Museums in a Changing World – The Evolution of museums

Museums in a Changing World – The Evolution of museums

The Changing Face of Museums

When I was younger, a visit to a museum could be a dry and boring affair. Walking amongst glass cases of items you could look at but not touch, lots of text and no interaction. Today technology is changing the look and role of museums, with highly interactive exhibits creating a more engaging and entertaining environment, somewhere children (and us grown-ups!) would like to spend a day.

Today we have access to information at our fingertips. If we want to find information, we can have an answer in seconds often supplemented with images, video, and interpretation. Use of social media and online technology has reduced our attention span, a recent study by Microsoft Corporation found the increasing use of ‘instant’ technology means we struggle to stay focused to the point that the human attention span has shortened to just 8 seconds. In this environment, modern museums must carve a niche where they are considered a destination and can fulfill their role as educators in a rapidly changing environment. When you discover 90% of the world’s data has been created within the last two years, you start to understand how rapidly change is occurring.

The History of Museums

The very first museums were the private collections of wealthy individuals or institutions. Rare or curious objects and artifacts displayed in so-called ‘wonder rooms’ or ‘cabinets of curiosities’. The oldest recorded example is Ennigaldi-Nanna’s museum, dating from 530 BC and devoted to Mesopotamian antiquities.

The oldest public collections of art were the Capitoline Museums which were created in 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated a group of important ancient sculptures to the people of Rome. There was a growth of museums in Italy during the Renaissance, however, most of the major modern museums in the world opened during the 18th century. Museums were considered storehouses of knowledge and in an age before mass communication and the internet where the ability to see rare objects was the major draw.


Capitoline Hill Museum

    The Museum Renaissance

    Museums changed over the last generation. A recent report stated, “attitudes toward museums have become more favorable over the last generation as they shed their image of stuffiness and sterility and become more entertaining and interactive.” Museums are a major part of the economy, museums sustain more than 400,000 jobs and directly contribute $21 Billion to the US economy each year according to an AAM Financial Information Survey.

    One of the major issues museums face is many people had only visited on school trips many years before, and assume nothing has changed. People feel museums are still boring and staid even though many have come up to date and are presenting a considerably more interactive experience.

    Technology And The Modern Museum

    Technology plays a major part in modern museums, with considerable use of multimedia, touch screens, and digital displays as well as cutting edge interactive technologies.

    Interactive technology is a good way to turn the museum experience from a being passive into something truly engaging and educational, even for a younger audience who otherwise remain glued to their smartphones. As Sree Sreenivasan, the chief digital officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City states, “Our competition is Netflix and Candy Crush and not other museums“. The museum has fully embraced technology with a staff of 70 in the digital-media department, and 70 more managing technology throughout the museum.

    The Metropolitan Museum looked for a number of opportunities for visitors to engage with the collections, allowing them to use their smartphones to access recorded guides and other information by scanning the artwork.


    They are just one of many museums using technology to create a better experience for their visitors. The Brooklyn Museum is testing the use of ibeacons, small Bluetooth devices which interact with an app on a visitor’s phone. As they move through the galleries, they interact with museum experts and get additional information about the artwork they are viewing.

    Interactive video is another tool being utilized to support education. In the UK, the Parliamentary Education center at the Houses of Parliament provides a 360-degree video screen system to engage with children, bringing the history of the building and the role of democracy to life.

    Houses of Parliament

      The video system is used as an immersive ‘Discovery’ space, a sensory, interactive room that plunges students into an immersive environment via the use of 360° projection technology. The system takes students through a 15-minute virtual tour of Parliament, virtual recreations of the House of Commons and House of Lords chamber, a history of democracy, and recreations of historical events connected to each Chamber. The center is used for school visits and welcomes over 100,000 students per year, over double what they could accommodate within their previous environment.

      Case Study – College Football Hall of Fame

      College football is watched by over 200 million people annually and the teams have a massive following. One of the places on the bucket list of many fans is the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.


      The hall of fame was created in 1951 by the National Football Foundation and had previously been based in Indiana. In 2009 the hall of fame moved to a new 100,000 square foot, $68 million dollar, facility in Atlanta.

      Similar to many other sports museums it immortalizes and remembers the players and coaches from college football teams across the USA. However, when the hall of fame was moved they decided against a traditional style of museum filled with static displays and artifacts behind glass. They went for a considerably more interactive environment where visitors could get the feel of what it is like to be a college football star.

      The hall of fame is packed with interactive elements like videos and games, places where you can take selfies wearing digitally superimposed face paint, and even a football field where you can take your best shot at kicking a field goal.

      The experience starts with ‘The Quad’ where you walk through a tunnel hearing the sound of cleats walking beside and an ever increasing crowd noise as if you are about to step onto the field yourself.  As you step out you are faced with a 40-foot wall of football helmets from each of the 768 college football teams.

      Interactivity starts with the visitor registration process, visitors are asked for their local team as they enter and the corresponding helmet is illuminated on the wall.


      College Football Hall of Fame

        This is just the first part of a fully personalized experience using a RFID chip embedded in the visitor’s ticket. Activities throughout their visit display their team’s colors and logos.

        The interactivity does not end when the visitor leaves the museum. The registration data can be used to encourage return visits and send personalized updates about their favorite team. It was important to create a highly engaging visitor experience that would act as a competitive unique selling point against other attractions in the area.

        Overall the College Football Hall of Fame is the most technologically advanced in the country, the National Football Federation took advantage of the move to completely rethink what their museum should be, and to ensure that it embraced the latest technology.

        The technology partners Onepath worked in partnership with the hall of fame to design the project and manage this mammoth project. The building employs both wired and wireless networks with infrastructure which manages every part of operations from security and access control systems to the visitor interactions and audio visual systems.

        The hall of fame is a good example of how museums need to evolve as interactive attractions, and that a partnership with technology is vital when it comes to planning any modern establishment. Greater visitor engagement and better data allow for a longer lasting relationship with museum guests, leading to more return visits.

        Image Sources: Houses of Parliament, Capitoline Museums, National College Hall of Fame

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        Last Updated on September 20, 2018

        How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

        How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

        Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

        If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

        1. Breathe

        The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

        • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
        • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
        • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

        Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

        2. Loosen up

        After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

        Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.


        3. Chew slowly

        Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

        Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

        Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

        4. Let go

        Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

        The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

        It’s not. Promise.


        Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

        Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

        21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

        5. Enjoy the journey

        Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

        Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

        6. Look at the big picture

        The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:


        Will this matter to me…

        • Next week?
        • Next month?
        • Next year?
        • In 10 years?

        Hint: No, it won’t.

        I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

        Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

        7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

        You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

        Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.


        8. Practice patience every day

        Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

        • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
        • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
        • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

        Final thoughts

        Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

        Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

        Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via

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