Designing for Interpersonal Museum Experiences

Anders Sundnes Løvlie, Lina Eklund, Annika Waern, Karin Ryding, Paulina Rajkowska

What does the age of participation look like from the perspective of a museum visitor? Arguably, the concept of participative experiences is already so deeply ingrained in our culture that we may not even think about it as participation. Museum visitors engage in a number of activities, of which observing the exhibits is only one part. Since most visitors come to the museum together with someone else, they spend time and attention on the people they came with, and often the needs of the group are given priority over individual preferences. How can museums tap into these activities - and make themselves relevant to visitors? In this chapter we will try to approach this constructively, as a design opportunity. Could it be productive for the museum to consider itself not only as a disseminator of knowledge, but also as the facilitator of participative activities between visitors? In what follows, we will outline a range of practical design projects that serve as examples of this approach. These projects were part of the European Union funded Horizon2020 project GIFT, a cross-disciplinary collaboration between researchers, artists, designers and many international museums and heritage organisations, exploring the concept of interpersonal museum experiences (see https://gifting.digital/). What the projects have in common is that they build on visitors co-creating and sharing their own narratives in the museum context. We suggest that these projects demonstrate a spectrum of possibilities: From experiences that take place almost without any museum involvement, to those that give museums a role in curating these narratives.

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