Digital vs. analogue museum, both worlds tend to oppose each other. Although both can coexist and complement each other in an exhibition space.

But analogue presentation does not necessarily have to have a purely traditional approach.

Proposals, that of a digital museum vs. an analogue museum, can be defined as complementary in the exhibition communication. Also we must consider them as ways of transmitting the message.

Each museum is a means of communication aimed at the general public, which must convey cultural knowledge. Analogue and digital are the means we have to get this message to the visitor.

Analogue and digital are means to communicate the message to the visitor.

Nowadays, we can no longer consider digital communication in the museum as an option, which we can do without. It is a reality that we cannot turn our backs on, absolutely integrated in today’s society.

The digital vs. analogue museum can bring two different rhythms to the visit:

  • Analogue communication can be used in a more leisurely, reflective way, based on the contemplation of the pieces and their description.
  • Digital communication can provide greater dynamism, encourage greater activity, interaction with the exhibition elements, and stimulate participation. In short, it facilitates the inclusion of a greater number of stimulations, which keep the public more active.

In addition, both types of resources put in the hands of the creator of the space, tools to influence the rhythm in which the exhibition script develops. The visit will thus unfold through a sequence of peaks and valleys, stimulations and reflections, intensity and reflective calm.

The exhibition script should be a sequence of peaks and valleys, stimulation and reflection.

Interactive display
Digital solution
Interactive display. Digital solution
Photo: ThisisEngineering RAEng

An excess of sensory stimulation ends up saturating and creating confusion.

Paused and reflective periods, spaces in which information is scarce or excessively encrypted, generate boredom and disconnection for the visitor.

But, as in a good novel, if the ingredients are wisely combined, the result can be brilliant, generating a very high level of visitor satisfaction.

Not to mention that extremes are saturation and monotony and both are wrong and will be perceived as such by the public. The first would be an unserious museum, the second a boring institution, and from boredom no learning is created.

Neither saturation nor boredom, a balance has to be found.

Example of analog museum
Example of analogue presentation

We start the visit with a brief introduction to the subject matter. This helps you to get to know the basics, a short audiovisual is the best way to start any visit.

From here we move on to a digital area that encourages the visitor to participate.

This is followed by a space for reflection, reading short texts, objects to contemplate and apply knowledge.

And so on.

The visitor should be able to choose between analogue, digital or both.

In this case, the two worlds become alternative, rather than complementary, visits.

Equally important, for all this to work, to be coherent, the museum discourse that guides both worlds, digital and analogue, must be to some extent autonomous and can be understood both separately and together.

Visitors must be able to choose the visit that best suits their understanding, tastes and interests.

And yet the museographic script must make sense.

The alteration of the route must not affect the understanding of the content.

Alteration of the route must not affect the understanding of the contents.

How is this achieved?

As a matter of fact, when the exhibition complex is made up of independent modules, but with an internal logic, they can be visited in different orders.

Example of a digital presentation 
Virtual reality
Example of a digital presentation
Virtual reality

Also, like the chapters of a novel, in which complete fractions of a more global story are told, opening and closing episodes of a narrative. They are the whole of a story that they all build together, but at the same time they are independent, each one with its own narrative logic.

If we apply this same system to a museum, we can conceive of the whole exhibition as something dynamic, to which we can add new modules in the future without the whole losing coherence.

But resources can be used in many different ways.

For example, a space based initially on analogue resources can be conceived in a very dynamic way if we install a historical setting, for example. The visitor will have to act with his or her five senses, as it is equipped with visual, sound, tactile and even olfactory and gustatory effects. It is clear that such a sensitive installation would be highly stimulating.

It is also true that, to be honest, such a complex structure would require internal digital systems to manage it, even if they are not visible to the public. It would therefore be an analogue presentation with internal digital management.

Digital can also be a tool for reflection and the analogue a dynamic space.

At the other end of the visit, we could have a digital space for a serene search for information on computer equipment, for example through a series of touch screens.

In conclusion, the search for a confrontation between analogue and digital solutions in museums today makes little sense. They are tools that coexist naturally in our daily lives.

Why not doing the same in museums?

I invite you to read my article on virtual, augmented and mixed reality in the field of museums, a very attractive and useful resource to explain complex concepts or to understand issues that are otherwise beyond our reach.

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