I have a confession to make: I am a museum geek. Ever since I visited the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. for my third grade field trip, I’ve been hooked. Yesterday, I took a day trip to D.C., a museum-lover’s paradise, and hit up a few of the free Smithsonian buildings. During my trip, I noticed a drastic shift in the way museums have started to embrace the use of technology and social media in their exhibits. It used to be you’d get your hand smacked for snapping a picture in a museum (sorry National Archives…I didn’t realize twitpic-ing the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t allowed). Nowadays, many museums are adapting to the shift in society and embracing the technology and social media frontiers.
Yesterday I made a visit to the National Air and Space Museum. When walking through the exhibits, I noticed many visitors had their cellphones glued to their ears and I thought to myself – how rude…take your phone calls outside. It took me a few seconds to realize, nobody was talking on their phones – only listening. I walked up to a crowded artifact and on the plaque it provided a number for visitors to call and listen to a renowned astronomer give more information about the medieval telescope. It used to be one would have to pay a decent dollar to receive a private tour from an expert or a scholar, however the National Air and Space Museum has provided every visitor with a cellphone that same opportunity – for free.
The Natural History Museum has also provided guests with some fun new ways to be more interactive with the exhibits. QR-Codes were made present at a few of the exhibits, allowing guests to turn what was once stagnant and stationary into something fun, interactive and exciting. While looking at the caveman exhibit, I was able to follow a QR code to an App where a user could snap their picture and see what they would have looked like as a caveman or cavewoman. While I may not have been happy my Stone Age makeover – I thought it was a fantastic way to get guests more involved with the exhibit.
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia has also done a fantastic job getting their visitors more engaged and interactive with their exhibits. When touring the Cleopatra exhibit with my grandparents, several signs and plaques were placed throughout, providing guests with suggestions to snap a picture and upload it to their social media sites. Twitter handles and hashtags were also provided on the signs, making it easier for the pictures and content to be shared and searched by others. Guests were also encouraged to tweet and post about their favorite parts of the exhibit – providing the Franklin with a slew of easily shareable third-party endorsements.
I believe this shift in museums’ embrace of technology and social media is beneficial for both parties involved. Visitors are now able to enjoy a much more interactive and educational experience and can share their thoughts with their followers and friends. For museums, this is great news because many guests base their decision to visit on other visitors’ reviews and comments. While this may leave some room for negativity as there always is with social media, the overwhelming majority of comments and reviews are positive and can get other guests excited about visiting a new exhibit.
What are your thoughts on museums and their new embrace of social media and technology in their exhibits? Let us know!