Digital Media Display Tool in Contemporary Museum


Nowadays, museums need to adapt with the surge of technologically advanced devices. In the age where information can be obtained from a single click, a museum has to strengthen its competitive advantage. If museums fail to adapt, people may abandon museums. This scenario is highly unfortunate because museums are essential knowledge infrastructure. Considering this fact, museums have to struggle to keep them appealing to this digital world and redefine their display tools.

One museum which utilises advanced media display is Medelhavsmuseet (The Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities) in Stockholm, Finland. For its Egyptian Exhibition, it presents a mummy-themed explorer table next to the real ancient Egypt mummy. The explorer table provides 3D scanning, visualisation, and digitisation of the mummy with a tactile software which was designed like a game (Interspectral, n.d.). Children can touch the screen and it will demonstrate different views of the mummy, completed with its inner and cross-sectional views which enable children to virtually unwrapped the mummy. There are also some texts that inform the historical and scientific details.

As one of the leading contemporary museum, it will be interesting to profoundly investigate how the interactive media display tool works. This research will employ evaluation type of research to assess an on-going project. Furthermore, the findings of the research may be fruitful for other museums as a benchmark study.

Explorer Table

This research will narrow down its focus to children because they are the main visitor's target for most museums. The aim of this research is to understand the relationship between children and digital media display in the contemporary museum. This raises several research questions, such as (1) does explorer table acts as it is intended to be, which is to help children learn in a more interesting way; (2) does the design of explorer table well-suited the children; and (3) what can be improved for the future development of explorer table and other interactive media display?

As a social research, the research will employ qualitative method with participatory action research approach. It is a cross-sectional on-site research which may be held for the maximum time of 3 weeks’ data gathering period in the museum. There are two kinds of data which will be acquired: (1) primary data from children museum visitors and (2) complementary data from Medelhavsmuseet and Interspectral, a Swedish company who develop the explorer table. Additional information from Interspectral will help the researcher understand the production process and the capacity of technology, thus researcher may be able to generate more viable recommendations.

The primary data will be used in the analysis process while the complementary data will help to build the theoretical framework and to formulate comprehensive interview questions for visitors. Another benefit from complementary data is its ability to cover more detailed aspects of one case from the different point of views. In other words, the research process will be started with gathering the complementary data before gathering the primary data. In addition, the findings from the complementary data will also be combined with theories from the literature review.

The best way to gather the complementary data is to do semi-structured interviews with staffs from both Medelhavsmuseet and Interspectral. One staff for each body can be considered enough since the goal is to get a mere snapshot or background of the research object. However, if that is not possible the data can be gathered from institutions’ websites, social medias, or online correspondence via email.

After that, the researcher will begin to observe and make a visual documentation about how children interact with the explorer table. The scope of this research is for children in elementary school age, between 7 to 12-year-old. Several children will be chosen to do further interview related to their experience of using explorer table. To achieve valid data, the researcher plans to interview approximately 20 children with diverse age span, gender, and nationality.

Some data sampling conventions may say that the number or percentage of the required participants depends on the average number of visitors. However, that is not the case with qualitative research. The number of 20 children is chosen to avoid repetitive answers that will complicate the analysis process. Furthermore, since the participants are under age, the interview will be held with the consent of their parents. The interview will also be recorded for the purpose of further analysis.

The questions for interview are mostly open-ended generative questions. Some of them are simplified hence the children will not be confused by technical questions and focus on their experience instead. For instance, the researcher will ask if they have any difficulties to operate the display or if they tend to seek help from parents or guides. After that, their opinion will be translated to measure semantic and ergonomic design aspect of the explorer table.

At the same time, the researcher will stimulate them with some facts or images regarding the mummy and encourage them to tell stories about it. From this exercise, it can be identified if they understand something new. Of course, it may not always work well, in a sense that some children will see the explorer table as an attractive display tool but they do not get anything out of it. That is why this research is held to measure the children’s receptive ability. Other possible questions are related to children’s favourite feature and time of usage. Besides that, observation and interview must address other relevant issues such as how illiterate children or non-native speakers interact with the explorer table.

Afterwards, the data will be analysed using discourse analytic method. The transcript of the interview which is called ‘interpretative repertoire’ of users by Flick (2011, p.160) will be evaluated thoroughly. Hereupon the researcher will seek pattern, preference, and relation with the theoretical framework. Not all of the data will be relevant to the issues, hence it must be selected carefully.

At this stage, the researcher should be able to define the key findings and solve research questions. The result may be positive (‘explorer table helps children to learn in a museum’) or negative (‘explorer table is visually attractive for children but does not help them to learn’ or ‘explorer table does not suitable for children’).  Even though the result is negative, the research findings can be utilised to formulate recommendations for Interspectral on how to develop more user-friendly media display and for Medelhavmuseet on how to engage children with media display. If the findings are positive, this research is hoped to inspire other museums to replicate Medelhavsmuseet’s success story to take advantage of the interactive media display.

The challenge for this research is to find 20 cooperative children to be interviewed. This research may take more than 20 interviews to make sure that it only analysed the best answers. If one child does not answer the question well, it is best to not include his answer and find another child to be interviewed. Moreover, if there are ambiguous answers, they will not be included in the research too. In other words, it will take some time to seek for the perfect research’s sample.

The next key step for this research is to approach the Medelhavmuseet and Interspectral to gather complementary data. It is possible that there will be an improvement in interview questions after the data is gathered. For instance, the focus can be narrowed down for children with disabilities if there is a high number of that type of visitors.

This is an essay for Research Method Assignment for Creative Industries and Cultural Policy Course at the University of Glasgow. Please provide proper citation if you use this as reference.

FLICK, U. (2011) Introducing Research’s Methodology: A Beginner’s Guide to Doing a Research Project. London: SAGE.
INTERSPECTRAL (n.d.) Medelhavsmuseet. [Online] Interspectral. Available from: [Accessed 11/12/2016]
MCINTYRE, L. (2005) Need to Know: Social Science Research Methods. New York: McGraw-Hill.
MEDELHAVET (n.d.) The Return of the Mummy. [Online] Varldskultur Museerna. Available from: [Accessed 11/12/2016]

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