Title:Do it together: The effect of curators, designers, and technologists sharing the making of new interactive visitors' experiences
Authors:Daniela Petrelli, nick dulake, Mark Marshall, Hub Kockelkorn, Anna Pisetti
Publication:MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016

Tangible interaction offers new ways to engage users with digital systems through material means. We use ubiquitous computing to create reactive spaces and smart objects that seamlessly blend with the surroundings or the exhibition and bridge the gap between the physical and the digital. The technology is intentionally concealed to bring places and stories from the past into the present and create immersive experiences where technology complements heritage (as opposed to compete with it for visitors’ attention). The full integration of technology with the exhibition or heritage requires approaching the design of the visitors’ experience as a collaborative project that combines curatorial, technical and design aspects.

As a multi-expertise team, we created, implemented, and evaluated thee concepts: an evocative experience in the trenches and camp of World War I in the Italian Alps; an interactive layer to tell the personal stories of those involved in the changes in The Hague during the Nazi occupation; and a set of multimedia installations to enrich a permanent collection of World War I artillery. The design effort was on both the creation of bespoke devices and the composition of content that was not didactic but open to personal interpretation: curators left traces for visitors to pick up, and when this occurred the experience was deeper and stronger.

Our evaluations show that the powerful outcome cannot be ascribed to just one component, technology versus content. One empowers the other: an approach that simultaneously works on interaction and content is essential to make a design that exploits the place or the objects to a powerful final effect. Clearly, this challenges the traditional exhibition design process as curators become creative members of the team in charge of shaping, through the content, the final experience of the visitors. It is then a matter of rethinking not only the technology for heritage, but also the process, and for curators to become more daring with content.