Research Diary: Museum Media

The first field trip of the year was a short journey to Bristol City Centre where we visited the Bristol City Museum. The reason for the trip was to explore the ways in which the museum displayed its artifacts and also how the cinema engages its visitors. The trip was also gearing us up for our trip to Bradford where we would be visiting the National Media Museum as part of our final project.

 What are the most up-to-date media technologies you can find? What are the most archaic or obsolete?

The most up-to-date media technologies that I found whilst exploring the Museum, were quite dated slow touch screen computers that worked incredibly slowly if at all. To me as somebody who has lived in Bristol all my life and visited the museum since a young age these technologies haven’t changed drastically since my first memorable visit around the age of seven.
It seems that the museum wanted to be modern and exciting during the early 2000’s and installed these ‘gimmicks’ but has since realized that there are other ways of engaging visitors and they don’t feel it is necessary to install anymore of these technologies sticking with more traditional information cards next to the artifacts.
Possibly not the most archaic but in my opinion definitely the most obsolete technologies are the displays behind the taxidermies. These are very poorly done and are almost laughable. They are painted very poorly and try to recreate the animal’s natural habitat. They are dated and in an age where we have incredible computer graphics and SGI in films, television and computers they just don’t grab the attention of today’s visitor.

 

Try to find as wide a range of museum communication media as possible. E.g. start with glass cases (vitrines) and information cards / labels – What else?

The museum was full of different types of communication media. From leaflets and information cards too fully interactive exhibits. Some communication media was as simple as pushing buttons and seeing a light appear; this was on the interactive 3D map of the southwest, which allowed you to light up the different places on the map by pushing a button. The Egyptian exhibition also included a mummified remains, which could only be seen when the visitor pushed the button that lit up the remains which was situated in a sunken pit. These very simple types of communication media are clearly designed to force the visitor to interact with displays as a way of initializing engagement with them.

The maps located on the second floor balcony were an interesting example of communication media. Unlike most of the other exhibits in the museum these did not need an information card, as all of the relevant information including dates and the creator were already visible on the display. These also went around the room in order of time but didn’t have any signs or instructions on where to go your simply walked around the balcony and observed them. This wasn’t one of the most popular exhibits in the museum but for me it was one of my favourite as it was incredibly relatable and grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it.

 There are some images and objects from popular media here and there in the museum: can you find them? What is their significance?

Two forms of popular media grabbed my attention in the museum. The first was a stone angel the type you may find in a cemetery. The angel had a paint pot dumped over its head with bright pink paint splashed all over it. This was a display created by the Bristolian graffiti artist Banksy; who had an exhibit in the museum back in 2011. He is also one of the most famous modern artists in the world and seeing this in the museum’s foyer would immediately draw a visitor’s attention and is an interesting first impression for a first time visitor to Bristol City Museum.
Another reference to popular media is the Pokémon cards situated in the museums Asian culture collection. They are there to demonstrate the influences Asian dragons have had on popular media. They are also a great way of getting young children interested in the displays that they may otherwise not be interested in. It was strange to see something that I kept in my pocket on the way to school around ten years ago behind a glass case out of my reach in a City Museum. This does prove that museums may be slightly dated and may need adapting to keep visitors visiting.

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