MAD Museum: a compelling way to look at digitised collections in gallery

As part of the Communicating the Museum conference I went on a tour of MAD museum (Museum of Art and Design). It’s a really interesting, contemporary building right beside central park. One of the museums current exhibitions is ‘Swept Away’ which looks at dust, ashes and dirt in contemporary art and design – it’s always nice to see something new, and around every corner of this exhibition I was intrigued and curious, even compelled to look closer to examine and question the process of making.

Installation shot. Swept Away. MAD Museum

Tangible artifacts have that appeal, they make you want to look closer, to reach out and touch them, the fact that you can’t perhaps even makes them more appealing. The challenge we have all been struggling with is how can we make our online collections have a similar appeal, not to replace the tangible object, but instead create a way for visitors to use online collections to enhance their in gallery experience.

Creating an in gallery interactive that makes an online collection both engaging & compelling

MAD Museum had one of the most captivating in gallery collections interactives I have seen in a long time. A large screen beside the lift (elevator for you Americans) looked like it was displaying lots of shiny jewels from a distance, but when you got up close it was actually lots and lots of tiny images of the museums collection.

No text, just objects – this was refreshing, it was nice just to click on things that looked nice. When you did the screen zoomed in, and collection information was displayed. The visual layout, and swipe and zoom features created a captivating experience. I know any time I watch CSI or any number of crime dramas I’m always impressed by the swishing and zooming of their large scale interactive tables and MAD Museum has certainly incorporated the joy of swishing, zooming, skim reading and visual search into this interactive.

(You could also search by a number of text sub categories such as material, or type of object -but swiping through the collection proved much more appealing to me).

It’s important to remember that not everyone that visits a museums is an academic, and sometimes people, normal people, not museum people just want to look at shiny things because they look nice. Flicking through a collection like you do a fashion magazine is a refreshing change from text heavy collection searches, or the clunky click through pages of in gallery interactives.

I think MAD museum may actually win the award for the longest  time I’ve ever spent looking at a museums online collection whilst standing in the gallery, and considering I was standing at the lift about to leave that is pretty impressive.

In conclusion more swishing and zooming, and flicking and visual search please … if I really wanted to do an academic collection search let’s be honest I’d probably do it from the comfort of more own home on website not while I’m standing in a gallery!

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some more photos

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