According to the latest statistics, museum visits account for roughly $60 billion in the combined U.S. and Canadian economies. That's a lot of money, especially when you realize that visiting cultural heritage sites and art galleries are merely a minuscule part of leisure travel. It shows that while some museums have seen a significant drop in attendance, the industry is far from dying.
In the next four years, we expect to see museums further embrace technological advances to stay relevant, improve visitor experience, and eventually increase engagement. Here are ten changes that will likely occur in 2023:
1. More Augmented Reality (AR) Experiences: As AR technology becomes more prevalent, we are seeing a rise in the number of museums that are beginning to use AR experiences as part of their exhibits. This not only allows visitors to explore content more immersive, but it also does so without taking up additional physical space or requiring extra items.
AR is different from VR in a way that it overlays digital content in the real world instead of replacing it entirely. This means that visitors can still see their physical surroundings but also interact with virtual elements that give an extra layer of context to the experience. Arguably the most interesting take on AR by a museum is that of the Muséum national d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, where a project called "REVIVRE" (translated as "to live again") uses Hololens from Microsoft to let visitors interact with digital representations of extinct animals.
2. Online Ticketing: The shift to an online ticketing system will make it easier for customers to buy tickets from anywhere at any time. This is key, especially considering that many museums and heritage sites now span multiple cities and states.
The rationale for online ticketing makes perfect sense for museums as it not only makes it easier for visitors to buy tickets but also offers greater control over the number of people that can be in the museum at any time. This helps ensure no overcrowding while providing museums additional data on visitor behaviour and preferences.
3. Automated Registration: Automated registration systems will become more common in museums, allowing guests to use their smartphones to check in and have a completely contactless experience.
For this to work, guests must download the museum's app, scan their phones at the entrance, and be directed directly to their desired exhibits. The system would also work for tours and special events. It's already in use in many industries, so we expect to see it become more widespread in museums by 2023.
4. Better Mobile App Experiences: Many museums already have mobile apps that allow customers to plan their visit, explore exhibits, and even read about the history of the museum's artifacts. This makes sense, too, as would-be museum visitors belong to the younger generation that prefers to do most of their planning and research through their smartphones.
By 2023, we expect museums to further leverage mobile technology and app experiences. This will likely include augmented reality tours, interactive maps, educational games and activities, 360-degree content, audio guides, and even virtual reality (VR) experiences.
5. More Online Exhibitions: With virtual technology, museums could now extend their reach to people worldwide by creating online exhibitions that are just as engaging as physical ones. This works because museums would use 3D scanning and modelling to create a digital tour of their physical exhibits, which could be experienced on a computer or smartphone.
One reason there's a dwindling interest in museums is that younger generations don't feel they have the time to visit them. By going digital, they could find a way around this and add another point of access to the museum's content. While it doesn't contribute to visitor attendance, it still helps to spread the museum's message and build its brand in an avenue that's largely alien to them.
6. Robotics: The use of robots in museums will become an increasingly popular way to interact with guests and provide information about exhibits. Robots would also be used for tasks such as handling inquiries and guiding visitors around the museum. It's not a far-fetch idea since we've seen this innovation used in fast-food chains, hospitals, and even banks.
Robotics has always been fascinating, and using robots in museums could be especially interesting. By 2023, we may even see robots that can engage with guests more personally. It's no longer a product of science fiction since robots are being made with practical functionality in mind.
7. Use of Big Data To Make Business Decisions: By 2023, museums will have developed advanced analytics systems to monitor visitor numbers in real-time, track guest preferences, and exhibit engagement levels. This data will be used to improve the overall museum experience by adjusting or introducing new exhibits or activities.
8. Automated Queues: By 2023, most museums will offer automated queues so visitors can reserve their spot in line and avoid physical contact with other guests. This would help reduce waiting times and save resources by reducing the staff needed to manage queues.
Did you know that automated queueing systems are already used in theme parks and other entertainment venues? We expect to see them become more common in museums since they offer a convenient and safe way for guests to enjoy their visit.
9. Interactive Learning Programs: Interactive learning programs are no stranger to institutions mandated to educate, and the same can be said for museums. Interactive learning programs would help engage visitors of all ages by providing more engaging and immersive experiences.
We've seen this technology in big-name institutions like the ArtScience Museum in Singapore and France's Cité de l'espace - an interactive display emulating a space flight. So, it wouldn't be surprising to see more museums following this trend by 2023.
10. Wearable Technology: Wearable technology would make a great addition to any museum experience. It could provide guests with personalized tours, interactive experiences, and educational content based on the exhibits they are exploring.
We have already seen this technology in some museums, such as the San Diego Zoo's "Zoo Cams" and London's Imperial War Museum's "D-Day Landings Experience." These wearables are particularly enticing to kids, so expect to see more child-friendly wearable technology experiences.
The way we perceive museums could change in the coming years, thanks to the emergence of new technologies. Don't expect some dramatic transformation, though, as these changes will likely be subtle and will build on existing trends. Nonetheless, museums are feeling the pressure of continually innovating, considering that these institutions have always been apprehensive of change.