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Museums and Exhibitions

Museums and Exhibitions is a multidisciplinary project that aims to bring together current research on museums, learning, technology and user-centered design. It has two main research goals. First, we want to investigate how the expressed educational goals of museum exhibitions can be accomplished through the use of modern computer technologies. Second, we want to involve end-users (i.e., visitors) throughout the entire exhibition production cycle and evaluate how their work influences the resulting exhibitions. Our hypothesis is that such a design partnership will have similar positive effects to those that have been documented elsewhere in computer application design.

During the last couple of decades, the role of museums has successively shifted. Historically, museums have largely been concerned with the collecting, preserving and exhibition of cultural artifacts, while today many of them additionally are involved in the production of educationally oriented entertainment experiences [4]. This shift is largely due to the increasing competition (and resulting decrease in the number of visitors) from other sources of entertainment, like cinemas, amusement parks, computer games and television. In response, many museums are attempting to maximize their entertainment potential while retaining their unique features; namely the combination of an educational agenda with the availability of genuine artifacts. Thus, much of today's museum research is involved with the documentation of the visitor experiences and learning processes that take place in museums (e.g., [2]). This has resulted in guidelines for how to combine physical, socio-cultural and personal aspects of exhibitions in order to create efficient learning environments.

However, such guidelines rarely include the usage of technology. The most common use for computers in museums is as multimedia-based automated tour-guides (e.g., [7], [6]) or, in art galleries, as the supporting technology in a piece of artwork, e.g., Mimetic Dynamics ( and Atmosphere ( However, we believe that it is possible to design technology that more closely supports the educational aspects of exhibitions. Related work in this domain includes the Boston Computer Museum's Virtual Fishtank ( and the interactive stations in the London Science Museum's Wellcome Wing [5]. However, these exhibitions are typically rather inflexible and difficult to adapt in response to visitor feedback. As a result, we are developing software that can facilitate "living exhibitions", i.e., exhibitions that can be modified while remaining on display. Our work has resulted in a two long-term exhibitions: one at the Museum of Natural History and one at the Museum of Science and Technology (both in Stockholm). These exhibitions are currently under evaluation, but our initial analysis suggests that the approach is feasible.

Few museums are actively involving visitors in the production of exhibitions. Rather, the visitor's role in the design process is largely seen as that of an informant (commenting on existing exhibitions) or as a tester (commenting on exhibition prototypes). However, research in human-computer interaction has shown that design partnerships between system developers and end users can produce innovative applications that closely meet the end-users' goals (e.g., [3], [1], [8]). At CID, we have been actively involved in the adoption of such design methods to the school domain [9] and we hypothesize that these benefits will transfer to the museum domain as well. Thus, we are currently preparing a series of workshops that will bring together representatives of a visitor target group (in this case, high school students), exhibition designers, computer scientists and educational experts. The goal for these workshops is to produce an exhibition design that will then be implemented and exhibited at the Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm.

1. Beyer, H., and Holtzblatt, K. Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems, Morgan Kaufmann, 2002.
2. Falk, J. H., and Dierking, L. D. Learning from Museums. Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning. AltaMira Press, 2000.
3. Greenbaum, J. and Kyng, M. Design at work. Cooperative design of computer systems. Lawrence Erlbaum, 1991.
4. Hooper-Greenhill, E. (ed.) The Educational Role of the Museum. 2nd edition. Routledge, 1999.
5. London Science Museum. Wellcome Wing. Guidebook, 2001.
6. Rayward, W. B., and Twidale, M. B. From Docent to Cyberdocent: Education and Guidance in the Virtual Museum. University of Illinois Technical Report ISRN UIUCLIS 1999/8.
7. Samis, P. S. Points of Departure: Curators and educators collaborate to prototype a "Museum of the Future". In Proceedings of ICHIM 2001, 623-637.
8. Schuler, D., and Namioka, A. Participatory Design. Principles and Practice. Lawrence Erlbaum, 1993.
9. Taxén, G., Druin, A., Fast, C., and Kjellin, M. KidStory: A Technology Design Partnership with Children, Behaviour and Information Technology, 20(2) April-March, 2001, 119-125.


Uppdaterade 2003-03-07

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En vy från DiME - en digital 3D-mötesmiljö.
ToneTable - an interactive mixed reality exhibit.

En vy från DiME - en digital 3D-mötesmiljö.
The cock pit at the exhibit “Space Adventure” at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

En vy från DiME - en digital 3D-mötesmiljö.
A virtual representation of the exhibit “Space Adventure” at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

En vy från DiME - en digital 3D-mötesmiljö.
Interior from the installation “Well of Inventions” at the Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm.

En vy från DiME - en digital 3D-mötesmiljö.
Mixed-reality techniques in the installation “Well of Inventions” at the Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm.

En vy från DiME - en digital 3D-mötesmiljö.
The history of Stockholm in a virtual exhibit. This is Klara Kyrka in 1899.