Original photograph here.

by Katherine Hall, Staff writer

The difference between early museum adaptions of technology and the future of the medium is the difference between pure information and interactivity. Today, following trends in museum education, the best approaches invite users to actively participate, to create their own content and help take control of the narrative surrounding works of art. With this in mind, museums have turned to innovative interactive experiences using stationary, large format interactive technology.

One design firm, Local Projects, has recently worked with two institutions to integrate this sort of technology into their spaces. The first museum is the Cleveland Museum of Art and its Gallery One Space. We’ve already covered the Cleveland Museum of Art and its ArtLens app, which allows users to access information on the whole collection from home before or after their visits—as well as create their own collection of favorites to form a customized tour for when they visit. In addition to the app, Gallery One serves as a separate space from the rest of the museum, so visitors can choose whether or not they want to utilize the interactive technology available or have a more traditional museum experience. Within Gallery One is a wall-sized touch screen that hosts an ever-changing cloud of the museum’s collection; tapping on an image will enlarge it and bring up information about it. This allows visitors to preview the collection and even see works that may not be on display in the galleries. The large size enables group viewing and multiple users to interact with the wall at once, which contrasts the individual experience of using an app. Critics of the touch wall like to to cite it as an example of technology that detracts from the art viewing experience, arguing that it is a situation where visitors look and touch but don’t see and consume art in a meaningful way.

Original photograph here.

However, some features in Gallery One stand in direct opposition to those who argue that technology is always a negative influence on museum attendance experience. The motion-match detector, an excellent counterexample, is a wholly interactive element. The feature includes a work of art, a video camera with motion detecting capability to capture the user’s position, and a large screen that displays their position and a percentage of how well their pose matches the work of art they have been instructed to imitate. Physically recreating the postures in works of art allows visitors to understand things that their eyes alone would not have noticed. This approach allows visitors to interact with art in ways that they never would have it in a more typical museum format. In addition to the motion-match detector, which encourages audiences to discover a specific piece, another station allows visitors to personally connect with works in the collection. The expression match station helps users discover works throughout the collection by “look[ing] into a camera, mak[ing] a face, and the screen displays pieces from the museum with similar facial expressions.” In effect, users are acting out different expressions and emotions which, again, allows them to connect physically with the art they are viewing in addition to visually consuming it.

Original photograph here.

As technology continues to evolve and become even more ubiquitous, museums will be forced to address it, either ignoring it completely to become spaces apart from digital onslaught, or integrating it at various levels. Local Projects’ work at the Cleveland Museum is a pioneering adaption of large format interactive technology in a separate space while maintaining a traditional format for the main collection. In the coming weeks, we will cover Local Projects’ Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum redesign which integrates technology throughout the entire visit.

Original photograph here.