Our society’s institutions are always seeking new ways to serve members of our culture, and more often than not, innovative use of technology is how they manage to do so. A recent example: a growing number of the world’s most important museums are using RFID to improve the ways collection items are managed, as well as improving guests’ experiences.
The following are just a number of ways that RFID technology is improving the museum experience.
RFID attracts young audiences.
Though RFID can be easily used by all museums guests, it is especially convenient for and appealing to young audiences. Younger generations have grown up in a world of ever-changing, ever-advancing technology. They often are more receptive to information when it is presented to them from their phones, and they are more often than not accustomed to purchasing items with the push of a button.
At the Ambosiana Art Gallery in Milan, visitors can tour the museum, and when they see pieces that peak their interests, they can scan the artwork and add it to a virtual shopping cart through their mobile devices. When they reach the museum gift shop, they can access their shopping cart to order prints and books related to the artist or artwork.
Soon, in addition to the shopping cart feature, the gallery plans to make information about the artwork and artist readily available when scanned via a downloadable app.
RFID enhances visitor experience for people of all ages.
RFID isn’t only for a young audience. People of all ages can benefit from a museum feature than can create a more intimate, in-depth experience than would have been possible years ago.
In Singapore, Underwater World prides itself by claiming that it was the first aquarium to recognize the advantages of RFID technology to make a more interactive visitor experience possible. RFID tags are placed throughout the exhibits so that viewers can learn names and interesting facts about the fish who are on display.
Visitors can even “adopt” toy fish based on the ones they view, giving them their own names and saving them to the aquarium’s database.
RFID helps museum employees manage collections.
Considering large art museums oversee expansive artwork collections, and often loan pieces to other museums for certain amounts of time, it isn’t possible for all to be on display at the same time. Keeping track of all these pieces can prove to be a complicated and time-consuming task. Though many museums use bar codes to keep track of pieces, this does not always make the job any simpler; bar codes have to be within a range of sight, and moving a package around in order to locate and scan the bar code poses the risk of damaging the artwork inside.
With RFID, managing a museum’s art collection has become far more manageable. Helicon Conservation Support developed a system that allows museums to track and manage their art collections with an interactive RFID they call a “talking tag.” It presents the object’s name, number, photo, description, and location. It even provides information related to the shipping of objects and conditions of packaging and storage.
Where a traditional museum management system would require around three to five minutes to handle a single item, this RFID system allows the process to take only about thirty seconds.
RFID makes exhibits more secure.
Among one of the top concerns of any museum is the well-being of its artifacts. The risk of a vandal or theft is always a looming threat for any major museum.
Australian-based company Smarttrack RFID developed a system that allows a museum to have full visibility of its collection items and automatically tracks the movement of an artifact throughout a museum. Should a piece move beyond the perimeter of a pre-established border, security is immediately notified of the threat.
When a museum no longer has to worry about the safety of its artifacts, it can more easily focus on caring for its pieces and providing high quality experiences for visitors.
RFID use is an advantageous solution for problems in a number of industries, and major museums are only beginning to explore this technology’s benefits. Already, museums are using RFID technology to attract young audiences, provide more interactive experiences for guests, manage expansive collections and ensure the safety of all artworks.
In the coming years, it will be fascinating to see how else museums will be able to make use of this innovative technology – for their own management, and for their guests’ experiences.