Thoughts on museum-tech

In search of inspiration and ideas that could inform our work back in Manchester, and in an effort to widen my horizons and think differently about museum practice, I decided to spend a day of my recent trip to Helsinki visiting some of the city’s museums.

While I had just one day to do this, I feel my frantic running (actually, it was more like sliding) around the city in the freezing cold paid off as I found some great examples of how technology can be used to communicate otherwise challenging concepts. Two examples from Helsinki City Museum were particularly relevant and worth sharing:

Firstly, there was an interactive panoramic view of the city which was used to give visitors the opportunity to view both the bigger picture, and to navigate and zoom in on areas of interest.

This was both usable and really effective, and I watched visitors both young and old using it with ease. I was also interested to see how people were quickly drawn to it but unlike many “interactives”, this seemed to prompt visitors to engage in conversation with each other around particular parts of the city as they navigated around the panorama.

Also in the City Museum was a great approach to presenting the long history of the city, from its origins to today. I first noticed it as a plain wall with some strange and apparently unrelated objects embedded into it – as shown below.

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Objects embedded into wall in City Museum

However, this was just the base layer of what I soon realised was a moving infographic presentation that gradually appeared to tell – in a really simple visual way – the history of the city. The visuals gradually encroached around and on top of the objects to present the historical development of the city both spatially and, with the help of a timeline, temporally – hopefully captured in the slideshow below!

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This really simple idea presented the city’s history in a particularly beautiful and really interesting way. For me the inclusion of the objects (albeit embedded within the wall) made a real difference and transformed something that could have been just as effective as a piece of film, into something relevant for inclusion in a museum.

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