Articles/From Now to Next – Museums of the (near) future

From Now to Next – Museums of the (near) future

Museums may be custodians of our past and present, but new technology is helping shape their future. Here, VERSA looks at what that future might look like as museums undergo a tech-driven period of reflection, innovation and reinvention.

As keepers of culture, museums spent centuries providing access to art, history and science through collections not accessible anywhere else. 

Then a digital revolution put access to every imaginable fact and image at our fingertips. That change meant museums had to change too. 

The battle for attention in an on-demand world means museums must deliver more than access to a collection now. They need to deliver convenience and seamless, engaging experiences to remain fresh and relevant to new generations.

Today’s museums have a technology-driven opportunity to reimagine the museum experience and how they will deliver content and experiences to visitors tomorrow – inside the museum and beyond it. Before, during and after a visit. On every channel – and at every stage of the customer journey. 

The digitisation of collections and archives liberated museum content, but it didn’t liberate the customer experience. In the museum of the future, the customer experience is transformed. 

Visitors will dive deeper into curated content – or curate their own – on a visit that doesn’t end when they exit the museum’s doors.

Museums will no longer deliver a linear narrative, but multiple, interconnected stories told and retold in different ways, on different channels, in different formats, from different perspectives.

Omni-channel - reach and engagement beyond the building

The future museum will deliver an omni-channel customer experience that is personalised, direct and ongoing, where each channel plays to its strengths.

The physical channel allows visceral, tactile experiences. Virtual reality (VR) can stimulate empathy and create transportative experiences. Augmented reality (AR) can deliver context in an additional information layer. Social channels enable real-time mass participation. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can personalise experiences based on a visitor preferences and behaviours. 

Curation, conservation and collections will always be central to what a museum does, but the future-proofed museum will also offer de-centralised experiences that engage and connect with guests directly, digitally and virtually. 

Transforming the customer journey

Technology will transform the digital customer experiences at each stage of the journey, from awareness to retention. 

Pre-visit awareness initiatives could include AI digital posters with QR-activated AR experiences, or a social media AI takeover with an exhibition on social channels curated entirely by AI.

An omni-channel customer assistant could drive action by integrating with booking software to allow a chat-to-checkout experience, from booking to using a digital pass for contactless ticketing and automated entry. The museum could use AI to predict the volume of no-shows and release more tickets to maximise visitation while avoiding overcrowding.

Engagement could include a daily social media content countdown teaser sharing fun facts about an exhibition. A family game experience could deliver a digital treasure hunt in a physical environment. Or a digital concierge could recommend an itinerary and the best path through the museum based on a visitor’s interests.

Experiences could see visitors having a two-way conversation with a personal avatar of their choice - a digital curator, tour guide, artist or historic character, at the museum or from their lounge room. Hyper-realistic virtual museum environments could allow visitors anywhere to explore rare artefacts through a virtual tour, or step inside the mind of their favourite artist using wearable devices like VR goggles or AR contact lenses. A gaze detection system like that pioneered by BMW for vehicles could share customised content with visitors based on where their gaze lands at an exhibition. Or visitors could interact with precious artefacts in a 3D repository using RFID.

Retention strategies might see an Events Bot invite customers to future events over social media based on previous ticket purchases and identified preferences. Or visitors could digitally store and access their favourite items as they move through an exhibition to curate their own customisable ‘digital museum’ to share with others later.

Building tomorrow’s museum, today

It’s no longer only about giving visitors access to collections – it’s about enabling visitors to engage with content through compelling and convenient experiences delivered in the most optimal way on the most optimal channel.

Tomorrow’s museum will create, curate and customise a specific journey for each visitor by leveraging intuitive, interactive and immersive technology that delivers new experiences in new ways. That journey can start today.