Museums use new technologies to personalize visitor's experience

By Blanca Lopez
Smithsonian Design Musem, Cooper Hewitt

Museums are using new technologies to customize visitor's experience. Innovative management strategies enhance and diversify the cultural toursim offer while promoting education, entertainment and access to the art world.

Traditionally museums have placed their management priorities on the inside, meaning, the conservation of their artistic legacy. The outside world, that is visitors, were somehow put aside. Technology was mainly used to improve preservation and storage processes.However, the increasing «appetite» of not only tourists but of society in general for cultural experiences, is forcing these guardians of the art to transform and innovate their management strategies if they want to meet and understand this new demand.

«We were used to have one way of visiting and experiencing a museum, people now expect a variety of ways,» says Catherine Devine, chief digital officer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York «It's about exploring new technologies» source: AP

Special apps to create individual bespoke visits, 3-D scanning and printing used to interact with the object without damaging the original, augmented reality and even artificial intelligence tested to design the most futuristic «roboguides». These are some of the examples the most important museums in the United States such as the Smithsonian, the MOMA or the American Museum of National History, are using to innovate their public programs and to engage with different type of audiences. Digital transformation is also an unavoidable challenge for the museum industry all over the world since they are now playing an essential rol in the development of quality cultural tourism.  

Photo: British Museum augmented reality games 

The big challenge facing museums today is how to integrate their main responsibility, the preservation of an irreplaceable and unique artistic heritage, the need for funding and the management of an increasing demand for cultural experiences. So far, except for true art lovers or industry professionals, tourists usually visited the main museum of a city on their first time in the destination, most likely not to return again. Even for locals, the frecuency of visits to these cultural landmarks was generally low or dependent on temporary exhibits. Museums in this sense, where mainly «passive» touristic attractions. 

"Demand for cultural experiences is forcing museums to redefine the concept and culture of their organizations" Click to Tweet 

Today, cultural tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry, which is forcing museums to become «proactive» cultural destinations.    Visitor's experience and the use of new technology are now key priorities if they want to attract a wide variety of public. This will allow the museum to engage with the visitors in a long-term relationship, both online and offline, and to develop more efficent visitor flow management strategy that will help prevail their main mission, the conservation of works of art for future generations.  

In this context technology is a tool, not and end in itself.   

Technology innovation in a museum is not simply about replacing the traditional audioguides with fancy digital tablets.  Digital transformation in this industry requires thoughtful redefinition of the role of a museum and its organization. Conservation-based management models are asked to coexist with public-oriented activity programs. In the next years, museums will have to develop new strategies for digital transformation and they will need to include concepts such as customer experience, content development and marketing strategies that are more typical of the retail industry than of the cultural sector if they want to engage and interact with the next generation. 

Cover photo: Cooper Hewitt - Smithsonian Design Museum