In recent years, there has been an urge from different sectors, and mainly the arts sector to include digital media in marketing approaches (Art Council Report, November 2010). Indeed, the use of digital content through digital and social media has opened new ways for museums, galleries, and art organisations to communicate more effectively, and engage a wider and broader audience. The amelioration and fluidity of websites has not only enabled organisations to offer tickets online, or distribute generic content (times, exhibition résumés), but also opened new methods to advertise to a new set of individuals. According to the report by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, the most visited cultural websites visited are those which have created a brand throughout the years, notably the National Trust, the British Museum, and even online journals such as The Guardian, or Time Out. Social media platforms have also been widely used as one of the techniques to acquire new audiences, and engage the latter in the cultural and production process of certain exhibitions (user-generated content). The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts was able to pinpoint three main advantages in using digital media for art organisations, as follows: “growing audience size, reaching new audiences, and increasing engagement” (link below). This case study will focus on the Wellcome Collection’s interactive digital story Mindcraft.
The exhibition is curated especially for digital consumption and is presented in six interactive parts that each relay a piece of the unfolding story. Viewers are prompted to scroll through each interactive section and engage with the material through a combination of sound effects, narrative text, image galleries, a short film, video narration, and an interactive quiz. The project utilises illustrations, instructional documents, books, and personal accounts from the Wellcome Collection’s extensive archive that have been digitised specifically for “Mindcraft" and are now accessible online for the first time. In addition to these more traditional modes of presentation, “Mindcraft" incorporates a more modern exhibition style by recreating the contemporary debates surrounding animal magnetism in the form of a Twitter battle, as well as by telling the story of George du Maurier’s bestselling book Svengali in the form of a graphic novel.
Danny Birchall, the Digital Manager at Wellcome Collection and the Executive Producer of “Mindcraft”, describes the motivation behind the project as stemming from a chance to make use of little-used pieces of the collection in a new and exciting way. “For ‘Mindcraft’, we set out to tell some of the hidden stories buried in the Wellcome Library’s collections. Working with Mike Jay and Clearleft, we crafted a story about the history of mind control that’s full of surprises, explores a variety of narrative methods, and allows the user to delve as deeply as they wish into the Library’s extensive store of digitised content. Future digital stories will explore other curious aspects of the human condition.”
Though the Wellcome Collection continues to primarily engage its audience through its permanent and temporary exhibitions, there seems to be a palpable interest in the development of digital engagement as well. Several film screenings are forthcoming, and a new digital exhibition similar to “Mindcraft” entitled “The Collectors” launched last month.
Link to “Mindcraft”: http://digitalstories.wellcomecollection.org/pathways/1-mindcraft/
Link to “Collections”: http://digitalstories.wellcomecollection.org/pathways/2-the-collectors/
1. In 2010, the Art Council’s Report showed that currently the use of digital media is used as a complement rather than a substitute for live experiences. Do you believe this might change in the coming years? Is digital media going to take over live performances?
2. Do you think that by giving more access and information to individuals using digital media will increase the presence/outreach of a particular museum/gallery?
3. From experiencing the “Minecraft” story, do you believe that you have learnt more than if you were assisting at an exhibition?
4. Do you think that exhibitions like “Mindcraft” provide a sustainable and engaging way of incorporating digital platforms in museums? Are they the “exhibition of the future”?
5. Does “Mindcraft” succeed in creating a “hybrid” environment that keeps arts and culture at the core of the experience while still taking advantage of digital technology? Why or why not?