Tech in Hyperlinked Environments: Museums, Galleries & Archives

I visited the Getty Villa for the first time in 2014 while I was still in high school. As a family, we decided on the Getty Villa out of curiosity, hearing the name many times, yet never visiting the extravagant and scenic grounds. Off the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, lay a museum filled with modern architecture and Ancient Roman architecture. I was aware that some museums don’t allow cell phones inside, out of fear for flashing cameras or disruptive phone calls. Yet, to my surprise, everyone in the Getty Villa was using their cellphones. 

Now more than ever, museums are taking advantage of the internet, allowing guests to use their cellular devices to interact with various exhibits and galleries. Why the change of heart? Museums like the Getty have also installed and set up Wi-Fi for their guests. In 2015, the Met’s MediaLab decided to implement and install Beacon-like sensors, seeing that GPS could be problematic when indoors behind thick walls (Doljenkova & Tung, 2015). These beacon sensors function using Bluetooth transmissions and are built using a silicon enclosure, an ARM processor, a BLE radio sensor, a one thousand milliamp battery, and a reusable adhesive. So how are these small changes making museums better? Users can now walk past exhibits and be alerted on their smartphones about the artifact(s) and other information they may find interesting. How is this set up though? Each beacon would be attached to artifacts and exhibits. With the use of an editor, museum administrators can enter in all the information about the artifact or area into the application and all you would have to do is wave your phone. Personally, this is could make a difference when someone is in a rush or if they are short on time. If a beacon-like device can save what someone looked at, like a search history, the user can ultimately look back on the app and re-read what they missed or didn’t have time to read.

(Photo Credit: @chrisstorz via unsplash.com)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has also allowed the use of smartphones. In fact, the museum revealed their latest project, a redesigned website that features a whole new look while allowing room for “future projects that help blend digital and physical spaces (Titlow, 2016).” But who or what is the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s competition? The answer might surprise you. It’s the internet. Netflix. Google. Social Media. Sree Sreenivasan, the Met’s chief digital officer, mentioned that staying competitive is key in the long run. With social media, the Met surpassed one hundred and one million Facebook followers in 2015. Their YouTube channel gained seven million views and their Instagram account has over one million followers. This success story sounds like what the Met’s MediaLab accomplished with their beacon idea. If museums encouraged and implemented the use of cellular devices, they would not only give their guests a chance to learn differently, but in return, guests would share their findings online with the use of hashtags and trends.

If you thought smartphone integration was cool, the use of virtual reality is even cooler. Yes, I myself wondered how museums could incorporate VR into their everyday exhibits. How would that affect the museum financially considering they are quite expensive per unit, depending on the brand. It’s truly inspiring and quite out of this world when you can put on an Oculus Rift headset and get dropped into Dali’s 1935 painting “Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus”. But how is this possible? Well, with virtual reality, almost anything is possible. Here’s how the San Francisco/Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida did it. A virtual reality experience puts the user in the painting where “he or she moves through a vast desert full of dreamlike oddities, like enormous elephants on stick legs, or a ringing telephone (Zimmerman, 2016)”. Think that’s cool? Some museums are now digitalizing their collections with a camera from Google that produces images with over one billion pixels. It works by taking about two hundred gigapixel images and then stitching everything together to create the original image (John, 2016). If you were wondering, our eyes have the equivalent of a five hundred and seventy-six megapixel lens. 

(Photo Credit: @stella_jacob via unsplash.com)

With the use of emerging technology in museums, visiting one in the future will become a whole new experience. Future generations will be able to use augmented and virtual reality to travel back in time with Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin or Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn among others as they immerse themselves in their pieces of art. It will be exciting, and I personally can’t wait to see what museums implement next. Only time will tell…  

References:

Doljenkova, V., & Tung, G. (2015, March 30). Beacons: Exploring Location-Based Technology in Museums. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/digital-underground/2015/beacons

John, B. (2016, May 17). An eye for detail: Zoom through 1,000 artworks thanks to the new Art Camera from the Google Cultural Institute. Retrieved October 01, 2020, from https://blog.google/topics/arts-culture/art-camera-cultural-institute/

Titlow, J. (2016, September 13). How A 145-Year-Old Art Museum Stays Relevant In The Smartphone Age. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from https://www.fastcompany.com/3057236/how-a-145-year-old-art-museum-stays-relevant-in-the-smartphone-age

Zimmerman, E. (2016, October 28). Technology Invites a Deep Dive Into Art. Retrieved October 01, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/arts/design/technology-invites-a-deep-dive-into-art.html

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6 thoughts on “Tech in Hyperlinked Environments: Museums, Galleries & Archives

  1. Kay Wolverton Ito says:

    Really interesting post, @stratxan23, and timely; a friend was lamenting just today that she is anxious to get back to museums, and she and I both agreed that virtual museum tours just aren’t the same. We were talking about art museums in particular, so I will have to tell her about the Dali VR experience, which sounds like quite a (virtual) trip! Also coincidentally, I tried my brother’s new Oculus Rift just last night, and it was really impressive. Much more advanced than the last time I tried a VR set-up which was a few years ago. I feel like I’m particularly suggestible, so I was squealing and dodging even though I knew it wasn’t real. I look forward to the advancements you wrote about and getting to experience museums on a whole new level. First, though, let’s just get to the point where we can again step foot inside those wonderful places, though, right?

  2. Stratos Xanthus says:

    Hi @kayzdaze2020, thank you! Yes, I do believe that we have to get to the point of being able to step into these amazing places again. I do see myself being more appreciative of every one of these places now that I have been away from them for so long. I never tried any VR or Augmented Reality system but I am sure they are out of this world!

  3. Laura says:

    Wonderful article! It is always interesting how libraries and museums have such similar challenges, especially when it comes to remaining relevant and competing with the internet. During the stay-at-home order, my daughters and I did several virtual tours of museums (and universities, I have a high school senior) and while super, super cool to see some places that we’ll probably never physically visit, it made me miss visiting my favorite museums. One of which is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. In the past, they have done some really cool interactive exhibits that make use of a lot of the tech that you talked about. It is so amazing to see what museums and libraries are doing to captivate audiences! I cannot wait to be able to step into a museum again!

    • Stratos Xanthus says:

      @librarianlaura, how awesome! Yeah, I haven’t taken any virtual tours yet, but I may start doing that this holiday season. I will have to look up the Denver Museum. It sounds interesting. I wonder how universities are reacting to everything being virtual, especially for the incoming freshman. I’m thankful I graduated with my bachelors last May and not a minute later. Best of luck choosing a university!

  4. I so miss museums. Traveling before the pandemic, I always knew I could find some cool use of tech and good wifi at a local museum. The cultural museums in Canberra, Australia and the amazing Aarhus museums are perfect examples. You will see them in upcoming modules.

    • Stratos Xanthus says:

      Those sound like amazing places! I can’t wait to read more about them. Whenever I visit museums, I find myself looking around for technology that is used (and how it’s used). I’m fascinated by all the ways I’ve seen technology being used in museums and libraries!

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