Immutability, traceability, and security resonate particularly well in the world of digital collectables and blockchain. It's because of these traits that digital collectables work the way they do. In a world where we're constantly bombarded with choices and new technologies, the distinctiveness of digital collectables and how they work wonders within the realm of the blockchain make them so attractive.
We've seen multiple industries embrace digital collectables, despite the early notion that they weren't anything but a fad. The art world has taken quite a liking to digital collectables. And then you have sports memorabilia, trading cards, gaming, and more. The list goes on, but one industry that's been a little late to the digital collectables party is museums.
What Can Digital Collectables Do For Museums?
We go to museums to learn about the past and see how it's relevant to our present. At least, in theory, museums are meant to be storytellers of our cultures and societies. They're time capsules that keep our history alive through exhibitions and displays.
However, as much as museums try to be objective, the fact is that they're also subject to interpretation. The way a museum chooses to display its artifacts says a lot about the perspective of the people running it. In a way, some museums no longer represent the "human" aspect of storytelling as they're confined to portraying history in a certain light.
For example, the people running these museums are more focused and inclined to generate revenues. To do that, they need to make sure that their exhibitions are able to drive up traffic. That's why you see a lot of museums going for the flashy and popular route when it comes to their exhibitions.
Why Museums Need To Embrace Better Storytelling
We like to call it their natural obligation. In other words, museums must give people a more comprehensive meaning of every artifact they display. It's not just about putting something on exhibit and letting people see it. There has to be a connection between the artifact and the viewer for the whole experience to be worth it.
But the way most museums handle this responsibility leaves much to be desired. That's why there's a growing clamour for these institutions to change how they tell stories. Some have already started to do so, but the fact that most museums are still stuck in the traditional way of doing things suggests that there's still a lot of work to be done.
Digital Collectables have the makings of being a possible game-changer for museums. Its potential lies in its ability to help museums tell their stories in a more interactive, personal, and unique way.
We already know how the British Museum and the State Hermitage Museum chose to incorporate Digital Collectables by minting some of their collections and selling them for profit. But there has to be more to it than just that, right?
With digital collectables, museums could create more engaging and informative exhibits. It's not just about slapping a Digital Collectables on an artifact and calling it a day. Rather, it's about using the technology to its fullest potential and rethinking how museums operate.
What would that look like?
Well, it starts with creating more personal experiences. If you've been to a couple of museums before, you'll notice that most of them have similar layouts. You go in, walk around, look at the exhibits, and then leave.
The experience may be informative, but it's passive nonetheless. As much as people love to learn about culture and history, there are no longer is a compelling reason for them to stick around or maybe think about visiting the same museum again.
So, how do Digital Collectables change this?
When the head of contemporary art at the State Hermitage Museum, Dmitry Ozerkov, opined that the world's largest collection would eventually have a digital twin in the metaverse, it's fair to say that not everyone was entirely convinced. However, as Ozerkov pointed out, digital collectables could very well pave the way for a new era of digital museums.
He meant that museums should accept the reality that the traditional way is no longer as effective. With digital collectables , museums could have a metaverse presence and reach a whole new audience.
Interactive Strategies To Tell History
But how does a digital museum or a replica of a traditional museum's collection relate to becoming a better storyteller? Virtual replicas of a museum's exhibit allow for interaction in many ways that are impossible in the physical world. For example, a digital museum could offer an audio guide that changes according to the viewer's location.
If you're standing in front of a painting, the audio guide could give you information about the artist, the period it was painted, and the technique used. But if you walk away from the painting and go to another exhibit, the audio guide could automatically change to give you information about that exhibit.
Not only does this make the experience more interactive, but it also allows for a more personal connection with the story. The audio guide becomes a visitor's personal tour guide that's always there to hand out information when they need it.
Aside from an audio guide, digital collectables s can make museums better storytellers by allowing for more immersive experiences. For example, a digital replica of Van Gogh's "The Starry Night" could be made available for viewing in augmented reality. Imagine the thrill of seeing a classic artwork in its full glory, where viewers even get to walk around the replica while delving into the most minute details, including a close-up of the brushstrokes.
In November of last year, State Hermitage Museum came the closest to making this "storytelling" concept a reality. Its digital exhibition, "The Ethereal Aether," showcased over 30 digital collectables in a fancied digital reconstruction of the actual museum. The difference between the digital exhibition and the original space in which it's based is that the former allowed users to walk around and explore the museum without any physical constraints. There's even an opportunity to interact with all the digital collectables on display.
Creating a virtual world through digital collectables isn't merely about making artworks and other collections interactive. Museums will ultimately take advantage of it in other ways, i.e., adding information to the item so that people get to know more about it. For example, a painting of a certain historical event could have an digital collectables that, when viewed, gives the viewer access to a wealth of information about the said event.
It's where museums can get creative with their storytelling. By layering information on top of artworks and other exhibits, they create narratives that are impossible to tell in the physical world. And the most exciting thing about it is that these narratives can be updated over time, giving museum-goers a reason to keep coming back for more. Yes, it's a complete deviation from the principle of "preserving" history, but it's a more immersive way of teaching people about the past.
In the physical world, museums are generally one-sided institutions where visitors are expected to consume the information being presented. But with digital collectables , museums can open up the floor for discussion and debate. Better yet, digital collectables pave the way for museums to engage with their audiences in a two-way conversation.
For example, a painting of a controversial figure could have a digital collectables that, when viewed, triggers a video of a historian giving his two cents about the subject matter. Viewers are then allowed to leave their thoughts and comments about the painting, starting a conversation expected to continue long after they've left the museum.
For museums, change is inevitable - it's a reality they'd otherwise have to face whether they like it or not. Becoming better storytellers is the only way to move forward for them, and doing so requires a break from the convention. digital collectables are arguably the key to achieving this, and it's high time for museums to start embracing them.