Report Examines Future of Museums in Digital Age

MuseumsInDigitalAge-CoverA new report “Museums in the Digital Age” envisions a dynamic future for museums. Published by Arup’s Foresight + Research + Innovation group, the report contends that museums must move far beyond static objects in glass cases and offer more personalized content, new levels of sustainability, and visitor experiences that extend beyond present expectations of time and space.

“It is a common misconception that museums are designed to house objects,” notes Senior Analyst Josef Hargrave. “In fact they are designed to give visitors an experience.”

The report calls attention to cultural changes that may affect what visitors expect to experience, and suggests changes in museum design and technology investments that can help museums meet those expectations.

For example, the report recognizes that museums must cater to increasingly disparate visitor groups–from Facebook-using digital natives to aging Baby Boomers. Funding restrictions will put pressure on some museums to be both more profitable and more inclusive.

The report makes several recommendations:

  • Create more immersive experiences. As people become accustomed to having unlimited access to information, museums must figure out how to present their content in a manner that is appealing to all groups within society. Use innovations such as contact-less technology, augmented reality and face-recognition software to capture the imaginations of all visitor groups and enhance the physical experience.
  • Find innovative ways to use advancements in 3D printing. For example, 3D printing can enable the accurate reproduction of rare, damaged or previously unavailable objects. Accurately reproduced objects could be exhibited in multiple locations. Museums could also give visitors the option of creating a copy of the artifact to take home.
  • Consider creating nomad museums. Museums and the content they exhibit no longer need to be fixed to a certain point in space and time. Mobile museums, combined with digital access to collections can reach a wider demographic, shifting the notion of where and how museums can exist in the future.
  • Integrate sustainable and open spaces. In addition to managing water, heating and cooling systems more effectively, the museums of the future might shift towards the preservation and archiving of threatened living elements or the promotion of alternative food cultivation systems such as hydroponic farms.

Future Scenarios 

The report concludes with a number of future scenarios in the year 2040, envisioned by students in the Narrative Environments course at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London. The students were mentored by the Arup Foresight + Research + Innovation team. Built on existing social and environmental trends, the scenarios provide drastic visions of the museum’s role in the future.

One such scenario includes museums functioning as a temporary retreat from future ‘mega-cities’, with vegetation helping to regulate environmental toxins. In this future, Kew Gardens will have a dual role as a research center and visitor attraction, becoming a driving force in the development of functional plants.

Another scenario envisions transient museum experiences, where objects are showcased on trains as they are returned back to their country of origin. Plugging into mass transit systems, the scheme presents the museum with an alternate business model, as a travel and tourism guide and international affairs ambassador.

In an increasingly globalized community, a move to deliver artifacts back to their country of origin would exemplify cultural awareness and might ease political tensions.

The 40-page report can be downloaded as a PDF from the Arup website.

About Arup

Headquartered in London, Arup is an independent consultancy that provides professional services in management, planning, design, and engineering. The Arup F+R+I Team identifies and monitors trends and issues that are likely to have a significant impact upon the built environment and society at large. Other reports available through the company’s website cover The Future of Retail, The Campus of the Future, and the Living Workplace.


Report: Museums in The Digital Age

About Arup


Google Expands Art Project Globally

As part of a major global expansion of its Art Project, Google has signed new partnerships with 151 art institutions in 40 countries. More than 30,000 objects are now available to view online in high resolution, up from 1,000 in the first version of the Art Project. Street View images now cover 46 museums, with more on the way.

With a few simple clicks, art lovers can discover not just paintings, but also sculpture, street art, photographs, historic and religious artifacts, and important manuscripts.Creations from a wide variety of cultures and civilizations are represented, including Brazilian street graffiti, Islamic decorative arts and ancient African rock art.

Imaging experts photograph paintings at the Chateau De Fountainbleau in France.
Imaging experts photograph paintings at the Chateau De Fountainbleau in France.

The expanded Art Project includes a wide range of institutions, including large and small traditional art museums as well as less traditional settings for great art, including the White House in Washington D.C.

Some of the new partners in the U.S. include the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina.

New partners worldwide include: the Musée d’Orsay in Paris; the Museo del Oro in Bogotá, Colombia; The Rock Art Ressearch Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa; The Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar; the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil; the Tokyo National Museum in Japan; the Hong Kong Museum of Art in China; and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Australia.

According to Art Project head Amit Sood, the project was expanded worldwide because “It’s no longer just about the Indian student wanting to visit Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is now also about the American student wanting to visit the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi.”

How the Google Art Project Works

If you want to explore museums around the world without leaving home, you can enjoy either a “museum view” of various galleries within selected museums or get a “microscopic view” of selected artwork from each institution.

For the museum views, a specially designed Street View ‘trolley’ took 360 degree images of the interiors of selected galleries. These images were then stitched together to enable smooth navigation within each room. The gallery interiors can also be explored directly from within Street View in Google Maps.

Some of the 30,000+ high-resolution artworks were photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution or ‘gigapixel’ photo capturing technology. Gigapixel imaging technology can create files containing more than 7 billion pixels (about 1000 times more detailed than the average camera). With these super-high-resolution images, you can study details of the brushwork and patina beyond what is possible with the naked eye.

Discovering, Learning, and Sharing

You can browse the content of Google’s Art Project by the artist’s name, the artwork, the type of art, the museum, the country, the city and the collection. Using new Explore and Discover tools, you can find artworks by period, artist, or type of artwork from different museums around the world.

To help you learn more about the items each museum chose to display on Art Project, you can enjoy expertly narrated videos, audio guides, viewing notes, and other resources provided by the museums.

With the My Gallery feature, you can select any of the 30,000 artworks (along with favorite details) and build your own personalized gallery. You can add comments to each painting and share the whole collection with friends, family, and study groups. Google+ and video hangouts are integrated on the site to make it easy to share and talk about your galleries. You can upload and share audio and video content to your collections.

Some teachers have already begun using the Art Project in their classrooms. A dedicated Education section has been created for teachers and students.

For the next phase of the project, Google is considering developing an experimental section to show how artists are using new emerging technologies to showcase their art.  

Bringing Culture Online

“Google is committed to bringing all types of culture online and making it accessible,” says Nelson Mattos, VP of Engineering for Google. “The Art Project demonstrates how the Internet helps spread knowledge.”

Under the auspices of its Cultural Institute, Google is producing high resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls, digitizing the archives of famous figures such as Nelson Mandela, and creating 3D models of 18th century French cities.


Google Art Project

Art Project YouTube Channel


Google Art Project Lets You Visit Museums in Nine Countries


Be Prepared to Record Oral Statements about Your Art

ARTISTS. The next time you write a statement about your art, read it aloud to see how it sounds. If more exhibition organizers start making tour information available on mobile phones, you may be asked to submit oral commentary about your work along with your written statement.

Logo for OnCell SystemsFor example, visitors to the “30 Americans” exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. can dial a provided number to take a self-guided audio tour of the Gallery on their cellphones.

The “30 Americans” exhibition is a wide-ranging survey of works by many of the most important African-American contemporary artists of the last three decades. The Corcoran Gallery of Art staff used technology supplied by OnCell to record audio clips of the artists’ personal commentaries on their paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and videos. Museum visitors follow prompts to hear the artists describe their work.

OnCell is a company of mobile-imaging experts who are passionate about the arts and education.  Since the firm was founded in 2006, they have worked on more than 1,000 projects in the U.S. and internationally. OnCell’s mobile tour technology allows museums and historic sites to create powerful learning experiences using audio, images and video for visitors along with additional “edutainment” features such as quizzes and text messaging.


The Corcoran Gallery of Art

About OnCell Systems