Screens in museums? Yah or nah?

During one of the regular #museumhour conversations on Twitter, we discussed the “interactives” and screens in museums. Who likes to play with touchscreens in museums?

I do like it, as long as the content is relevant and that technology works well. What makes me go away from these devices are either

a) bad screens with lousy quality image,

and b) boring content.

I studied Digital Museum Studies. In the whole program, we didn’t focus much on the technology itself or devices. We were almost exclusively dedicated to content and thinking about our audiences. The only way to make technology in museums feasible is to create them the way visitors will love.

What are some possible interactives in museums?

 

1.Digital labels

These screens are replacements for your regular, old-school labels, collected on one device instead of being spread across the museum. As a visitor, you can choose between categories and read information about selected items. Do you spend a lot of time in front of these screens? I don’t. It’s just not the same thing; I like to look at the item and read the label right in front of it.

2.Digitalised items

Some museums have many old photos or paper documents in these collections. Digitising these assets and making them available for visitors to explore on screens is a lovely idea. The best example of that I can remember is the Casa Fernando Pessoa, the poet’s interpretation centre, in Lisbon.

3.Games

Some interactives in museums are games. It’s a field I researched during my studies, through the examples such as strategic history games such as the Age of Empires. Visiting museums is a mostly playful experience if we assume that museums are fun. We learn something, but above all, we do have a great time. When a museum uses games to increase that visitor experience – it’s even better.

Casa Fernando Pessoa - Museum Interactives

I love quizzes & educational games in museums!

4.Digital art

We should not forget that some pieces of art are born digital. It means that the only way to show it is through the screens. It’s a different topic of conversation though.

As a visitor, what kind of interactives do you like?

I don’t like screens that exist for the sake of being, because the particular museum wants to be “modern”. Screens in museums may be counterproductive for children and younger people since many of them are already addicted to their screens. Furthermore, some museums have apps instead of labels, so that you check all the information about the exhibitions and collections on your phone, or they provide you with a tablet.

While a mobile app is a great idea, maybe it’s not the best way to enjoy the museum. On-site screens with well-prepared content will remove all the distractions. Our phones are full of distractions anyway.

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