”Technology is becoming embedded in everything” is one of the five megatrends of the 2020s (Dufva, 2020). Museums are no exception when it comes to seeking benefits from digital solutions. The phenomenon is evolving quickly at the same time as society is getting more digital. Many culturally significant phenomena are only in digital format. Therefore, museums need to consider new ways to record the culture. Hence some museums have taken action and others are still pondering if digitalizing the museum is beneficial.
The corona crisis has pushed more museums into digital transformation to survive and guarantee a safe visitor experience for their customers. As museums are popular tourist attractions, the challenge for the museum industry was real when tourism decreased dramatically during the corona crisis and ate their visitor count to the minimum. Therefore, many museums are now developing their digital museum experience. People can visit museums from the comfort of their own homes by using mobile devices. In addition to completely digital museums, physical museums are making use of technology in enhancing their visitor experience.
Vermeeren et al. (2018) note that the original task of museums was to display collections of objects. However, technology has been used for a long time, for example, in the form of audio guides. The use of technology has evolved as museums have laid more emphasis on the visitor experience. They have started to pay more attention to the way objects are displayed and to interactive possibilities around the items. (Vermeeren et al. 2018.)
According to Sorrentino et al. (2020) museums are a mixture of tangible and intangible elements that ideally involve the visitor in a dynamic, informative and immersive experience. With the aid of technology, it is possible to evoke an immersive experience by engaging more senses. Museum visitors of today have high expectations in their experience consumption thus people are looking for experiences that could spark emotions, learning, and sharing with their loved ones. That is why museums like many other service providers are moving into more customer-centric development and focusing on the visitor experience.
The more visitors are involved, the more likely they are to have a positive and memorable experience.
For example, a case study by Sorrentino et al. (2020) analysed the digital museum MAV based in Herculaneum, Italy, and a traditional museum Al Tayebat in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Both museums offer a place to experience the history of the destination. The museums exist in different socio-cultural contexts. Therefore, the study did not take cultural variables into account to avoid any cultural bias. MAV uses new technology to enhance visitor engagement. The visit is designed to be part of the whole cultural experience related to the eruption of Vesuvius. Al Taybet is the biggest museum ink Jeddah and holds over 60,000 historical items from Middle Eastern countries. The museum relies on a traditional style of visiting, where the museum guide shows visitors around to ensure they see the best parts of the experience.
The perceived experience had a positive impact on satisfaction, memories and behavioural intentions in both cases. However, there were some differences in how people experienced the museums. The visitors in Al Tayebet were more affected by the overall satisfaction, whereas MAV was able to create more memories. (Sorrentino et al. 2020.) The research suggests, that museums are becoming more visitor experience-oriented to attract and engage people. In other words, a simple collection-centred space is replaced with an experience-centred place. Museums do it by creating interactions between visitors and the museum space by using experiential tools like mixed reality (AR & VR). The more visitors are involved, the more likely they are to have a positive and memorable experience. The study underlines the role of digital technology in creating memories. Moreover, digital technology is likely to affect the emotional dimension that traditional museums are unable to do. (Sorrentino et al. 2020.)
The consumers of today expect a wow-effect from their experience. Therefore, museums need to surpass the visitor’s expectations. Museums are enhancing new technology for going beyond the visitors’ expectations.
Dufva, M. (2020) MEGATREND 4: Technology is becoming embedded in everything. Sitra. Retriever November 11th, 2021 from https://www.sitra.fi/en/articles/megatrend-4-technology-is-becoming-embedded-in-everything/
Sorrentino, A., Elgammal, I., Ferretti, M. & Risitano, M., (2020). Does digital technology improve the visitor experience? A comparative study in the museum context. International Journal of Tourism Policy. DOI: 10.1504/IJTP.2020.10029192
Vermeeren, A., Calvi, L., & Sabiescu, A. (2018). Museum Experience Design – Crowds, Ecosystems, and Novel Technologies. Springer series of Cultural Competing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-58550-5