Making the most of it
Apps are one of the most common ways of reaching museum visitors – but they’re far from the only option
However, these kinds of big ideas come with equally big challenges for museums. A technology like virtual reality presents a major expense for museums, leads to queues, and can create an experience that isolates visitors from the group they’re with, and the location they’re visiting. Other on-site projects can struggle with the nature of the locations themselves. Consistent wi-fi and GPS connectivity can be a challenge in a castle, or within a ship constructed out of metal, and drilling through walls to install wires is not an option in a protected site. The single biggest issue that museums face with large-scale projects, though, is simply money. These institutions rely on government funding and public donations, which means they aren’t able to compete with major brands or tech giants in terms of the amount they have to spend. This can mean that smaller, cheaper – or even free – methods can be the most appealing for museums and heritage sites. However, funding for mobile projects is growing. “The pot is expanding every year and digital access is even a precondition for some funding applications,” says Ward. “Recently, there have been huge incentives
BLAZING BLOCKS “We had used Minecraft in a few of our learning sessions before we started the Great Fire 1666 project, and witnessed first-hand the platform’s ability to inspire creativity, engagement and learning through play,” says Museum of London digital learning coordinator Josh Blair. “As the Great Fire of London is one of the most popular topics within our learning programme, when the museum started planning for the 350th anniversary of the event, we naturally looked into the possibility of creating a Minecraft game that would help us tell the story in a new way. “Given Minecraft’s worldwide popularity with people of all ages, we knew it would have incredible potential for sharing our knowledge
and collections with a bigger audience than we had previously been able to reach. While we are physically restricted by how many people we can welcome into the museum each year, the capacity of our digital learning resources is essentially limitless.” While the UK’s most popular messenger app WhatsApp remains a straightforward messaging service, apps like WeChat in China and Line in Japan have begun their transformation into social platforms. If the introduction of peer-to-peer payments in Messenger is anything to go by, we’ll soon see the consequences of these innovations in the Western market. Clearly, if you want to get an idea of what the future of social looks like, the smart money says look to Asia.