20 Nov 2014

Futuristic Lift To Museums; A Beacon Case Study

Museums are a place of heritage, a site to showcase the past, to display keepsakes and exhibit memories of older generations but that does not mean it cannot be futuristic. New beacon technology making waves in the market is currently utilized by museums in Wales, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Brooklyn. Their use for the beacons are many and varied and here we view and discuss how they are using beacons to enhance viewer experience.

The national museum of wales is attempting to incorporate specific elements of digital heritage such as learning, interpretation, and the use of bilingual and multilingual materials.

David Anderson, Director General, Amgueddfa Cymru said: “This initiative is a game-changer. It takes the use of technology in museums to a higher level and I am delighted that Wales’ national museum is leading the way. Thanks to the expertise of our staff and valuable knowledge and contributions of our partners, we are exploring the full potential of this technology to create a new world of public services for the cultural, heritage and museum sectors.”

Philips Museum in the Netherlands employs the beacons a bit differently. “Mission Eureka” is an innovative family game for up to four people. It encourages people to solve challenges like real inventors, and educates them on the inner workings of items ranging from light bulbs to complicated x-ray machines. This innovative and fun way of engaging gallery viewers are sure to keep the kids wanting more.

In the Ruben House, Antwerp, Belgium beacons are used to detect your proximity to the front gate triggering the app to show the porch way’s evolution through time. Going near any exhibit also shows relevant information and fun facts about them.

Brooklyn museum adopts a more personal approach, using the beacons as mere indicators of location. Visitors often have questions about displays, but with the relevant art experts often inaccessible, who can they turn to? How can the on-site virtuoso know where to go to? They key concept of their deployment of beacons is to find out exactly where the viewers are.

“We weren’t able to put a product on the floor that was wholly dynamic, so we asked ourselves, ‘How do we do that?'” Shelley Bernstein, vice director of digital engagement and technology at the Brooklyn Museum, said. “People want information that’s more responsive to their own needs.”

A group of visitors were given an iPad with an app, partly containing generic information such as hours and exhibit and partly magic viewing glass. Users can use the ask component to ask questions and receive answers in real time with an on-site expert. However, implementations were not smooth. Both hardware limitations and staff pushback led to unforeseen problems. Several changes to the app were needed to fully integrate the beacons.

“Don’t do beacons just to do beacons. It’s not a one-size-fits-all,” said Michael Berelian, Director of e-commerce and digital shopper at marketing and advertising firm Geometry Global. “You need to define what you’re going to get out of it.”

Clearly as a new technology, beacons still have some way to go before integrating seamlessly into existing system but the potential is there. Clear goals and desired outcomes must be clearly set, or else companies risk wasting precious resources.



National Museum Wales pilots a ‘world first’ iBeacon programme

Mission Eureka at Philips Museum

Brooklyn  Museum in New York revamping visitor experience

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