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<p>Designing Interactive Museum Exhibits!: Enhancingvisitor curiosity through augmented artefacts</p> <p>Luigina CiolfiInteraction Design Centre</p> <p>Computer Science BuildingUniversity of Limerick</p> <p>Ireland+353 61 213530</p> <p></p> <p>Liam J. BannonInteraction Design Centre</p> <p>Computer Science BuildingUniversity of Limerick</p> <p>Ireland+353 61 202632</p> <p></p> <p>ABSTRACTIn this paper, we describe the current work beingconducted at the Interaction Design Centre on thedesign and development of a novel interactive museumexhibition. The particular context and cultural setting ofthe museum calls for a careful approach to theintroduction of technology in such a context. Wepresent some of the findings from our early fieldstudies, and discuss how we are attempting to take thesefindings into account in our ongoing design processes.</p> <p>KeywordsMuseum technologies, engagement, design process, roleof artefacts.</p> <p>INTRODUCTIONThis paper provides an outline of some of the workbeing done by researchers at the University of LimerickInteraction Design Centre (UL IDC) on the EUDisappearing Computer SHAPE (Situating HybridAssemblies in Public Environments) project. Our focushere is on issues in designing innovative interactiveexperiences for visitors to the Hunt Museum located inLimerick, Ireland.The introduction of technology into museums andexhibitions is a difficult and delicate matter, as themuseum is a rather complex entity from the point ofview of experience, interaction and exhibition design(Falk &amp; Dierking, 1995), e.g. educational issues,curatorial necessities, pleasuarable visitor experiences,etc need to be merged. A number of distinctcommunities, with different disciplinary backgroundsand thus cultures, are involved in the process:pedagogical and curatorial concerns have to beunderstood and supported by exhibition, informationand interaction designers and technology developers.We need to understand the ecology of artefacts, spacesand practices with a view to trying to create somechanges or interventions in that context. How to takeinto account these different perspectives is not an easyquestion to answer. In what follows we describe ourevolving approach to this topic in the context of our on-</p> <p>going work in the Hunt Museum. This is still work-in-progress, and thus what follows is an interim report,and presents our reflections on the process to date. Theframe of this paper is formative, rather than evaluative,and it aims to discuss the process of design rather thancompleted designs. We have been evolving what weterm a number of design sensitivities, based on anextensive data corpus collected during nearly 8 monthsof field studies. The focus of these observational studiesis on the features of the museum environment, theartefacts, and the public interaction with the objects inthe different museum spaces.</p> <p>THE SHAPE PROJECT AND THE HUNT MUSEUMThis research is being conducted within the EU-Disappearing Computer SHAPE1 project (SituatingHybrid Assemblies in Public Environments). Theproject focus is on creating hybrid public environmentsthat allow visitors to actively interact with features ofboth physical and digital spaces. SHAPE is specificallyinvestigating these issues of hybridity and assembly inthe context of public spaces such as museums andexploratoria. Living Exhibitions, where ourexplorations are exhibited for public experimentationand evaluation, are planned at selected Europeanmuseums which have agreed to participate.The SHAPE team at the UL IDC is currently workingwith the Hunt Museum on a SHAPE Living Exhibitionplanned for the Summer of 2003. We are currentlydeveloping design scenarios for a number of exhibits tobe located within a specific room at the Museum. Thesescenarios are based our analysis of field study datadisplaying human behaviour within the museumenvironment, and, specifically, the way visitors</p> <p> 1 Members of the SHAPE Consortium are: the Royal</p> <p>Institute of Technology-KTH (Sweden; CoordinatingPartner), Kings College London (UK), the Universityof Nottingham (UK) and the University of Limerick(Ireland).</p> <p>ECCE11 - Eleventh European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics. Catania (Italy), September 2002.</p> <p>approach and make sense of particular exhibits andspecific objects in the Museum.The Hunt Collection is an internationally importantcollection of original works of art and antiquities. It is apersonal one, formed by a couple (John and GertrudeHunt) who judged each piece that they collectedaccording to the standard of its design, craftsmanshipand artistic merit. These criteria they applied to objectsof all ages - from the Neolithic to the twentieth century.Since 1997, the collection is arranged on three floors ofthe historic "Custom House" in Limerick City Centre.</p> <p>The whole collection is presented in a way thathighlights the personality of the owners: for example, awall panel in the Museum, near several artefacts, showsa photograph of the Hunt Familys home kitchen. It ispossible to locate these precious Museum objects intheir original everyday place in the Hunt home. Aremarkable example is the Plat Del Dia (The Dish ofthe Day) by Pablo Picasso, a small oil on cardboardthat Picasso painted for a Restaurant in Barcelona toadvertise daily specials, and that was used for the samepurposes in the Hunt familys kitchen!The information available to the visitors in theproximity of the displays is minimal: simple labels toindicate the nature, the provenance, and the period, areplaced near an object or a group of objects. This isintentionally done by the museum management as theywish to encourage personal discovery, also allowing formediation of information by person-to-personcommunication with human experts in their veryengaging Docent program.The Docents are volunteers who, according to their timeand availability, are available in different parts of theMuseum, and can provide visitors information aboutspecific objects or sections of the Museum, theirfeatures, history, and also stories about how theseobjects became part of the Hunt family collection. TheDocents are also in charge of guiding small groups ofvisitors through the Museum and assist other museumpersonnel during hands-on activities and educationalworkshops.As well as the human help and guidance provided bythe Docents, panels presenting more generalinformation about the collection are displayed on the</p> <p>walls throughout the Museum. The panels are eitherrelated to the Hunt family and the process of acquisitionof the collection, or to a specific section of it (e.g., glass,earthenware, bronze, etc.).Whereas the nature and structure of the collectionresponds to Victorian criteria of classification anddisplay (Newhouse, 1995), the Hunt Museum differsfrom most museums of this kind in that it has someextremely interesting features that integrate the classiccontent of the exhibition with elements of direct,hands-on, engagement for the visitors. We discussthese features in later sections as we turn to ourobservational studies.</p> <p>OBSERVATIONSGaining a thorough understanding of the way visitorsmove through the exhibitions and interact around theobjects on display is a crucial element in designingeffective museum installations (Ciolfi et al. 2001). Moregenerally, it is crucial to understand the way visitorinterpret the museum and the story it tells throughartefacts and information resources (Hooper-Greenhil,1992). In the specific context of the Hunt Museum, we wereparticularly interested in how visitors explore variousassemblages of drawers and cases in the museum andhow such exhibits engage people. Another focus of ourinvestigation was gaining an understanding of thestructure, nature and content of the exhibits, theinformational material available, the role of humanguides and the related educational activities theMuseum organises for groups of children and adults.We conducted an extensive set of field studies in theMuseum including informal observations, interviewswith experts, curators and docents, and videoobservations of visitors focused on specific parts of thecollection. Following this phase of study, some relevantfeatures of the museum emerged as crucial in shapingthe visitors experience of the Hunt Collection. We arepresenting three most notable examples in the followingsections.</p> <p>The Cabinets of CuriositiesWe studied how visitors move through and approach theexhibits, noting which areas and features of the museumwere favoured by the visitors, and where interestinginteractions occurred. We found much of interest in theareas where cabinets of curiosities were located (SeeFig. 2).These cabinets can be viewed as an assembly ofobjects/artefacts - prompting complex dynamics ofunderstanding and sharing knowledge amongst thevisitors of the museum (Pearce, 1994). The cabinetscontain several kinds of artefacts (from decorative artspieces, to archaeological findings, drawings, tapestries,etc.) arranged in a way that reminds of that in whichJohn and Gertrude Hunt originally displayed them intheir own house.</p> <p>Figure 1. The Hunt Museum, Limerick.</p> <p>ECCE11 - Eleventh European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics. Catania (Italy), September 2002.</p> <p>Visitors are free to open the cabinets drawers in thesequence they prefer and explore their content. They areallowed to take a very close look at the objects as theonly protection is a thick glass panel on top of eachdrawer.</p> <p>Visitors are surprised by the fact that the traditionalcultural rules of behaviour in a museum do not applyto the Study Collection room, as it is possible for themto touch and open the drawers, and to get closer to theircontents. Sometimes, people do not actually realise theyare allowed to do so. However, when visitors find outabout this possibility, they engage in observations,interaction and discussion around the cabinet exhibit.After conducting observations of people interactingaround the cabinets, the analysis of video footagerevealed a lot of communication around the objects,with the visitors striving to collaboratively make senseof the exhibits. Interpreting objects and collectionsmeans not only understanding specific aspects or detailsbelonging to each object, but to make sense of thewhole arrangement in which they are displayed and ofthe connections among the different parts of the story.As well as the variety of objects on display, the Cabinetof Curiosities has another appeal to the visitors. Thedrawers, chests and boxes stimulate curiosity andexploration. These containers, usually accessible onlyby their owners (and usually in private settings ratherthan museums), suggest the presence of secrets, ofstrange objects, sheltered from the eyes of the public(Elsner &amp; Cardinal, 1994, Bachelard, 1969).Uncovering the secrects and discovering the precious,hidden content is perceived as very rewarding by thevisitors, considering also that the touching of exhibits isoften forbidden in traditional museums. Curiosity andexpectation act as facilitators of the process of makingsense of the objects, and of learning through activediscovery (Shuh, 1994). Through stimulating theircuriosity, the cabinets and drawers encourage childrenand adults to both act and reflect, and involve thevisitors in an engaging experience. The interactionsaround the drawers reveal interesting patterns ofcollaborative understanding of the objects, emotional</p> <p>responses associated with the experience and a growinginterest in, and appreciation of, the exhibit itself.</p> <p>The Archaeology WorkshopThe Archaeology Workshop is one of the hands-onactivities the Museum Education Department organisesfor children and adults. This activity is particularlytargeted at primary school classes.</p> <p>After visiting the Hunt Archaeology section, guided bya museum docent, the children are brought to a specificeducational area of the Museum where a number ofsandboxes are located (See Fig. 3). These boxes areused by Museum staff to hide objects, which can thenbe unearthed by the children, thus simulating, in a crudeform, some aspects of a real archaelogical dig. Theclass is divided into three groups, and each group isrequired to unearth artefacts from a specific sandbox(there are three different sandboxes containing,respectively, Stone Age, Bronze Age and Medievalreplica artefacts).The children are shown how to dig using a set oftools, and encouraged to document their findingsthrough drawings, sketches and written descriptions.When all the objects are found, each group has toidentify the period of the dig, guessing as to whichhistorical phase their findings belong.From our observations, children enjoy playing thearchaeologist: they are shown how to skim the sandwith trowels to search for objects, and how to clean thedust away from the objects with brushes, and theyusually apply these instructions very carefully. Findinghidden objects is a very enagaging experience. Theorchestration of the experience is also very effective -involving children in all the phases of the workshop:digging, discovering and documenting.Collaboration and discussion naturally occur among thechildren, even if each of them is provided with aspecific area of the pit for digging. Comparing objects,instructing each other on how to use the trowel and thebrush, guessing the nature of their findings are the maintopics of discussion.</p> <p>Figure 2. Visitors exploring the Cabinetof Curiosities in the Study Collection</p> <p>room.</p> <p>Figure 3. The "Bronze Age" sandboxused for the Archaeology Workshop.</p> <p>ECCE11 - Eleventh European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics. Catania (Italy), September 2002.</p> <p>The children are also involved in placing back theobjects in the pits after the final discussion session, andthey greatly enjoy this phase of the activity as they canin some way influence the experience for the futureparticipants.Another important feature of this activity is the insight itgives the students into how objects might be found, andan awareness of the long path from discovery of somepottery shards to the exhibit of some cleaned, re-assembled pottery bowl in a exhibition case in theMuseum. In the archaeology workshop children are ableto understand the way parts of the collection might havebeen found and then assembled.The Archaeology workshop is a highly effectiveeducational activity, judging from student and teacherevaluations, and the obvious engagement of the studentsduring the sessions. It is also a simple, compact, andunderstandable activity for all concerned(Csiszentmihaly &amp; Hermanson, 1994).</p> <p>Handling SessionsHandling sessions are a hands-on activity for adults alsoorganised by the Museum Education department. Theparticipants can handle the real Museum objectsdistributed to them under the supervision of the HuntMuseum education officers (See Fig. 4). Theparticipants experience great pleasure in exploring thesurfaces and materials of the objects, feeling theirweight and manipulating t...</p>


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