The Omitted Museum
The Omitted Museum by Vice features a collection of stories about artwork and artists that have been ignored, underrepresented, misinterpreted and/or left out from an institutional museum’s narrative. This was an independent project completed in my 3rd semester of grad school that was inspired by my love for museums and their powerful voice in society.
I conducted qualitative research and interviews, designed and tested the UX/UI experience while creating The Omitted Museum's branding under Vice's design system.
Museum patrons only spend 15-30 seconds at each artwork. Typically, museums provide an overview of the artists and leave out major details due to plaque space, misinformation and/or misrepresentation.
As museum technology is on the rise, there is an opportunity to bring patrons and artwork closer together. This is especially important when trying to bring about an emotion from the patron. If patrons feel moved by a piece, they have higher retention rates.
By combining object recognition, AR technology and Vice Media journalists, The Omitted Museum app provides a platform cracks open a new story for patrons to learn, engage and converse more about the artwork. This also allows more voices and perspectives to be heard around the artwork.
Artwork isn’t just artwork, it’s everything that came before and after it. Artwork has the power to document a movement.
HOW THIS WORKS
The Omitted Museum exists as a 3rd party platform that is not associated with any particular institutional museum. The Omitted Museum allows patrons to access more information within and outside museum walls. Patrons can search art and artists at any time within the app. Narratives on The Omitted Museum app can exist authentically and can be delivered in a more approachable, engaging and interesting way.
Vice Media exists to expose the truth and challenge traditional storytelling and news media platforms. They are the brand to take on this opportunity due to their edgy voice and tone. Vice journalist are
encouraged to get as close to the source as possible. They can provide patrons more perspectives and sides to a story that don’t have the requirements curators must follow in order to uphold the institutional museum’s virtues. Vice positions itself as a challenger to the traditional narrative — something they have been wildly successful in doing for news and media since 1994.
Through object recognition, patrons are able to scan artwork while they are in front of a piece or they have the ability to upload a photo from their phone library later when they've left the museum. The Omitted Museum, pulls up a story about the art piece for patrons to watch and listen as it unfolds on their phone. They can also choose to listen to an audio guide or read a story. The information is shown in a more engaging way, visually and tonally, which increases the retention rate.
Solves: Limited Access to Information + Incomprehensible Information
KEY FEATURE #2
DIGGING DEEPER WITH AR TECHNOLOGY
Once The Omitted Museum detects the art piece, an AR story will unfold for patrons to engage with. The story will share more information about the artist, artwork and the time period in which they originally existed as well as provide different perspectives about the art. By engaging patrons in these AR experiences, not only do they retain more information about the artwork, but they have a stronger emotional connection to the work. They may feel a shared experience or have empathy towards the subject matter. AR technology brings the story to life and patrons are able to get a better understanding of the work.
Solves: Limited Access to Information + Incomprehensible Information + Challenge to Discuss Learnings
PATRONS CAN READ AN OMITTED STORY
PLEASE NOTE THIS VIDEO HAS SOUND
PATRONS CAN LISTEN TO AN OMITTED STORY THROUGH AN AUDIO GUIDE
PLEASE NOTE THIS VIDEO HAS SOUND
KEY FEATURE #3
EDITING THE STORY
After patrons learn more about the art and artwork from the AR experience, the Omitted Museum invites them to take part in the discussion. Patrons can use Omitted Museum stickers and filters to create their own interpretations of the stories and share them on social media. Art is about a shared collection of opinions and Vice is empowering all patrons to share their own. Patrons now have the ability to discuss art, freely and openly, at their own finger tips behind the cloak of their screens.
Solves: Challenge to Discuss Learnings
WHY THIS WORKS
Museum Technology blends learning and experience, which improves understanding.
When museums/artists create multi-sensory experiences for patrons, they not only learn about the experience but they’re part of it as well. AR technology affords learners physical and visual reinforcements while absorbing intellectual concepts.
Immersive technology has helped learners not only "see" the past for historical context, but they can engage with the content on an emotional level. When patrons are more emotionally engaged with the artwork, they reduce bias towards the content with participants gaining an enhanced understanding of the work.
"Museums are often cited as the most trusted force in society,” (Lemle, 2018), and yet the only information patrons receive are on plaques with limited space or audio guides which typically cost a fee. The language used in both resources is often hard to digest if you aren’t familiar with art terminology. Therefore, patrons have trouble contextualizing the overall message of the work.
There’s always more to the story than what’s on the plaque. The Chrysler Fine Arts Museum in Norfolk, VA houses a bronze metalwork plaque from the Benin Kingdom, which was once located in southern Nigeria, Africa. While the museum plaque talks about the technique used to create the piece, it fails to mention how it got there. Only 123 years prior, the British invaded the Benin Kingdom, burned down their city, seized their king, and the city was colonized while Benin families were sold into slavery. 4,000 pieces of art were stolen and transferred to museums all over the world, eventually making their way to a small town in Virginia. The narrative matters and when it’s not put in full context, the story gets lost and patrons miss opportunities to learn something new.
How can we grab & hold the attention of patrons?
People spend an average of 15-30 seconds looking at artwork, which is what I found in my observational research at the VMFA in Richmond, VA. They briefly skim the plaque, look at the work and move on to the next piece without fully taking the time to absorb the information in front of them. Museums fail to provide information in a way that is accessible, easy to understand and engages the audience.
PATRON PAIN POINTS
Limited Access to Information
Plaque space limits the information that can be shared about an artwork and it is difficult to communicate the breadth of its history. Curators need to be incredibly strategic in order to get the most important pieces of information in front of the patron. They aren’t able to share the sources they used in conducting their research or share different perspectives due to lack of space.
At fine art museums, the two touch points patrons may have with the art are the plaque and/or an audio guide, which typically costs a fee. Because this is coming from the museum’s position of an intellectual authority, it may be written in a way that is hard for someone not familiar with art vocabulary to comprehend.
Challenge to Discuss Learnings
Museums are often seen as solemn places for quiet reflection. Many feel they are being watched by docents and do not feel they can approach staff members to ask questions. The fine art museum experience becomes very individualized. Patrons don’t feel empowered to contribute to a discussion if they don’t understand the information, which is vital to learning and understanding the material.
TREATING PATRONS AS LEARNERS
The use of immersive technology can be an indispensable tool to deliver more information to an audience in a modern way. By inviting patrons closer to the story through AR, technology allows them to absorb more information on their own. It also allows them to customize their learning experience. They can choose how much they can learn about a piece of art.
The Omitted Museum
This process began with my love for museums. Having visited so many museums across the U.S and Europe, I’ve always appreciated all the things I’ve been able to learn including culture, history, societies, fashion and more.
But this project was about removing my blinders and realizing there’s a lot that can be improved at Fine Art Museums. Through qualitative
research speaking with museum-goers, staff and art historians as well as many months of visiting the VMFA in Richmond, VA I realized museums aren’t designed for everyone. There are many obstacles and challenges people face. As an experience designer, I want to make everyone feel comfortable in a space. Especially when looking at history and cultures. I had a blast doing this project and I absolutely believe we should question these institutional sets of standards.