Just last month I visited the Twelve Apostles with my family. On the way there, my 11 year old cousin turned and said to me; “I don’t know why we’re driving all the way there, when I can just look at a picture of it from my computer”. I know, the Twelve Apostles aren’t technically a Museum, but this example (I hope) still gives you an idea as to how peoples- especially the younger generations, mindsets are changing.
To me, Museums don’t necessarily have to be big, beautiful buildings that display different artefacts from the past. Architecture has been described as ‘frozen history’ and when you look at Sigiriya, a cultural heritage site in Sri Lanka, that is exactly what it is. The ancient rock fortress belonged to King Kashyapa who was believed to have ruled the country from 473-495 CE. It is 1800m high and is quite a challenging climb with 1200 steps to the top. Although they did recently build a Museum at the site that gives the visitors some insight as to how the fortress would have looked at the time, the architecture and nature that surrounds the fortress is honestly one that cannot be described. It is a definite must see if you ever visit Sri Lanka!
Places like this I think still manage to attract visitors because of the simple fact that you are there in the moment and this helps you to connect on a much deeper level with a country’s history. It is important that historical structures like these be preserved so that we are reminded of the colourful history that a country possesses. I would love to see if in the future, a virtual reality tour of Sigiriya would actually have the same effect on me.
The rise of the digital age means that people’s attention spans are getting smaller and places like Museums are finding that they have to keep up with changing technologies in order to keep visitors interested in what they have to offer.
Looking back at my visit to the Natural History Museum in London two years ago, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. The Museum successfully manages to engage it’s visitors with moving footage displayed on screens and touch screen images that you could click and play around with if you wanted more information on what you were seeing.
There was even a Earthquake simulator that recreated the supermarket scene during Japan’s 1996 Kobe Earthquake. It isn’t as if the simulator tells you what its like to really witness an Earthquake of that magnitude, but it still succeeds in giving visitors at least a glimpse of what it would have been like for people at the time.
I think that is where Museums like the Natural History Museum have got it right, in order to truly engage visitors the usual pattern of just looking and reading aren’t really going to cut it anymore. With all the technology that is available in todays society people’s expectations are much higher, and in a way engaging visitors through simulators and virtual reality has an almost confronting nature to it, that actually gives you a glimpse in to what it must have been like to experience a particular event or period of our history.
I’ll leave you with the short video I made of my experience at the Natural History Museum; bear in mind its short because I didn’t actually have many pictures to put together. However, I think that this is a true testament to how effective the museum is in grabbing the attention of their visitors. Trust me, it takes a lot for me to put my phone down!