Digital technologies in the museum

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The museums of the future can be fully called digital spaces – new technologies in museum activities are developing very rapidly. Because they often help the visitor not only to perceive, but also to participate. This participatory approach has become strategic for many museums. Here is a brief overview of the most interesting solutions that allow the visitor to interact with the exhibits and build an individual trajectory.
In addition to the obvious ways of displaying multimedia and interactive content (displaying video on a monitor, projections, holograms, interactive information kiosks, playing audio files, etc.), modern digital technologies not only accompany a person during a visit to a museum, but also shape his route and experience of visiting …

How? Through obtaining additional information, building a personal trajectory, using gamification and a participatory approach.

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Digital products allow the visitor to receive additional information directly in the halls of the museum. For this, they usually use mobile applications (their own or third-party). Various technologies help to connect the physical space with the virtual one.

There are several possibilities today:

entering the digital code of the exhibit;

search by image;

RFID tags;


QR codes, etc.

So, in the Pushkin Museum. A.S. Pushkin, since 2016, they have been experimenting with the Link Ray technology, with the help of which the light from LED lamps above the exhibits is encoded. Visitors point their smartphone at a piece of art and almost instantly get facts about it, videos, links to websites, and other information. The advantage of this technology, compared to QR codes and Bluetooth beacons, is that it works at a distance and in a crowd. There is no need to aim the smartphone camera or look for a suitable distance to “catch” the object – the application is triggered automatically.

In the future, the museum will use a synthesis of technologies to navigate and provide information about exhibits: for example, Link Ray, image recognition, augmented reality and Wi-Fi triangulation, which determines the location of a visitor with a smartphone. The visitor can find out more details about the exhibit, its author, restoration history or other information.

Recommendations and tips

The habit of a modern visitor to the phone and the skill of obtaining information from an additional device began to be used quite early. Back in 2009, the Brooklyn Museum conducted an experiment in which it used simple SMS messages to send recommendations to visitors. Each exhibit was assigned a short number – by sending an SMS to it, the visitor informed the system that he liked this particular exhibit, and she offered him other similar ones.

This approach destroys any narrative by placing user interest at the forefront. Not every museum can dare to bet on the interest of the visitor.

However, this principle, like automatic movie recommendations implemented by, for example, Netflix, IMDB and Amazon, can be a promising direction for individual museums. When a visitor evaluates an exhibit or object that interests him, so that, based on his preferences, the system would offer him other exhibits and objects in the exhibition space, a fundamentally different approach to the design of the exhibition is required.

At the very beginning of the visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the [Artlangs] project  uses a large interactive wall, on which more than 4,000 images of exhibits from the museum’s collection are displayed in turn. If the visitor is not afraid of such an array, he will be able to select exhibits, read the description and plan his own visit. Up to ten visitors can simultaneously use such a screen. It’s not scary together.


Multimedia and audio guides contain additional information, but another is more important – they, on the one hand, supervise the visit, and on the other, on the other hand, give the visitor the opportunity to study the exhibition at his own pace and along an individual route. It is especially important that the guides have a variety of language versions.

At the same time, the digital guide itself can be both in the application and in a special device. There are many varieties – from a simple audio guide with buttons for selecting an exhibit of interest to complex multimedia devices. For example, The Pen at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum allows you to draw on interactive tables or store information of interest, which can be accessed remotely using the code displayed on the ticket. The success of these devices exceeded all expectations of employees – they are taken by 99% of visitors. Several multimedia guides, such as those at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, work as you approach the exhibits. This does not require any additional activity from visitors at all.

Natural interfaces

The natural interface understands commands in the form of touches, gestures, body movements, biometric data. Thanks to this, users can intuitively manipulate content using the same body movements in virtual activities as in real life. Gestures and facial expressions are perceived more accurately and in every nuance by devices, and touch technologies and gesture recognition technologies are complemented by voice recognition. Technologies are now being developed to convey tactile information to the user – they have great potential for working with visitors with visual impairments.

This exhibit was created to help visitors understand the relationship and balance of natural ecosystems. And because humans had to feel like they were part of this ecosystem, interaction with the digital environment was carried out using gestures and body movements, which were constantly monitored by 12 Kinects touch controllers and an infrared system. Thus, with the help of a natural interface, the visitor became a member of the biosphere and, by changing the surrounding image, influenced the system as a whole.



The next step in user experience design is gamification. This approach can be implemented using a wide variety of technologies. For example, at the Micropia Museum, visitors are given tickets at the entrance, which can be stamped with microbial images next to key exhibits, and then scanned for additional information at the end of the route. There are also more difficult tasks: when interacting with the exhibits, young visitors must perform a series of actions or answer questions in order to receive a reward – a discount coupon for a cafe and a gift shop or a badge with museum symbols.