Exhibitions in the Digital Age-Navigating Interactive Technology

Over the past year, students at Winterthur and the University of Delaware collaborated to create one of the first student-led exhibitions at the Winterthur Museum. This exhibit, entitled “Truths of the Trade: Slavery and the Winterthur Collection,” executed a reexamination of collection objects through the lens of slavery – a critical perspective at an institution filled to the brim with thousands of objects deeply entangled with the world of Atlantic trade and the institution of slavery.

A view inside the Truths of the Trade exhibit featuring the mahogany double cabinet at center along with the the ipad touch screen interactive in the front.A view from inside the newly installed exhibit featuring our touch-screen interactive in front.

While we all assisted in developing content, writing label copy, and installation, we each undertook a leadership role in bringing the exhibit to life. For two of us, we tackled the (unsurprisingly) complicated spectrum of exhibit interactives. As a way to reach visitors in a more dynamic fashion and increasing accessibility to different audiences, it was important to us to have a wide variety of interfaces. We also wanted to ensure that the concepts presented in the exhibit could be accessed at home and provide pathways for further learning. To accomplish our variety of goals within Truths of the Trade, our efforts ranged from samples of touchable-textiles and an interactive iPad program, to an informative take-away brochure bearing suggested reading and easy links to the playlists and videos used within the exhibit.

As members of a generation born into the world of computers, smartphones, and social media, we often have a good handle on ways to use technology to our advantage. Yet our foray into heavily technological interactives did not come without challenges. The double cabinet, a central object within our exhibit, provided key fodder for the iPad interactive. Our idealized concept was to provide the guests with an image on the screen, with touchpoints that explored the concepts further. We first attempted to use a program developed by the Minneapolis Museum of Art, called Griot (link to https://new.artsmia.org/artstories/), which offered a beautiful interface for touchscreen exploration. The technology and software of Griot is entirely open source, making it accessible to all. However, the reality of using the software proved a bit more difficult than anticipated. For our ambitious exhibition timeline, we soon realized that it was necessary to find another program to build our double cabinet interactive. Our next program, Genially (link to https://panel.genial.ly/) was much more user friendly.

The home screen for the digital interactive features a still image of the mahogany double cabinet, with the doors open, and various points marked with symbols for guests to touch and learn more.

The home screen of our Genially interactive, showing the touchpoints that the guests can interact with.

We wanted to build an interactive that viewed the double cabinet through the eyes of a curator –not only giving the guests an opportunity to learn more about the cabinet, but exploring the ways that we visually evaluate objects. With Genially, we were quickly able to create a dynamic image with touchpoints, showing supplementary pictures and brief analyses of certain points on the cabinet. While not quite as sophisticated as a program like Griot, Genially allowed us to accomplish our interactive goals and provided a deeper understanding of the double cabinet for our guests.

An example of the type of pop-up created by the touch screen interactive of a picture of a side compartment on the cabinet, obscured when the cabinet's doors are fully open.These images show examples of the types of information in our interactive including deeper analysis of various points on the chest and more photographs of the chest that guests would otherwise be unable to see

See our full interactive here:

https://view.genial.ly/5ac949a4660f7a459e1454f0/interactive-image

For a small exhibit, we admittedly pack a lot of punch with our interactive offerings. Yet as millennials, we have come to expect dynamic methods of learning within an exhibit material besides text on a wall. This experience underlined the role of the interactive our exhibit, and made us realize the kinds of holes that still exist within the intersections of museums and technology – accessible software for curators, accessible interfaces for all types of learning, and accessibility to those who cannot physically come to the exhibit. The creation of this exhibit provided important lessons that will certainly stick with us as future museum professionals. Come see Truths of the Trade: Slavery and the Winterthur Collection, open through August 5th, 2018, and let us know how we did!

 

By Allie Cade, WPAMC Class of 2018



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