Rethinking Visitor Journeys – The Digital Enhancement of Museum Visits
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Before, during, and after a visit – we examine whether and how diverse contact points to a museum can be designed using new digital and immersive technologies.
The institutions of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin form a universal museum with a variety of collections on art, archeology, and ethnology. As heterogeneous as the subjects they present, their visitor and user groups are made up of people with a variety of different interests, needs, and expectations.
The interplay of the respective phases in which visitors are in contact with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – before, during, and after a museum visit – are what we call the visitor journey. We intend to improve the visitor experience across all three phases, reaching as diverse an audience as possible while reinforcing the ties between museums and their existing audience as well. To accomplish this, we test how medial and digital points of contact can be redesigned, linked, and strategically integrated with a focus on users.
User-centered Design in the Museum Context
A visitor journey is more than a one-way street through the museum complex. Our visitors’ paths – analog and/or digital – are individual and vary with the situation. For this reason, our work follows the principles and methods of user-centered design – in an iterative work process of exploration, creation, and evaluation. We also work closely with visitor groups.
The project began with detailed visitor and user research. Based on the combined quantitative and qualitative surveys, we examine and classify visitor motivation into types in order to derive a set of personas, each with its specific visitor journey.
Testing New Communication and Knowledge Transfer Approaches
We use prototypes to render our ideas amenable to experiencing and testing. This will enhance our ability to develop them in closer contact to visitors and enable a continuous influx of new findings from user tests into the advanced development phase. Here the focal areas are: the selective automation of service programs, augmented reality to add new layers to the museum visit, digital navigation and guide systems, and models for the reuse of the digital collection.
As a supplement to the permanent exhibition of the Ethnologisches Museum in the Humboldt Forum, we are developing a mixed media production prototype that immerses visitors into the rich culture of Oceania. We are researching new narratives within the exhibition space that use various digital media to make social, cultural and historical contexts experiential.
Test Concept for Integrating Digital Content into Visitor Journeys
As a result of this process, we both examine the resulting prototypes and findings on visitor motivation and develop an example concept for integrating digital content into visitor journeys. Within this context, we also evaluate the infrastructural and organizational conditions for operating the respective applications and process our observations for the museum landscape. Of course we also reflect on the iterative methods of work and development we selected. In this manner, our experiences of their application in the museum context should benefit other cultural institutions.
AR Prototype at the Gemäldegalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
As part of the sub-project, we are developing a state-of-the-art augmented reality (AR) prototype in close collaboration with the curators of the Gemäldegalerie (Old Master Paintings) and the Berlin-based firm Creative Technologists. With this AR application, we will examine the potential that technology offers for transferring knowledge about collections and works of art. The collection’s fascinating stories will be revealed through technology, and aspects such as the original functional context of works or object biographies will be directly mediated using gaming techniques as well as spatial storytelling. We apply the human-centered design approach in the course of the project. For example, in the development process a visitor-oriented, participatory approach had top priority. Alongside the curators’ content-related suggestions, the information on visitors’ motivation, expectations, and needs that was previously collected in one-hour, in-depth interviews was integrated into the concept. In the iterations to come, the AR app will also contain position tracking, 3D navigation, and image recognition functions built with a cutting edge mobile augmented reality framework (Apple’s ARKit).
Progressive web app for the Humboldt Forum Highlights exhibition on Museum Island and at Kulturforum
Museums provide plenty of interesting content for visitors through the objects they put on display. How can diverse information, texts, and issues be linked to the exhibited objects and made visible to viewers during museum visits? A website accompanying the exhibition Humboldt Forum Highlights will display the relevant objects on visitors’ devices. This will enable them to explore the exhibits on their own. Info points connected to storylines provide information and descriptions that visitors can call up as necessary. Different storylines offer visitors the opportunity to examine exhibits in detail and find out more about them in accordance with their own interests.
Virtual reality game for kids and teens: Navigate the South Seas
The virtual reality station will be integrated into a family-oriented section of the Bootskubus (Boat Cube) exhibition space for seagoing vessels in the future Humboldt Forum. The station focuses on the topic of orientation at sea: The game intends to make the traditional navigational techniques of the South Seas accessible to children (ages 8-14) and convey a feeling of the Pacific region’s vastness. In the course of the game, the players acquire knowledge by observing nature and apply their newly learned skills to navigate a boat. Still to be realized, the application will mark a key milestone in the development of new forms of narration for museums. The virtual reality game tests the interpretation and communication of cultural practices in the form of an immersive game appropriate for children.
Augmented reality for visitor groups – a new application for interpersonal and interactive guided tours
The augmented reality application for interpersonal exhibition communication in the Häuserkubus (House Cube, i.e. a space for exhibiting buildings) at the future Humboldt Forum, is a new format for the museum. The cult house of the Abelam of Papua New Guinea is at the heart of the app. During an introduction, guides of visitor groups use tablets to expand their range of actions – pointing out a detail or referring to other images and objects, for example – by using augmented reality (AR). In the course of a tour, the guides activate visualizations and additional fields of information that become visible and selectable on the visitors’ tablets. In addition, under the direction of their guide, visitors can virtually tour the sections of the cult house that are not open to the public and explore them on their own. It is also intended that guides can use features of AR technology to adapt the information they provide to the visitors’ own interests. When used in conjunction with interpersonal knowledge transfer, AR technology opens up a space for visitors’ personal explorative needs within the group experience.
Enriching the South Seas boats exhibition with references to the present with augmented reality
The mobile augmented reality application (AR app) for the South Seas boats exhibition space in the Humboldt Forum aims to enrich the exhibition with present-day references. The exhibition space will be augmented with contemporary voices on climate change in Oceania from a variety of perspectives. The app will be triggered by a large map of Oceania (approx. 8 x 13 meters) and the South Seas boats themselves that are on display. The visualization of real-time scientific data on the ocean will play a special role in the way visitors experience the space with the enhancement of AR. The data will also accompany the present-day voices of the people from Oceania and the historical South Seas boats.
Service Messenger Bot based on the Facebook Messenger Platform
We are developing a bot prototype to simplify the way visitors plan their visits and provide automated answers to questions about tickets, opening hours, current exhibitions, etc. In the medium term, the bot will also be used to answer content-related questions in the museum.
Prof. Dr. Christina Haak
Head of the Sub-project / Deputy Director General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Head of the Sub-project, focus: Staatliche Museen in the Humboldt Forum / SPK project manager, museum planning und presentation in the Humboldt Forum
Sub-project lead (leave of absence)
Research associate – Education & Outreach
Research associate – communications & creative direction
Research associate -IT & Techbical Infrastructure
Coordination – Museum Documentation System
Research associate – Visitor and reception research
Research associate – Concept & Coordination, focus: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in the Humboldt Forum
Projekt Management, focus: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in the Humboldt Forum