How Technology Can Positively Impact Museum Storytelling
We all know that good stories come from the perspective of film, music, and theater, but what about museums? Museums also hold a vast richness of stories to discover. For museums, storytelling is an ever-evolving creative tool that promotes preservation and recognition. While museum stories can be compelling, exhibits that do not take advantage of modern storytelling techniques may find it difficult to maintain audience interest. Through technology, museums can further develop their storytelling abilities.
Why museums need to keep their audiences engaged in the stories they are trying to tell
From our point of view, when we work with museums, the content seldom changes because museums have to preserve the past. Doing this can make the experience unrelatable for specific audiences like our current younger generation. For example, The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) utilizes audio technology to enhance storytelling. The BCRI instructs the audience to put headphones to their ears and listen to what was said during the event, inspired by the character’s life experiences.
The Emmett Till exhibit sheds light on a young African American boy who faced racial cruelty for allegedly flirting with a White American woman. Using audio technology, BCRI added emotion to Emmett Till’s story and how it affected those who visited. Hearing the pain of a little boy suffering for a cause that impacted this world like never before changed the perspective of the audience listening to the story compared to reading it. Museums who will take the time to think about opportunities for engagement like this can open the door to greater consumer engagement and a more positive response.
Augmented Reality’s role in storytelling
Augmented Reality (AR) combines computer and real-world content to create an interactive experience for the audience. Although seeing The Mona Lisa up close is interesting, museums do not allow touching the work as it can be easily damaged. More specifically, the Louvre Museum has a strict security policy requiring art viewers to stand at least 15 feet apart from the painting to avoid stolen materials. It can cause bias among viewers who want to connect creatively and interactively with the Mona Lisa. Restoring artwork costs museums a lot of money, which puts a hold on the progress of their establishment. It’s a classic example of passive storytelling. While essential, the content is read or viewed from a distance. With AR, you can see the Mona Lisa as if you were holding it. You can interact with the artwork, read about it, and experience it in a new light. Museums can use augmented reality and other immersive technologies to promote interactive storytelling.
Augmented reality is also a solution for museums that experience difficulties with limited space. We had the opportunity to work directly with the Dallas Historical Society (DHS), which dealt with this issue. DHS had an exhibit featuring an Alamo Diorama that was 336 sq. ft. Due to the size of the diorama, we suggested using augmented reality. To help provide an engaging experience from every vantage point. So when visitors enter the room, they can interact from all sides with the diorama via a mobile app. With this app, characters and stories appear above the physical diorama so users can learn about the history associated with the Alamo. With this in mind, museums can use space more creatively and effectively without limitation.
How narration contributes to storytelling during the museum experience
Narration contributes to storytelling in a way that removes obstacles, such as passive storytelling and misinterpreting stories. According to Education Corner, studies show that reading to retain information has a 10% success rate. In contrast, Avado Learning reports that listening to information yields a 30% success rate. These studies demonstrate how learning by reading can be less effective than learning by listening. What is the difference? Listening gives users access to more information, By hearing audio cues, music, narrator intonation, and more. Providing additional information supports learning and, more importantly, information retention. Narration is essential, but how you present narration can draw your audience deeper into your content.
One of the most effective ways narration can contribute to storytelling is through tone. The narrator’s tone helps emphasize the audience’s understanding of why certain people, places, and things are vital. It’s like describing the alphabet to a child. By highlighting how each letter of the alphabet’s pronounced, children can understand why it’s pertinent that words be said that way. When the narrator sadly describes an event, you, the listener, can relate to the story and how sad it is. As with sad stories, the narrator can adjust the tone to present a more positive story.
While the narrator uses tone to engage the audience, music can be the gateway to what the audience feels or should be feeling. Implementing a musical score or sound effects in the background adds to the experience. Music and sounds convey things that characters can’t always put into words. British composer Steven Price, who worked on the motion-packed film Fury, incorporated the sounds of guns and tanks to convey to audiences how dark those times were. But also speak for the characters and relay the brutality of war itself. If you can combine these two elements, you will have an unforgettable encounter.
In summary, engagement and immersion create memorable experiences, enabling museums to achieve their mission and goals. It will inspire consumers to join them on this meaningful adventure.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute