During nine years, the BYU Museum of Art worked to curate a collection of 19th century religious works by the Lutheran master, Carl Bloch. Six months before the show opened, they approached the Laycock Center for Creative Collaboration in the Arts at BYU looking for a ways to augment their patrons’ experience by utilizing technology.
Our team worked as both UX design consultants and creative directors for the Museum’s media augmentation. We were invited to participate with the Museum’s team of educators and exhibition designers in crafting the interactive experience for patrons—applying UX and IxD methodologies as we created media augmentation for the show.
The Carl Bloch show faced a number of conceptual challenges. The show included only a limited number of works: five of Bloch’s large altar paintings. Though these altar paintings had never before travelled outside of their native Denmark and Sweden, most patrons to the museum were already familiar with the paintings due to their frequent reproduction in Utah churches. Despite the limited number of featured paintings, the Museum hoped to engage audiences, on average, for over an hour per visit. This presented the challenge of capturing the audiences’ attention and creating tools to prolong a patron’s engagement with the paintings.
Our teams determined that in order to prolong the patrons’ engagement with the Bloch paintings, the exhibition would need to encourage visitors to see the works of art in a new light. Our goal was to deconstruct visitor’s contemporary perspectives of the Bloch pieces and recreate—to whatever extent possible—the original, Lutheran worship experience that the paintings were originally meant to enhance. All efforts and media artifacts revolved around this primary goal of transporting our visitors to 19th century Denmark so they could rediscover the Bloch paintings.
It was decided that the layout of the show needed to be designed around a networked storytelling environment where patrons would define their own experience and interaction with the artwork. This was significant detail to account for in the development of media tools to enhance that experience. Media artifacts needed to break from the traditional linear paradigm that is most commonly seen in museum spaces.
The first media artifact we created was a custom-designed orientation theatre and introduction to the cultural and physical context native to Denmark. Working with the museum’s exhibition designers, we constructed a theatre space at the entrance to the show. The imagery and audio shown in this orientation room addressed our objectives of slowing the pace of patrons to the museum and introducing the foreign lens through which we hoped patrons would examine Bloch’s work. The film was designed as a 4 minute loop. Patrons were left to decide when they entered and exited the room.
A custom-build iPad tour was developed for the museum and carefully crafted as to not distract from the physical experience of viewing Bloch’s paintings. The tour was non-linear, and allowed patrons to dive as deeply into the history, context and meaning of Bloch’s paintings as they desired. Content revolved around the featured altar pieces of the show and included interviews with native Denmark religious leaders, in-depth analysis by art historians, 3d panoramas of the painting’s original context and detailed maps of the paintings pointing out their key symbolism.
Between November 2010 and May 2011, the augmented Carl Bloch experience drew over 300,000 patrons to the museum, more than any previous exhibit in the museum’s history. During that time the Museum logged over 90,000 iPad rentals. The average patron spent 40 minutes in the exhibition without and iPad and over 75 minutes with the iPad rental, signifying a significant augmentation to their experience. With the Museum’s minimal $3 iPad rental fee, all costs incurred in media artifact production were recouped before the close of the exhibition.
visitors enter the exhibit from the orientation film
exhibit's accompanying ipad app
Selected screens from iPad app timeline
three-walled projection theatre for orientation film
construction of the projection theatre
creating a non-linear narrative for patrons
tv spot created for exhibit promotion
microsite developed as educational resource and ticket reservation system