The use of technology in museums has significantly impacted the way visitors interact with exhibits and learn about history, science, and culture. One area in which technology is increasingly being used is in the creation of interactive games and exhibits using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technologies allow visitors to experience exhibits in a more immersive and interactive way. For example, an exhibit on ancient Egypt could use VR to transport visitors to the pyramids and allow them to explore the ruins as if they were actually there. AR, on the other hand, can be used to overlay digital information on top of physical artifacts, providing additional context and information to visitors. With AR, museums can provide additional context and information about exhibits, making the learning experience more interactive and engaging.
- The British Museum in London has an AR app that allows visitors to explore the museum’s ancient Egyptian collection. The app uses image recognition to recognize exhibits and overlay information about the artifacts, including 3D models of the artifacts.
- At Heroes and Legends, augmented reality brings holograms of astronaut royalty to life. The entire exhibit is dedicated to the men and women at the heart of America’s space program when it was just beginning. Interactive pieces located throughout the building allow early astronauts and NASA legends to tell their stories.
- Smithsonian’s oldest museum hall is officially enhanced with new technology in the Skin & Bones exhibit. The Bone Hall still has many of the original skeletons, but now guests can use an app to overlay skin and movements onto the bones.
- The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Japan has an AR exhibit that allows visitors to explore the deep sea. The exhibit uses AR to overlay digital information on top of physical models of sea creatures and provide visitors with an interactive experience.
- The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has an AR exhibit that allows visitors to explore the history of transportation. The exhibit uses AR to overlay digital information on top of physical models of transportation and provide visitors with an interactive experience.
Another example of technology being used in museums is in the creation of interactive games and quizzes. These can be used to engage visitors and make the learning experience more fun and interactive. For example, a museum could create a game where visitors have to solve puzzles related to the exhibits in order to progress through the museum. This not only makes the experience more engaging but also helps visitors retain the information they learn.
One of the main ways in which AR is used in museums is through the use of mobile apps. Museums can create mobile apps that visitors can download and use while they are in the museum that provide visitors with information about the exhibits, interactive tours, and games. These apps can use the camera on a visitor’s smartphone or tablet to recognize specific exhibits and overlay digital information on top of them. For example, an app could use image recognition to recognize a painting and then overlay information about the artist and the historical context of the painting. For example, an app could use GPS to provide visitors with information about the exhibits they are currently near or allow visitors to scan QR codes on exhibits to access additional information. QR codes have been around for more than 25 years. Museums can place QR codes on exhibits, which visitors can scan with their smartphones to access additional information and interactive experiences. For example, a QR code placed on an ancient artifact could lead to a virtual tour of the excavation site where the artifact was found.
“We do have to be careful about how we’re using them,” said Sarah-Jane Harknett Outreach Organiser, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and Visitor Engagement Project Coordinator, University of Cambridge Museums at DataFest 2021. “There’s a temptation to use these to link to the website where we just dump all data that didn’t make it onto the label. In previous tracking and surveys that we’ve done in UCM, we can see that we need to make sure that we’re not just using technology as a place to put everything that didn’t make the cut without careful curation, and looking after that data.”
The use of technology in museums also has the potential to reach a wider audience. Virtual tours and online exhibits can be accessed from anywhere in the world, making it possible for people who are unable to physically visit the museum to still learn about its collections. AR can also be used in museums to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. AR can be used to provide audio descriptions or sign language interpretation for exhibits, making the museum more accessible for people who are blind or deaf.
However, it’s important to note that the use of AR in museums also raises some concerns. One of the main concerns is the risk of visitors becoming too focused on the digital information provided by AR and missing the physical exhibit. Another concern is the potential for AR to create a disconnect between the visitor and the physical exhibit, as the visitor may feel more like a spectator than an engaged participant.
The use of AR in museums is an innovative way to enhance the visitor experience and make the learning experience more interactive and engaging. Technology is helping museums to make the learning experience more engaging and accessible to a wider audience. From mobile apps and QR codes to immersive and interactive exhibits, AR is helping museums to provide additional context and information about exhibits and improve accessibility for people with disabilities. However, it’s important for museums to consider the potential drawbacks of AR and strive to strike a balance between the digital and physical aspects of the visitor experience.