«By Nicole Suzanne Giglio June 20, 2013 Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Museum Studies in the ...»
BACK TO THE FUTURE: NEW TECHNOLOGY AS A VEHICLE FOR
ARCHAEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION IN INTERACTIVE EXHIBITS
Nicole Suzanne Giglio
June 20, 2013
Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Arts
Graduate School of Professional Studies
John F. Kennedy University
Department Chair-Elizabeth Peña Date _______________________________________ ____________
Master’s Project Faculty Advisor-Adrienne McGraw Date Acknowledgements I would like to thank my parents, James and Deborah Giglio, for being my greatest strength and support for the last twenty-four years. I owe you two everything.
I would also like to thank my friend and classmate, Christine Osborne, for always answering my frustrated and delirious texts, promising home-cooked meals during study sessions, and being my partner for every group project over the last two years. We did it!
Many thanks to my cohort for being a wickedly brilliant group of professionals. Thank you for making the Bay Area feel like home!
I would also like to thank the entire Museum Studies faculty at John F.
Kennedy University for cultivating my love for museums. I admire and appreciate you all.
Lastly, I would like to thank my Master’s Project advisor, Adrienne McGraw, for always asking the right questions. I would have never accomplished so much without your editing, guidance, and patience. Thank you, Adrienne!
Table of Contents Preface 4 Executive Summary 6 Methodology 11 Limitations of Methodology 17 Literature Review 19 Findings 42 Conclusions 78 Recommendations 86 Product Description 94 Reference List 96 Appendices Appendix A: Survey Questions 102 Appendix B: Further Reading 106 Preface Whenever I tell someone I’m a practicing archaeologist, I often get the response: “Well, I never would have thought to study that!” I’m still debating if that’s a compliment because they think I’m Indiana Jones, or if it’s a slight toward my career as a professional tomb raider. Stereotypes aside, the real issue is a public lack of knowledge of archaeology – the general population is not thinking about human history and cultural preservation as areas worth considering. In the 21st century, the past is past, and as it deteriorates, it is replaced with new ideas, inventions, and discoveries. Why dig in the dirt for days just to find broken pieces of unknown objects when the opportunity to create and innovate is at the hands of nearly every individual?
The Information Age, the Computer Age, the Digital Age, or the New Media Age – from the personal computer to the Internet to smart phones and touch screen tablets, the last forty years has allowed rapid global communications, networking, and the evolution of technology to shape modern society. Even though I spent the last six years studying the ancient past and how to preserve it, I just as eagerly embraced the present and surrounded myself with enough digital devices to run a small business. I work in social media, I play video games that respond directly to my physical movement in real time, and I navigate a major metropolitan area thanks to mobile phones, satellites, and an AI interface named Siri. It’s almost as if I’m a human museum of archaeology decked floor to ceiling in digital media.
Museums are struggling to find their place in a new digital, mobile, dispersed world. Can interactive technology help museums give structure and coherence in the 21st century? Exactly how can museums preserve history and coexist in a world with such accelerated change and destruction of the past? The pressure of museums to compete in the world of spectacles is more than apparent, tasked to sustain a sense of wonder without cheapening information through gimmicky gadgetry. Museums with archaeological collections in particular have the difficult duty of presenting the past in a relevant yet appropriate fashion to a public that is quickly forgetting about its use. Will tools of our ancestors lose all meaning next to the tools of the future?
Museums are tasked with the responsibility to remain relevant and accessible to the communities they serve by reflecting change and growth in the world. Museums containing archaeological collections need to recognize that while their collections may represent ancient history, their curatorial interpretation and exhibit design should not. From mobile applications, virtual games, and augmented reality environments, new interactive technology is changing how exhibit designers and curators collaborate in the gallery and enhancing how visitors connect to a museum’s collection (Procida, 2012).
This topic interested me because I interact and work with professionals in archaeology and emerging technologies on a daily basis, but I very rarely find where the two fields strongly or successfully intersect. Limited leading literature has been produced within the last ten years on how to present archaeological materials, let alone with the aid of new technology. If museums are presenting archaeological artifacts in a similar fashion as evidenced in texts from the 1990s, there is a serious need to update and enliven the process to match pace with museums in other fields (Hodder, 1991; Jameson, 1997). Lynne P. Sullivan published Curating Archaeological Collections: From the Field to the Repository in 2003, tracing the life of an archaeological object from excavation to exhibit but never acknowledging new technology as a conduit for interpretation and presentation. Without disregarding the well-crafted foundation for traditional curatorial techniques, there must be an explanation for why the majority of published materials on museums with archaeological artifacts do not mention or advocate for new interactive technology. Can digital media successfully support archaeological interpretation?
To answer this question, I conducted primary research with three methodologies. I compiled a literature review on the history of archaeology in museums and the most recent types of interactive technology; conducted a survey through Google Forms to obtain a general understanding of the types of technology used in museums with archaeological, ethnographic, and/or historic artifacts; and performed three case studies of relevant museums that currently use varying levels of interactive technology in their exhibits: the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The literature review examines the published texts on the development of anthropology and encyclopedic museums, and more specifically their exhibits, and to what degree they use interactive technology in comparison to other types of museums. The review also identifies the different forms of interactive technology available for exhibits, their function, and the evaluation of their impact in these museums. This is done through an examination of the history of museum archaeology, an analysis of digital strategies and new technology publications for all types of museums, and a brief summary of new museum theory and practice regarding the shifts in visitor participation and the role of the object. I also briefly investigated the role of collections-based museums during the recent shift to participatory and hands-on exhibits in museums.
My main text An Introduction to Museum Archaeology (Swain, 2007) covers museum archaeology origins, collections care, interpretation, display, and exhibition, as well as defines the relationship between archaeology and museums and provides a brief survey of its history. As it does not lend much information on new technology and interactive media in museums with these collections, I augmented the review with texts covering topics on digital media, mobile devices and applications, augmented reality, virtual games, and the use of digital strategies in museums.
In March and April 2013, an online survey was created with Google Forms and sent to museum professionals involved in the fields of archaeology, exhibition design, and technology implementation. Due to the ever-shifting nature of digital media, this research instrument aided in establishing basic knowledge of the types of museums using digital technology, and what types of technology are currently implemented in interactive exhibits. This technique also served to uncover general attitudes and thinking surrounding new technology. As the literature on archaeological and ethnographic collections’ exhibits was lacking, I hoped responses to the survey would successful augment my research.
Unfortunately, of the thirty-one respondents, more associated with history, art, and science museums than anthropology or archaeology museums.
To better understand the potential relationship between archaeological objects and digital media, I conducted three case studies based on their relevant collections and exhibits. The case studies proved to be the most comprehensive of the research methodologies. Staff interviews at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology provided valuable thoughts on the preliminary stages of technology implementation, while thorough research of the Cleveland Museum of Art and Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibits and digital strategies built upon the interactive technology mentioned in the second half of the literature review and the answers received in the online survey.
Three pervasive themes were concluded from my research: museum staff tasked with exhibiting archaeological collections are open and interested in implementing new interactive technology, but they often lack the knowledge on how to successfully and cost-effectively create digital media in the galleries; staff communication and collaboration fuels the development of digital strategies, but there are persistent issues surrounding miscommunication and staff leadership;
and there is an underlying concern of using technology for technology’s sake over crafting engaging and meaningful content for the visitor.
From these conclusions, it is recommended that museums with archaeological collections build a cross-departmental team to create museumwide digital strategies. Applying for grants and collaborating with technology firms are two options to cost-effectively create digital additions to exhibits.
Furthermore, these museums must maintain conversations with their audiences to understand their needs and expectations when it comes to exhibits and new technology. Content and curriculum should remain the focus during the integration process to ensure the technology never outweighs the importance of the history and culture behind the archaeological objects.
The primary purpose of the project is to open discussion with museums regarding the use digital interactives and new technology in their exhibits, and whether these tools aid in interpretation and visitor understanding. It also investigates current technology available to museums and what motivates museums of all types to implement digital strategies. The project further labors to engage museum professionals in current conversations surrounding the benefits and concerns of digital interactives. From this research and its conclusions, I developed guidelines to aid archaeology museum professionals interested in implementing new technology in their exhibits, and provided examples to consider depending on the needs and abilities of their institutions.
My aim with this master’s project is to examine the current trends of interactive technology used to interpret archaeological collections in order to create a set of successful strategies for museums with similar objects. For my research methodologies, I compiled a literature review on the history of archaeology in museums and new technology; conducted a survey through Google Forms to obtain a general understanding of the types of technology used in museums with archaeological, ethnographic, and/or historic artifacts; and performed three case studies of relevant museums that currently use varying levels of interactive technology in their exhibits.
Literature Review The literature review begins by exploring the history of archaeology both in the field and in museums through scholarly publications and online articles.
Some of my guiding research questions are: How is archaeology represented in a museum setting, and what makes an anthropology or archaeology museum? Has archaeology changed throughout its history, in practice, theory, or opinion? What is the difference between archaeological and ethnographic materials? My main intention is to define archaeology and explore its relevancy to the public.
While there are a large number of scholarly publications on the practice of archaeology, finding comprehensive volumes on archaeology strictly in museums within the last ten years has proven difficult. My main text An Introduction to Museum Archaeology (Swain, 2007) covers museum archaeology origins, collections care, interpretation, display, and exhibition, as well as defines the relationship between archaeology and museums and provides a brief survey of its history. Other texts, including Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology (Hodder, 1991), Presenting Archaeology to the
Public: Digging for Truths (Jameson, 1997), Curating Archaeology Collections:
From the Field to the Repository (Sullivan & Childs, 2003), A Companion to Archaeology (Bintiff, 2004), and Controversies in Archaeology (Kehoe, 2008) will provide supplemental material on the history of the field and other details that have seen little change over the years.
In order to link new technology with museum archaeology, the literature review also references scholarly articles on emerging technology and digital devices for museum exhibits in general. Research questions on this theme included: What defines new technology? What are some examples of new technology? What are the current trends of emerging technology in museum exhibits? Is new technology viewed as a preferred educational tool by and for museum visitors? Exploring these topics provided me with a better understanding of the innovative applications currently being used in museums and similar institutions.