Proximity despite distancing: New forms of interpersonal communication in museum spaces (NuForm)
February 26, 2021, Josefine Matthey
January 2021 saw the launch of the “NuForm” joint research project between ART+COM and Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde. Over a two-year period, this project, which is being funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, will develop and test new forms and formats of interpersonal communication. The aim is to change museum exhibition experiences in a sustainable way.
Before coronavirus, full rooms and lines of visitors outside museums were a sign that an exhibition was a great success, a hit. Visitors put up with long queues and the throngs of people so they could be part of the experience.
Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, restrictions aimed at preventing infection have led to very different visiting scenarios ranging from complete closures and partial opening for a limited number of visitors to situations close to those before the crisis. However, major restrictions have been imposed over and over again.
In the cultural sector, attempts have been made to keep offers going since the very beginning of the pandemic – often by transferring physical formats one to one to digital or virtual ones. This has had varying success. The challenges of keeping operations going under restrictions are great. It is a balancing act.
Improvised design and organisation solutions can also be seen as an expression of the desire for everything to soon get back to the way it was before the pandemic. However, it will not.
We are therefore interested in researching measures that could potentially benefit exhibition and museum visitors and the organisers in a sustainable way that goes beyond the crisis.
In some cases, we need to come up with completely new solutions while, in others, processes related to digital transformation need to be further developed and accelerated.
As yet, there is no blueprint for the conception of digital or hybrid formats in interpersonal communication. So what actually makes an exhibition visit successful? What needs are tied to spatial proximity and simultaneousness?
We do not have the answers to these questions yet. But we do know how to get there.
ART+COM has over 30 years of experience in the design and development of interfaces between spaces, media, stories and people. We have worked on numerous research projects and explored uncharted territory. ART+COM works with user-centred methods, uses co-creation approaches and builds on prototyping.
Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde (Natural History Museum) is one of the world’s most important research institutes in the area of biological and geoscientific evolution and biodiversity. Over 400 members of staff explore, research and present Earth and life in dialogue with more than half a million visitors each year.
The focus is on visitors who have new expectations for visitor experiences: an extensive “visitor journey” – beginning with the preparations for the visit at home and going on to the formation of a “visitor community” made up of interested visitors who want to stay in touch afterwards.
We want NuForm to continue beyond the coronavirus crisis. Our research will therefore focus on topics and questions that will still be of interest and be significant beyond the pandemic.
- Media augmentation of rooms and exhibits
- Visitor guidance
- Digital curation
- Smart exhibitions
- Platform strategy and networking
- New visitors
The researchers from ART+COM and Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde launched the NuForm project together in the second week of January 2021 – online.