For years, the only technology museums used were their websites, but now technology is creating new ways to experience art and is revolutionizing the consumption of art. During spring break, I travelled to Paris and Amsterdam. I dragged all my friends to multiple museums and noticed that each museum had a different approach for incorporating technology into the visitor’s experience. Museums can have anywhere between just a few dozen to thousands of art pieces on display. The IoT ecosystem is helping museums collect data on visitor’s interests, behaviors, and collection’s performances as well as make visitor experience better. Most museums used to have docents that imparted their knowledge to visitors. Today, you can still have personalized tours, but audio tours are more prevalent. These provide an overview of famous pieces of art and act as a guide for larger museums that are easy to get lost and overwhelmed in. Each museum had a different device for their audio tours, from androids to small radio like devices.
In 2018, the Musee du Louvre had an increase of 25% in attendance raising their yearly visitors to 10.2 million and an average of 5,150 visitors a day. Of these visitors, 71% are foreigners (13% from the US, 6% from China, and 5% from Italy). Due to the high volume of foreigners, the museum and its employees need to be equipped to efficiently communicate and offer services in each of the countries’ native languages.
The museum is like a maze that one could easily get lost in. As of 2016, the Musee du Louvre houses 422,000 pieces of art and has 38,000 on display. Each piece on display has a different story and different historical context that often cannot be told in a small placard placed under the art. In an effort to facilitate the process, the Louvre has launched a new audio guide tour. Now, when you walk around the museum, you see people staring down at Nintendo DSs. The museum has partnered with Nintendo to create Louvre-Nintendo 3DS XL Audio Guides. Instead of playing Super Mario Bros, the museum’s curators and lecturers share their knowledge and have highlighted must see pieces on an interactive map, so you don’t have to spend hours wandering around endless hallways looking for specific exhibits. For each piece chosen, the visitor can hear expert knowledge, audio commentaries, “3D photos of galleries, high-definition images of the artworks, and 3D reconstructions.” The DS tracks your location and acts a guide throughout your visit. There is also an app that is free with in app purchases that range from 1 euro to 5 euros, so visitors can be their own guides. The app has 600 comprehensive descriptions and 600 audio commentaries that are available in seven languages.
Behind the scenes, the Louvre has been working with startup Arius Technology, which focuses on high-resolution 3D scans of paintings that has a crucial blockchain partnership. The goal is to add painting’s data to the blockchain to adding transparency to the marketplace. They started by experimenting on the “Mona Lisa” where they analyzed the painting down to the brushstroke. The CEO said that they are “using 3D digitization technology to change the way we protect, preserve, and live with art, ensuring an art-rich culture for future generations.” Each of these technological additions allows the museum to collect more data about which pieces attract the most attention, their guest’s interests, and can be used to create data driven promotions.
The Musee de l’Orangerie, the home to Monet’s panoramic water lily murals, is a significantly smaller museum and only has around 800,000 visitors per year. They partnered with HTC VIVE to create a Virtual Reality experience, “Claude Monet: The Water Lily Obsession.” The VR experience is a part of the Monet-Clemenceau collection and provides 360 viewing stations that show the process of painting the murals. It also transports users and immerses them in the flower gardens in Giverny, which were Monet’s inspiration for his murals.
In contrast to the other two museums, the Anne Frank House is unique in that the house itself acts as the exhibits. The house welcomes almost 1.3 million visitors with 25% from the US, 15% from Great Britain, and 9% from Germany. One of the newest features is the in-depth audio tour. The museum curators have removed most writing from the walls in favor of highlighting photos and specific quotes from Anne’s diary. When you first enter, everyone is given a rectangular audio guide. Each room has a small box on the wall that starts the room’s commentary once you are within a couple feet. The goal is to make the museum almost completely silent, while providing an enhanced experience and understanding of Anne Frank’s life in the annex.
Technology has influenced how the art has developed from the invention of cameras to light installations in New York’s MOMA. Looking to the future, now museums can change the way people consume art, by using technology to reach and educate new customer segments.