Parallel Exhibits: Combining Physical and Virtual Exhibits

Authors: Lars Lischke, Tilman Dingler, Stefan Schneegaß, Albrecht Schmidt, Merel van der Vaart, Pawel Wozniak

Date: December 2014

This paper was presented at the NODEM 2014 conference, an interdisciplinary conference forum that connects various disciplines and professions related to digital cultural heritage, which took place from December 1th […]

This paper was presented at the NODEM 2014 conference, an interdisciplinary conference forum that connects various disciplines and professions related to digital cultural heritage, which took place from December 1th – 3th in Warsaw, Poland. Abstract: People have a special fascination for original physical objects, their texture, and visible history. However, the digitization of exhibits and the use of these data is a current challenge for museums. We believe that museums need to capitalize on the affordances of physical exhibits to help users navigate their more extensive virtual collections. Although lacking materiality, virtual objects have other advantages: They can easily be manipulated, rearranged, duplicated, and moved. This offers new opportunities for visitors to engage with museum collections and the curatorial process in a creative way. In this paper, we propose a concept designed to make use of existing digital content in combination with physical exhibits in museums, which we call Parallel Exhibits. Parallel Exhibits is a system that enables museum visitors to interact with traditional museum collections and virtual objects at the same time. It is an interactive exhibition space where visitors and curators enter a design dialogue mediated by technology. Curators display a selection of physical objects and invite visitors to complete the exhibition with virtual objects from the museum’s collections or elsewhere. The ever-changing display can be augmented with digital text labels and messages. We implemented Parallel Exhibits as a web application, which bears the advantage of easily running the application on different platforms. We tested the system both in a museum, using an interactive table and a projection wall, and as part of an online survey reaching a broader audience. In the field study we observed that visitors like to share their ideas and thoughts while using the table. The results of the online survey indicate that visitors like to contribute to exhibitions. In this paper, we describe the technical design of Parallel Exhibits, as well as the outcomes of the on-site study and online survey. The license on this paper is CC BY-NC-ND.  

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