Monday, August 17, 2009

Are Screens Killing Museums?

Having just returned from SEGD's Sixth Annual Symposium on New Directions in Exhibition and Environment Design held at Cranbrook outside of Detroit, I was very much reminded of Nina Simon's recent post about small "camp-like" meetings instead of conferences.

The SEGD Symposium really was like a design camp with a small group of participants in Cranbrook's idyllic setting learning from each other.

I was fortunate to give a talk during the symposium about "Right Tech." Building upon the notion that museums' strengths lie with the "Triple S" of Stories, Stuff, and Social Engagement, part of my Cranbrook presentation focused on the contention that "screens" are destroying truly interactive experiences in museums. Since my thoughts seemed to elicit about 50% heads nodding in agreement, and 50% gritted teeth in the audience, I'd thought I'd share my "screed against screens" condensed into a top ten list with ExhibiTricks readers:


10) Screens are not "green".
I don't care how you slice it up, screens are not a sustainable design technology.

9) IMAX.
The biggest gateway to "cheesiness" in the museum business.

8) The "death trap" introductory theatre.
Didn't forcing people to sit through a boring movie before they get to the "fun stuff" die out with the 1964 World's Fair?

7) BIG Touch Screens/Touch Tables.
Somehow the technology that looked so cool in the Tom Cruise movie "Minority Report" has landed inside museums. Proof that bigger is not always better.

6) Individual Experiences Instead of Truly Social Experiences.
Screens hypnotize, not socialize.

5) Screens in museums emulate TV or movie experiences.
But poorly.

4) Screens in museums emulate videogame experiences.
But poorly.

3) Screens become the "easy answer."
Since visitors will stare at a screen, even if nothing is on it, screen-based technologies often become our default design choice.

2) Screens often become "electronic labels" or encyclopedias.
Screens often become a dumping ground for huge volumes of text that we would never dare stick onto a printed label.

1) Screens don't age well.
Screen-based technologies and techniques become dated very quickly, but unfortunately don't seem to get replaced as quickly.

What do you think? Are screens destroying museums or are they the last hope for engaging visitors? Feel free to hurl your bouquets or brickbats to us via the "Comments" area below.

Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Free Updates" link on the right side of the blog.

P.S. If you receive ExhibiTricks via email you will need to click HERE to go to the main ExhibiTricks page to make comments or view multimedia features (like movies!)