Bristol City Museum

This week, week 2, we had to do media fieldwork at Bristol City Museum to explore how media and technology are represented in museums or galleries.

The most up-to-date technology I could find was in the Egyptian area where tablets have been introduced for further exploration of artifacts in the glass cases and on display. You could navigate between the different artifacts, see points and time of discovery, what they are made of and compare them to each other. Furthermore, at the end of the exhibition there was a black display case which could only be seen into, if the instructions on-screen above had been read. The text pre-warned you for the content of the box and only to make the glass invisible if you were interested in seeing a skeleton of an egyptian man. The top of the box was made transparent by pressing two blue-lid circles.

Throughout the museum different kind of communication media was used to inform the visitors. Everything from glass vitrine to interactive playgrounds for children, video and information boards. In the egyptian area you had an option to listen to audio clips as you walked through by placing something in front of the white loop with the audio sign. Furthermore, there were leaflets, films, projections of film, scan-barcodes, engraved sculptures, banners, paintings,  notice boards and places where you could interact such as, locate wildlife and places by lighting buttons, touch artifacts and press buttons to set of audio clips. Everything there tried to communicate something to you one way or the other. The more recent media communication was mostly seen in their latest exhibition and in the children’s play zones. I think this got to do with keeping children interested and also their ‘friendliness’ towards these new media technologies.

The significance of having popular media included in a museum visit reflects the transformation of communication methods used today. We expect to learn from or get information from tablets, TV and computers instead of analogue encyclopedia books. Visitors might therefore lose interest or not read the boards allocated to the artifact and simply glaze past them.

In the museum they have a contemporary section on the second floor behind the gallery area. The contemporary area is very different to the rest of the museum with white walls and minimalistic decor. One of the objects exhibited was an iPad to a projector and unto a screen that shows current cinematic practice. A feeling I had throughout the section was surveillance. The photographs on the wall with ladies in cars (speeding photos), the big mirror over the carriage with different currencies (money and power relation) and the transparent chair where nothing is hidden.

Another interesting object was the Japanese adult film and how it was placed, cut off in a white box with the screen facing away from the main path. By watching the film I got a sense of future dating life or interaction with other humans. A recent BBC documentary, ‘No sex please, we are Japanese’ already describes how some Japanese men prefer a virtual girlfriend instead of an ‘actual’ human being.

The new media all has analogue equivalents, and a museum or a library could be seen as a database of information. Museums have more than databases though, with artifacts that allows you to touch, smell, feel, in other words, use your senses interactively with the objects explored. Museums cannot hold the same amount of information though due to limited space and has to change exhibitions frequently. If you look at interactivity from a games perspective, it does not have to be virtual worlds on a computer or PS3 screen. Puzzles or board games are just as interactive and can create or give you a sense of acting in ‘another’ world within a set of rules set up by developers.

As navigation within the museum I had a look at the floors within the building. It was interesting to see that the egyptian area had marble floors with cracks looking rather old and fitted in with the style of old egyptian buildings. The marine and wildlife area had a soft creme carpet which could be seen as sand on a beach while you are looking at shells, fish and birds. Then the traditional art gallery had wooden floorboards which was to expect. Another interesting section was where Bristol City Museum had chosen to place English birds next to old pianos, which was slightly illogically, and the floors there were, with a little help of the light, two coloured mixed into each other in a zig zag pattern.         

Tablet for futher exploration

Tablet for further exploration

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The scan barcode for further information about the stuffed animals

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White audio loop for foreigners, blind etc

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Lighting creating a monster

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Contemporary art, speeding tickets, surveillance

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Money/Power relation

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Ipad – Projector – Screen = Cinema

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Cracks leading into the exhibition

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Cracks leading to artifacts

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X crack on the floor where nothing was exhibited

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Dark creme coloured carpet

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Zig-zag pattern between wild birds and pianos

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