The Uses of Technology in Museums

21 Feb

I evaluated What Lies Beneath from the Indianapolis Museum of Art and The People’s Place from the Eiteljorg. What Lies Beneath allows visitors to use technology to view what lies under the paint using infrared and x-ray on the displayed paintings. The People’s Place explores Native people and their traditions that previously and currently live in Indiana, particularly the Potawatomi, Miami, and Delaware.

The IMA’s exhibit gives visitors a glimpse of the tools museum professionals routinely use to gain a better understanding of a painting. The use of new technology makes the exhibit appear exciting, while also encouraging news skills to be formed and tested. The exhibit includes an opportunity to test your new knowledge to determine if a painting is real or a forgery based on provided artist information. During my visit, I saw answers from visitors of a variety of ages, which suggests high interaction within the exhibit. What Lies Beneath follows many of the established rules of play, like providing boundaries and gaining new knowledge.[1]

bosch-csi-what-lies-beneath Image of What Lies Beneath touch screen using infrared and rotated. Image courtesy of the Clowes Fund, Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The People’s Place is a long-standing exhibit, first erected in the 2000s, with the help of several tribes and museum staff.[2] Each ‘pod’ within the exhibit has its own computer to supplement the physical items and at the end of the exhibit is a large interactive map, where tribal lands can be viewed by year, see images, and hear the pronunciation of tribal names. This map is also available online in its entirety for researchers.

peoples place.PNG
The online interactive map of The People’s Place. Image courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum.

The IMA does not offer many online resources for its exhibit, it merely includes a brief video explaining infrared and x-ray and a simple description.[3] It makes sense that the IMA would provide just enough information to entice people to visit. The exhibit is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and will be on display for one year, however, I believe (with funding or donors) that this type of exhibit can be installed into a variety of museums.

The People’s Place is the only exhibit to use technology within the museum, which is now outdated. The computer systems are clunky and awkward to use, only allowing you restricted options of how to use the computers. This does not seem to entice visitors to use the computers, and while at the museum I frequently saw people disregard them completely.

These exhibits provide different uses for visitors, depending on the reason it was created and what was hoped to be gained from using the technology. The People’s Place had to contend with different groups and their opinions on what to include in the exhibits and computers. The map at the end was the most interactive and user-friendly. What Lies Beneath was created with the goals of Art Work and the NEA in mind to provide greater engagement in art. The design of the exhibit, touch screens where you can slide different lenses over a painting, was the focus of the exhibit, while the Eiteljorg’s technology appears merely supplemental.

[1] “Microsoft Word – Using Transformative Play for Meaningful Gamification.docx – mp2012_submission_79.pdf,” accessed February 20, 2017,

[2] “Native American Continuing Exhibitions,” accessed February 21, 2017,

[3] “What Lies Beneath | Indianapolis Museum of Art,” accessed February 20, 2017,


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