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Digital Museums teamLab Borderless Courtesy of teamLab
teamLab Borderless

Monday Musings: Digital Museums

As I kid, I found most museums to be stultifying! Sure, there was great art but room after room of paintings hanging on walls, the occasional sculpture, or collection of art objects was about what you got. One exception was The Franklin Institute, in my native city of Philadelphia, where you could walk through the beating heart exhibit. That was as immersive as can be, putting you right inside the art, as it were.

Today’s museums are something else. Of course, the paintings remain in place in the world’s classic palaces of art, but something is afoot in the museum world, much as it is in the world of performing arts and live entertainment. Things are getting digital and immersive, with an increased accent on storytelling.

One purveyor of this new kind of museum is teamLab, a collective of artists and ultra-technologists including artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, and architects. They worked the “MORI Building Digital Museum: EPSON teamLab Borderless,” which opened in Tokyo in the summer of 2018. They create immersive installations that use technology to create responsive art. Take a look here:

More digital art in Paris at L’Atelier des Lumieres or “Workshop Of Lights,” once a factory, now an immersive art museum, where projectors and loudspeakers take art beyond conventional boundaries for art. Check it out here:

At LDI2017, we presented a case study of a projection-mapped exhibit, “Energy City” a massive 3D environment in Weiss Energy Hall at the Houston Museum of Art. While not putting the patrons directly in an immersive environment, it does take projection technology to new levels in the museum setting with production and technology by RabCup and Green Hippo.

Take a quick look here:

It makes sense in a digital world that performances and museums would follow suit. Just as playwrights and producers are rethinking how audiences consume cultural content, museums are rethinking how to appeal to a younger, hipper crowd. In both cases, the answer seems to be the same: good storytelling and cutting-edge technology in service of the story. And like the theatre, museums are also turning to AR, VR, and AI to help tell their stories. On stage, the actor is in the augmented reality, in an art museum, the visitors take the tour. One day, perhaps all this will merge even more as museums tell more compelling stories and the arts become more and more digitalized as time goes on.

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