular aspects of artwork.
  5. Gaining new perspective on one’s gaze – displays encourage viewers to question their perception or impression of an artwork.
  6. Guidance, instructions on how to use multimedia – intuitive as possible, with simple step-by-step instructions.

Question & Answer:
How exactly do these partnerships work?  How much control does each party have?
The partner pays the Louvre to do this work, so aside from control over which museum holdings are included, most decisions are made by the paying partner.  This is how and why the Louvre has a museum lab in Tokyo.  There were concerns when this project launched that there wouldn’t be enough interest for the work to continue after the initial testing, but the opposite has happened.  The work is being viewed as so innovative and exciting that there is currently a waiting list of potential partners.

Kurio – Museum Guide for Families
Ron Wakkary – Professor of Interactive Arts & Technology, Simon Fraser University

Museums are social places while technology is often not.  In order to figure how to improve a family visit to the museum, three areas must be examined:
  1. adaptivity – identify characteristics and categories of group
  2. interactivity – focus on game interaction to engage group
  3. tangibility – develop playful, intuitive system interactions

How Kurio works:
The concept behind Kurio is that the family arrives at the museum as a group of lost time travelers.  In order to return to the current day they must reconstruct a time map by answering questions and solving exhibit-related puzzles around the museum.  In designing it, a tabletop was used to explain how the game works, and each family gets a PDA to coordinate their game efforts.  Individual mission assignments are given to each family member so that everyone has their own puzzle to solve.

User studies:
18 families representing 58 participants at the Surrey Museum were interviewed about their experience with Kurio.  Responses included comments about this provides something for everyone to enjoy and allows the family to bond since it forces them to work together.  It is also a way to naturalize technology and provide a physicality of interaction in the museum.  In the words of one child, “we actually got to do things, not just look or watch, we had to find stuff”.  This shift to exploration and discovery forces visitors to absorb information instead of just skimming through the exhibits and leaving.

The coordinating role can be overwhelming, especially for families of 4 or more since teaming up may be required on the various mission tasks.  The games also require a structure that can limit the experience in the museum.  And as with any technical venture, technological failures, no matter how minute, can be very disruptive in the game.

Placing our Bets – Planning the Canadian Human Rights Museum
Victoria Dickenson

  1. National museum with a global mandate
  2. Museum of ideas, not objects
  3. Subject is human rights
  4. Approach is engagement
  5. Goal is transformation
  6. Medium is digital, the bet is ubiquity

Making the bet:
The museum’s planning committees are hoping for universal access, with tactile interaction for everyone despite their disabilities.  Displays will be multilingual, ensuring that the museum represents and provides access to Canadian indigenous languages.  In terms of collecting, the museum will follow principles of oral cultural, collecting oral histories and memories.  They have already begun this process by visiting 21 cities and talking with 2000 people, capturing hours of video memories and audio recordings, transcripts and roundtable reports.  This will be presented using “digital magic”, multi-touch tables, gestural interfaces, image recognition, etc.

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