Friday, May 8, 2020

Critiquing Online and Virtual Exhibitions

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many more museums are creating virtual exhibitions or producing online material to complement existing exhibitions. With this wave of digital material, I thought it would be useful for museum professionals to provide critiques or reviews of these digital exhibitions in order to help these digital exhibition formats grow and evolve.

By a happy coincidence, several graduate students from the Exhibition and Experience Design Program at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City recently wrote about online exhibition materials and agreed to share their critiques, as well as their general insights about online and virtual exhibitions, here on the ExhibiTricks blog.

Bhawika Mishra is currently pursuing A Master's in Exhibition and Experience Design from FIT and comes from the culturally diverse country of India. Observing how people interact with their virtual and physical environment drives Bhawika's design decisions. The collaborative power between art and science and its result really interests her.

Bhawika wrote a critique of the online exhibition, "Measure Your Existence" from the Rubin Museum of Art.  You can find Bhawika's full design critique here.

Bhawika shared these thoughts about online and in-person exhibition experiences:

Online exhibits provide a virtual experience with the ability to teleport participants into a virtual world where you have the virtual superpower to experience, create, and interact with things at your own convenience.

The user navigation around the website is crucial and similar to the circulation in a physical exhibit. The website and software design follows the same design principles as the physical exhibit. The online exhibit also provides extended visitor experience though online shops, audio, podcasts, virtual meetups and also providing virtual assets like stickers, certificates.

The online exhibit format is flexible but takes away sensory and tactile experiences.

Online exhibits are available 24/7 and have the option for special launches for certain audiences, whereas the physical museum exhibition can only be experienced during the museum's open hours.

Selen İmamoğlu is currently pursuing her Master's in Exhibition and Experiential Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She graduated from the Department of Interior Architecture and Environmental Design at Bilkent University and did her internship in the commercial design industry.

With a passion for creating the connection between people and feelings, she gets inspired by the surroundings and small details in everyday life that can be seen by attentive eyes. She loves exploring, observing, and reflecting.   

Selen critiqued the exhibition called "Partners in Design" which was produced by The Stewart Program for Modern Design.  You can find Selen's full presentation here.

Here are Selen's thoughts about virtual exhibit experiences:

It was a great experience to do a critique assignment on a virtual exhibition since it enabled me to gain a different point of view. I realized that virtual exhibitions have a structure and utilize design tools considering visitor experience, just like conventional exhibitions. 

However, despite knowing the efforts to make this "an experience" for the visitor, I am still not sure if this is more distinct than a regular museum website. Overall, it is great to have these alternative ways of reaching the unique content prepared for others to take, especially in these crazy times.

Sammi Kugler is from Long Island and went to SUNY Purchase for her undergraduate degree, where she received a BFA in photography. Sammi mainly does large format photography and loves to work in the darkroom, developing and printing. She also enjoys making installation art, printmaking, and experimenting with new methods of art-making. Sammi really enjoys working with props to tell a story and affect the way people feel. 

Sammi critiqued "The Museum of the World" project from The British Museum.  You can find Sammi's full critique here.

After doing this exhibition critique, Sammi realized that we have the technology to make online experiences as interesting as in-person experiences. We just need to be thoughtful about how information is presented, and work harder to interact with users. 

Thank you to Bhawika, Selen, and Sammi for sharing your critiques!

Do you have your own thoughts about online exhibition experiences?  Please share them in the "Comments" section below!

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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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