Engaging collections and communities: Technology and interactivity in museums
School of Arts and Humanities
Museum computing is a field with a long history that has made a substantial impact on humanities computing, now called ‘digital humanities,’ that dates from at least the 1950s. Community access, public engagement, and participation are central to the charter of most museums and interactive displays are one strategy used help to fulfil that goal. Over the past two decades interactive elements have been developed to offer more immersive, realistic and engaging possibilities through incorporating motion-sensing spaces, speech recognition, networked installations, eye tracking and multitouch tables and surfaces. As museums began to experiment with digital technologies there was an accompanying change of emphasis and policy. Museums aimed to more consciously connect themselves with popular culture by experimenting with the presentation of their collections in ways that would result in increased public appreciation and accessibility. In this paper these shifts are investigated in relation to interactive exhibits, virtual museums, the profound influence of the database, and in terms of a wider breaking down of institutional barriers and hierarchies, resulting in trends towards increasing collaboration.