Traditional vs. New Museum

Here is a confession: If I go through an exhibition, I rather watch the exhibits than read their descriptions. To be precise: Most of the time, I don’t read any of the descriptions. This has something to do with the way I like to remember things, but mostly with the fact, that there is actually not so much interesting to read about. If – in a special case – I want to know more about something, I usually lean over, squint my eyes and get a short description of what I am seeing. Normally, I learn how old something is, where it’s from and also – most of the time – what it’s purpose was. Usually, I know as much as before. But what if I want to know some more details?

Of course, there is the exhibition catalogue, where you can read extensively on every topic of the exhibition. Economically it makes sense, the museum can earn some extra money by selling it. But to be realistic, no one (including me) wants to carry a heavy catalogue through the exhibition and search through it, while interested in special exhibits. S. Hartmann wrote in his blog recently about the advantages of the e-book format for exhibition catalogues (German) and I agree.

In the comments, he also mentioned the idea, that one way of distributing the e-book version is to bundle it with the print version. Actually I think this is fantastic. For me, buying a digital version is absolutely great for the museum visit itself. I think walking through the exhibition with my tablet or smartphone would definitely enrich my experience. I can get all the information I want, without forcing other visitors to deal with a huge amount of text or forcing me to carry an exhibition catalogue around. Also, technologies like Augmented Reality, Video Implementation or Links to the Web can easily be integrated into that system. On the other hand, when I come back home, I really want the printed version for my book shelve. Maybe I am already too nostalgic, but I am sure, I am not the only one.

Here is how I would do it: When I buy my ticket, I have the option to additionally buy the catalogue bundle. I’ll get the digital version instantly on my phone or tablet via QR-Code on the ticket. After the visit, I can use my ticket to grab a printed version from the museum shop and go home. Happy experience. The ones, that don’t want to use all these new technologies have the same experience in the museum as they had before. The traditional exhibition design can stay and after the visit, one can go into the museum shop to buy solely the printed version of the catalogue as before. Also, happy experience.

Photo: © Sebastian Hageneuer

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