Today I was forwarded a post (hat tip: Alttext) by Paul Bausch of Onfocus, entitled The Former Audience in Meatspace. In it he recounts his experience with a tour guide at the High Desert Museum in Bend, OR, where he received much more information about an exhibit than he ever would have had he not gotten the tour. He then wonders why more of this great information isn’t online, or used in the actual exhibits for other people to hear.
The tour guide relayed stuff that wouldn’t make it onto the official wall text describing the exhibits, but the extra layer of information helped bring the scene to life. […] I thought that the tragedy of this is that all of this knowledge vanishes when he’s not around. In fact, I’d been to the museum several times and hadn’t hit this vein of information. With this info, the museum was a completely different experience.
I think he hits the nail on the head why new media is so important in the museum space. It allows us to enrich the museum experience beyond just putting a painting on a wall or fossilized bones on a pedistal, and it also goes beyond the walls of the museum itself. It gives the patron a way to experience the museum in a different light, in different way, and in their own unique way.
This is something we really prescribe to with our new media projects at the Walker. Art on Call gives people the opportunity to listen to comments from artists, curators and yes, tour guides, whether you’re at home or standing right in front of an artwork in the galleries.
Our blogs give people behind the scenes info on exhibitions, technical how-to’s, interviews, and just plain arty fun, giving people yet another side to the Walker. Even our Minneapolis Sculpture Garden website has it’s own video tours! All of this is available at the kiosks in our front lobby, or from the comfort of your own home.
When I read Mr. Bausch’s post it really made me think about all of the work we’ve accomplished and realize that we’re moving in the right direction. It also made me realize that in this age of increasing technology, more museums should be moving in this direction as well. It’s obvious from his post that being interactive, customizable and “deep” is where the trends are moving to. You need look no further than the web itself to see it. Technology adds more layers to the information, it adds more to the experience, and it adds more to the overall museum community. It would be a disservice to ourselves and our patrons to ignore that.