Thesis Breakthrough: Technology in the Art Museum and Everyday Life

Leah Gelb ’15
I took advantage of not having to attend classes over the summer by sorting through time-consuming thesis research. Webinars, conferences, and Tedtalks proved to be engaging resources that have helped to inform my thesis research. While attending an online Future Of Museums Conference, the keynote speaker, Elizabeth Merritt, said something that truly struck me: technology in museums reflects the larger social and cultural technology trend in society. Now this statement is obvious when I think about it, but I hadn’t really considered the fact that placing technological interactive devices into the museum is reflecting a societal trend and not a museum trend. I have been so fixated on the fact that art museums are looking for ways to incorporate technology into their galleries, I overlooked the fact that it is already a staple in everyday life. Therefore, why should interactives be treated differently from any other interpretative tool in the museum?
This clears a path for my digital evaluation studies. Just as a museum needs to set goals and objectives for an exhibition or a new interpretive tool, a digital device must have set goals and objectives. A device must remain simple, clean, and clear. It must also align with the overall aesthetic of the rest of the gallery space. Above all, a device should be an option, not an obligation for the diverse visitor to choose to use.

Do digital research, opinions, and concerns still apply to technological incorporation in the art museum gallery? Of course, and they must also be considered. Yet in the end, digital technology in the art museum is not a new species of interpretive devices, for it reflects the transformation of learning and interpretive platforms throughout our contemporary society.