A corporate museum for telling stories, research and Made in Italy products. What can we do in order to avoid falling into the nostalgic trap of black and white pictures and memorabilia? The use of multimedia technology results in an active and captivating visitor experience where the subject as an object is not at the center of the exhibit.
Have you ever thought about the value on a diary, beyond its function as your own personal thought notebook? Are you able to imagine a museum that narrates a century’s worth of history without relying on any physical object as evidence? Do you believe that the archives of a company extend beyond a simple collection of products, documents and prototypes on file? Well, in that case, welcome to the era of the corporate museum 2.0, where it is possible to design a museum without any objects whatsoever.
The corporate museum as a means of communication
For all intents and purposes, the corporate museum is a very effective communication tool. That’s because it’s capable of winning the loyalty of passionate visitors, share it’s story with those unfamiliar with it, as well as having a positive impact on the surrounding area. In Italy we face a variety of small and medium companies, many of which with decades of history and precious archives, while also involved in the financial and manufacturing revitalisation after the Second World War. It is a collection of tiny realities with a heterogeneous heritage of materials: from product mock-ups to paper drawings, from documents to historical photographs, etc. Often a heritage neither inventoried, or usable.
For these realities, as well as for national or business archives, the digital museum can become an important resource and means to tell one’s story, the link with a territory, the research activity and the transformations that, without digital technologies and Interaction Design, would be an inaccessible heritage.
Today’s new accessible interaction technologies, are really allowing the design of new paradigms for museums, proposing a type of storytelling and engagement of the user, so far experienced only in science museums with temporary installations, much like the Science Museum of London and the Exploratorium of San Francisco, that for decades have been experimenting with interaction design installations to try out concepts and contents that are often not “physical”.
Not just a marketing operation
Many companies are interested in going digital, but they must first be educated in understanding the value that a museum can have. This is what we are doing with the Observatory of the Milan Polytechnic, with roundtables dedicated to cultural institutions, for them to understand the process of digitization, starting with the creation of a digital archive, the first step in the realisation of a corporate museum.
Using these guidelines we worked on the Little Museum of the Diaries, in which we have created a narrative setup that allows visitors to change the contents by drawing from a vast archive, and therefore proposing new stories and interpretations to read. The investment by the institution has paid off in the number of visitors and has created a tourist industry that is the reason behind the cultural redevelopment of the area of Pieve Santo Stefano (Arezzo).
“The value of the corporate museum is not only to preserve the story of a company or a foundation, but to open it to the public for the common good, revealing a series of initiatives that are part of the community and of local or national history.”
This is the case of Aboca Experience, the new digital wing of the Aboca Museum in Sansepolcro, which will open in Spring 2019. With this project we want to emphasise the complexity of Aboca’s work: from research on plants, to territorial patronage activity, building a complex and complementary story to the corporate museum. We realised that in order to engage people in an empathic narrative, the company must accept to reveal itself, even when it comes to industrial secrets. Designing a corporate museum is an opportunity for the company to convey its vision and mission, its method, what or how to communicate. It is not a marketing operation, but an investment in oneself through which even critical issues can come to light, but which can lead the company to honestly reposition itself.
A museum for images?
An extreme case of digitization of archival heritage is the recent M9 in Mestre (Venice) which is the first multimedia museum on the history of the 20th century that does not include any physical findings whatsoever. M9 represents a milestone in state of the art interaction design and storytelling through digital means. It recounts stories through digitised documents or by drawing on digital archives, thus involving the visitor in ways that range from emotional, to the deep study of the content. Between the n.7 and 8 sections that we designed, alongside the immersive power of video, we added immersive and interactive installations, triggered through physical, digital and even vocal interfaces. The result is a different visit experience from interaction with touch screens or digital devices, with which we commonly interface. The technology integrates seamlessly into everyday gestures, physical perceptions and the natural relationship of man with the surrounding real space.
Consequently, by pressing the macro keys of the digital jukebox, you can dance to the music that made Italian generations “move” in the 1900s. On the other hand, the physical school records of the installation dedicated to education, bring this gesture back to it’s semantic meaning.
“Through Interaction Design and User Experience Design we are interested in designing spaces that connect the two worlds, the digital and the physical, where the visitor is always at the center and the visitor experience becomes highly personalised.”
Future possibilities thanks to technology
So there are many futuristic scenarios for the digital museum of the future: from the ability to customise and fine-tune the visit or the contents to the characteristics of the visitor, to the more general tracing of the user through the museum floor and the management of data. This profiling will serve the museum to understand the flows and interests of people and the user to enjoy an experience closer to their preferences. Because people will increasingly be at the center of the visit, which is not just a presence but a real ecosystem.
by Laura Dellamotta , co-founder and CTO of Dotdotdot and Opendot.