Museum sector focus: Exceptional experiences

With more than half of the adult population in the UK visiting a museum or gallery in 2012 the sector is packed with opportunity for AV integrators. Steve Montgomery explores the technologies in demand at visitor attractions throughout EMEA.

Museums provide one of the largest forms of visitor attractions, attracting a wide cross-section of the population and catering for a massive variation in taste.  

Every major city throughout the world has several large public museums and galleries. Smaller cities and towns have their own scaled-down versions.  Many public buildings and areas of interest or recreation have visitor centres; and nowadays many high-profile manufacturers operate their own museums and visitor centres to promote their brands.  

Visitor numbers are staggering: in the UK 52% of the adult population visited a museum or gallery last year. The largest museums and galleries receive several million visitors per year: the Louvre topped the list with more than 9 million, New York’s Metropolitan museum had 6 million, the British Museum had over 5 million.

Museums and visitor attractions, including galleries and aquariums have common objectives whatever their size: to attract, inform, educate and entertain as many visitors as possible.  

In today’s media-centric, instant access world, it is essential that museums respond to the many alternative forms of leisure activities and methods of accessing historical material.  

“Museums today are not only competing with other museums, they are competing with 3D cinema, games consoles and above all the internet and social media,” says Kevin Palmer of design agency Kin Design.

“The drive towards a greater level of audience inclusion to the modern museum, gallery and visitor attraction has seen the marriage of the latest compelling entertainment, content and technology combined into the educational medium to create what has been called ‘edutainment’,” explains Kevin Williams, director of consultant KWP.

Manchester’s newly-opened SeaLife Centre is a typical example, as Theo Papadopoulos, project manager explains: “Our focus is on turtles and explaining their lifecycle, environment and behaviour as much as exhibiting live animals. We aim to tell a story which is achieved through the use of projection mapping onto 3D surfaces.”

The biggest users of technology are often the smaller museums. The larger museums sometimes have a great amount of internal conflict about how to adapt technology whereas the smaller museums can be more agile.  Touring exhibitions often arrive with their own set of equipment” says Jeremy Scheinberg chief operating officer, Alcorn McBride Inc.

Recent special exhibitions, such as the David Bowie is exhibition at the V&A, offer sponsorship opportunities, in this case taken up by Sennheiser.

Nic Black, managing director of Pyramid, argues: “The whole exhibition space needs to be considered as a single solution with integrated lighting, exhibits, sound, video background and interactive elements. The structure and fabric of the room must reflect this, so that the walls and ceiling themselves become part of the overall presentation.”

“Projectors are gaining ground as they are so much brighter and it is much easier than ever before to use projection for videos shows and moving graphics in reasonably well lit galleries,” adds David Willrich, managing director of DJW.

Read the full article in InAVate Digital

In part two of the InAVate sector focus on museums we look at what curators want from the AV industry. Read it here now.

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