Exploring Digital INteractions: Two Indiana Institutions and Their Implementation of Technology

21 Feb

This week I was able to visit two local, Indianapolis institutions to explore how they utilize technology in their exhibitions. I examined several exhibits at the Indiana Historical Society and Indiana State Museum. Both are educational and entertaining institutions, but at varying degrees, and this is apparent in their use of technology.

Indiana Historical Society has found unique ways to implement technology into permanent and temporary exhibits. IHS’s Destination Indiana, located on their main floor, is an immersive experience consisting of Indiana stories from all 92 counties. The exhibit first displays a  10 ft. by 24 ft. screen showing select “journeys” with group-sized seating. To the right are 8 interactive stations. At these stations, users select an Indiana journey on a screen via  touch control. Each journey consists of short, narrated stories, such as county histories or influential people bios. These stories are accompanied with pictures, many of which come from the historical society’s own collections. The journeys are a decent balance of information and engagement that would be appealing for adults and children. All journeys are also available online at indianahistory.org. These different platforms for varying audiences really open up accessibility.

The historical society has also cleverly implemented technology in their newest 4th floor exhibit The Great War Through Hoosier Eyes. This exhibit’s two main technological components enhance interpretations of WWI. One section contains oral histories, previously compiled by the society, from Hoosiers’ experiences of the war. Users will pick up an attached phone, choose a narrator, and listen to the actual oral history, while also following along with transcriptions located next to the station. On the opposing wall, two large screens housing touchscreen technology allow users to swipe and view 20 “real photo” post cards sent from Hoosier women and men to their families.

Indiana State Museum also displayed impressive, entertaining usage of technology in multiple exhibitions. The museum’s recent core galleries Natural Regions, Contested Territory, and 19th State contained the most interactive technology. While adults can enjoy them as well, these technologies appeared to have entertainment for a younger crowd in mind, and many children I did see. In Natural Regions, users can choose among 4 different animal tracks to hear their calls. Once a track is chosen, that animal is highlighted in a life-like display while the user hears their sound from speakers overhead. Upstairs in 19th State, users can play an interactive, survival game. Using a large touch screen, users choose items to pack on their pioneer journey to Indiana. Based upon their decision making skills, users are able to see whether or not they survived the trip at the end. In comparison, the upstairs galleries dedicated to Indiana’s cultural history contains far less interactive technology. This could be due to the age of the exhibit and planning for an audience that might not consist mainly of children.

Unlike IHS, ISM’s website is less interactive, providing minimal pictures and brief descriptions of the exhibits. IHS’s website seems to encourage further, independent research of their exhibits, and also provides access to browse the library’s collections.  It’s fair to say that IHS prioritizes education over entertainment more so than ISM, and it’s quite possible that they work on less funding. Their goal is historic preservation and education, but entertainment must be present to encourage patrons to visit. ISM is still educational, but aims strongly to entertain. It appears they would prefer people go in and experience what they have to offer rather than explore from the web.



Further Exploration:

[1] http://www.indianahistory.org/

[2] https://www.indianamuseum.org/



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