Image: “Phantom”, the first virtual reality exhibit at New York City’s New Museum for Contemporary Art, by artist Daniel Steegmann Mangrané. Courtesy of OptiTrack and Oculus Rift.

A rift too far?

Passive isn’t a word to describe today’s museum visitor. Gone is the reliance on the power of objects and wall panels alone - more than ever museums are placing digital innovation at the core of their outreach, inviting visitors to explore, interact and share. The boom in mobile and wearable technology has opened a Pandora’s box of channels to engage visitors, but just because they exist are they worth engaging with?

We’ve identified five simple ways for museums to enhance the visitor experience through technology without letting it dominate or become gimmicky:

1. Integrate, don’t paste
Most museums are taking the plunge into responsive design, mobile apps and wearable technology to enhance the visitor experience. However, integrating the devices both into the institution’s messaging and architecturally is key, ensuring that new additions sync both in the mindset of the visitor and visually.

2. Turn visitors into storytellers
Use the digital to move away from the mere display of objects and make stories central to the visitor experience. Exploiting the power of stories is Antenna Lab, using technology and narrative to 'open up' the museum, foster emotional engagement and instil a sense of place.

3. Don’t get distracted by complex advances
It is the most basic and affordable technologies that museums are forgetting whilst becoming distracted by new advances. Open source platforms is where it’s at, enabling visitors to access information here, there and everywhere for free.

4. Make experiences mobile
Technology must be most of all be intuitive and mobile. Innovative apps and platforms have allowed leading institutions to create interactive experiences, even for visitors outside their physical boundaries.

5. Create lasting impressions
This doesn’t mean providing ‘snackable content’ or short bursts of interactivity but immersive experiences that demand visitors’ sustained attention and time, even beyond the visit, through take-away content.