The Churchill Museum

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On Tuesday our class enjoyed a trip to sunny London and the Churchill Museum. Having heard and read much about the digital interactives installed within the museum, we were excited to have the opportunity to experience them first hand. Following a rigorous testing/playing with the multiple digital applications, we were fortunate enough to engage in a discussion regarding the Museum and its use of new media, with Sarah Clarke and Jonathan Tappin of the Museum. Sarah and Jonathan were incredibly honest with us about the successes and problems that have accompanied the extensive use of multimedia.

Prior to this discussion we, ourselves, had recognised some of the positives and drawbacks of the digital applications. Elodie and I are writing a joint blog this week (sorry for the length!), and we agreed it would make sense for us to take the position of ‘pros’ or ‘cons’ each in terms of the use of digital interactives at the Churchill Museum.

Pros

– The traditional displays with objects and text panels are complemented with videos, touch-screens and other interactives, which help to convey the message and to present the extensive amount of information.

– The use of interactives was also a response to the lack of space in the site, which is obviously used in the best manner.

– Sounds are an integral part of the experience and add to the effect of entertainment and surprise.

– In a way, the interactives become the exhibition.

– Some of the interactives might be a bit tricky to use, but as Sarah said, the museum wanted the visitors to find out how stuff works. This can trigger social contact.

– The lifeline allows group interactions and is definitely the main attraction in the museum.

– On a technological point of view, the lifeline is really innovative, but still easy to update. The other interactives, in spite of few failures, are not disruptive, easy to use, and easy to maintain.

– Accessibility has been taken into account: most of the videos combine images, subtitles and sound, and for non-English speakers, least the audio guides offer a summary of many sections

– Even if the website of the Churchill Museum does not offer so much opportunity to enhance learning after or before the visit, I very much appreciated the leaflets to take away “Want to know more?” that were available at the end of the tour

– A lot of the visitors I observed seemed to enjoy their visit and to be interested and satisfied

Cons

– Due to so many interactives, one might feel there is sensory overload, with moving images and sounds everywhere

– Some of the applications were not particularly ‘interactive,’ but more ‘reactive’ in the sense that the visitor could not so much contribute, but simply act as a stimulus for the delivery of information.

– Many of the interactives only accommodated a single visitor at a time, thus precluding any social interaction amongst visitors, which can enhance enjoyment and learning.

– It may be argued that the link between the objects and interactives was not always clear, or that the interactives overshadowed the objects.

– It can be frustrating not to go at your own pace: some applications moved too slowly, some too fast.

– In terms of Parry and Sawyer’s phases of integration studied last week, the Churchill Museum is a tricky one: with its extensive use of on-site applications it is very much in the 6th ‘innate’ phase. However, due to a lack of any web based applications, the Museum falls back to phase 3 where digital interactivity is ‘contained.’

Maybe readers can think of more pros and cons to contribute to this list?

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and thank Sarah and Jonathan very much for talking to us. We look forward to seeing how the Churchill Museum accommodates new technologies to keep it at the forefront of digital museums.

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