A blog post by Filmena Zurlo
MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, University of Manchester

20170226_163240_cropped

Micropia is a one of its kind museum devoted to microbiology, where visitors are invited to explore the invisible world of microscopic organisms and learn how they are essential for the environment and human survival, although some can be harmful and cause disease.

20170226_161443

Next to microscopes, petri dishes and other laboratory equipment, the museum’s unique collection of microbiological cultures includes digital interactives, to enhance the visitors’ experience. My favourite was the Body Scanner, a large screen mounting a camera that scans the body, showing the estimated number of microbes that humans carry from head to toe, and how they affect our lives.

The Body Scanner utilizes touchless technology. Footprints on the floor indicate exactly where to stand, in order to activate a motion detector device that allows each user to select a body part to zoom in, with a wave of the hand, and find out more about their ‘faithful companions’. The interface is very intuitive and provides an effective visual experience of the infinitesimally small organisms humans coexist with.

20170226_161633

20170226_161646

20170226_161353

However, one could argue that the level of interaction with the Body Scanner is significantly limited, as it does not offer much more than traditional text-based interpretive panels transplanted on screen. This does not constitute sufficient motivation for thoroughly examining the whole content available, especially in the case of scientifically well-educated member of the public, who could see the exhibit as a mere amusement. Furthermore, in the plethora of digital exhibits at Micropia, some visitors may experience what is called ‘techno-fatigue’[1] and lose interest in the displays. This technology equivalent of the museum fatigue[2], which is associated to a condition of mental of physical exhaustion, is known for typically affecting adults and can impact negatively on the museum experience.

Despite the proven popularity among their audiences[3], especially young visitors and families, the role of interactives in museums is still widely debated, as the pedagogical intent seems to yield to the entertainment aspect[4]. Micropia opened in 2014 and it is too soon to know if it will fulfil its aim: to inspire tomorrow’s science professionals and become an international platform for microbiology.

 

References

Artis Micropia, n.d. [Online] Available at: http://www.micropia.nl/en/ [Accessed 10 March 2017].

Barry, A., 1998. On Interactivity: Consumers, Citizens and Culture. In: S. MacDonald, ed. The Politics of Display: Museums, Science, Culture. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 98-117.

Bitgood, S., 2009. Museum Fatigue: A Critical Review. Visitor Studies, 12(2), pp. 93-111.

Euronews Knowledge, 2014. Step Inside the Micropia Zoo to See the Invisible World of Microbes. [Online] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc8rZQRQycE [Accessed 10 March 2017].

Gammon, B., 2010. Visitors’ Use of Computer Exhibits: Findings From Five Gruelling Years of Watching Visitors Getting It Wrong. In: R. Parry, ed. Museums in a Digital Age. Routledge: London and New York, pp. 281-290.

Stevenson, J., 1994. Getting to Grips. Museums Journal, 94(5), pp. 30-32.

 

[1] Gammon, B., 2010. Visitors’ Use of Computer Exhibits: Findings From Five Gruelling Years of Watching Visitors Getting It Wrong. In: R. Parry, ed. Museums in a Digital Age. Routledge: London and New York, pp. 281-290.

[2] Bitgood, S., 2009. Museum Fatigue: A Critical Review. Visitor Studies, 12(2), pp. 93-111.

[3] Stevenson, J., 1994. Getting to Grips. Museums Journal, 94(5), pp. 30-32.

[4] Barry, A., 1998. On Interactivity: Consumers, Citizens and Culture. In: S. MacDonald, ed. The Politics of Display: Museums, Science, Culture. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 98-117.

Advertisements