Making the magic happen at museums with immersive experiences
Explore how advances in visual technology are changing the way museums bring history and the world around us to life
Museums make magic happen when they bring history and culture to life in the imagination of their visitors. For instance, they let us see the awe-inspiring size of a blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling at the British Natural History Museum, as if swimming in the air; or give us a chance to experience the wonder and beauty of being close-up to Michelangelo‘s Renaissance sculpture David at the Accademia Gallery of Florence.
However, these spectacles are rare and often scattered around the world, making them difficult for many to see. But advances in visual technology are rapidly changing this reality, meaning that museums can now use technology to enhance existing exhibits or to create an incredible new immersive experience.
Immersive museum experiences are spreading across Europe
Casa Batlló is one of the most famous architectural works in Barcelona of the modernist architect Antoni Gaudí. Now, it has fused the latest projection technology with a pioneering cultural visit to create an award-winning experience. The multi-sensory museum offers a glimpse into the mind of the great Catalan modernist through an artistic immersive experience.
The Gaudí Dome room, for example, uses 36 projectors and a dome with more than 1,000 screens to represent the mind of a young Gaudí. The natural universe that inspired the Catalan architect comes to life, allowing the visitor to participate in the creative experience.
Elsewhere, the National Museum in Prague built a 112-metre-long underground corridor to connect its old and new buildings. During this project, it used technology to create a spectacular immersive experience and the second largest multimedia installation in the world, Moments of History. This unique multimedia projection brings to life the history of the city from prehistory to the present. It uses 38 projectors invisibly positioned in the ceiling to deliver panoramic views on either side of the corridor.
Multimedia projections are also recreating the masterpieces of ancient art from Italy’s Montalcino and Siena regions. This new exhibit can be seen at the Temple of Brunello, in Italy. Visitors are immersed in the beauty and history of the region’s artefacts as they enter the museum’s underground chamber.
Tips for immersive experience success
Of course, bringing ancient artefacts and history to life in an immersive experience for visitors is not easy. Still, the latest projection technology has enabled museums, of any size and budget, to change how they exhibit.
Choosing the right projector technology to match the ambition and budget is important. Whether it’s creating an immersive experience for the main attraction or adding interest with digital signage.
To appeal to the latest generation of digital natives, the immersive experience also must be as life-like as possible. The newest projectors offer the most intense and realistic colours and 4K solutions show the finest levels of detail, without any visible pixels. This means that audiences can see exhibits as they were meant to be seen.
Selecting technology that does not break the illusion of the immersive experience for the visitor is also key. Museums are often in older buildings. So, the ability to use projector short throw lenses allows video to be projected onto surfaces that are difficult to map with any other technology. This also ensures visitors cannot inadvertently block the projected image.
In addition, the more compact the projectors, the easier they are to install and hide from the eyes of visitors. And, the quieter they run, the less intrusive they are on the overall impact of the experience.
Lastly, reliability and maintenance requirements are important considerations for museums. They can’t afford for their main attraction to go down. Choosing projectors with multi-drive laser light sources ensures the projector can still operate if there is a failure. Plus, features such as a fail-safe input system can ensure a switch to back-up without loss of image.
As we continue to evolve the technology and our thinking around immersive exhibits, who knows where it could end? The futuristic artist and master projection designer Bart Kresa has said that he would ultimately love to work on an immersive experience that even extends beyond the visual to impact our other senses and emotions. Now that is an immersive experience that we can’t wait to try!