Education or Entertainment? The Cleveland Museum of Art, a new way to play with museums.


This is the ideal place where we can see how technology can be perfectly applied to a museum. In fact, the Cleveland Museum of Art is leading the way, not only in the blend of art and technology in gallery experience, but in museum practice itself.


Cleveland Museum has an incredible collection of paintings, sculptures, textiles, porcelain, etc… coming from every part of the world. If this rich collection wants to make sense, it has to be bounded to a unique approach, so the institution has chosen a strong and persuasive communication to tied it up.

To make you understand my point of view, I’m going to show you what is possible to find inside Gallery one, the most technological part of the Cleveland Museum.

The Gallery One experience consists of ten interactivities, each one belonging to a particular field:

  • The Collection Wall;
  • ArtLens (iPad app);
  • Studio Play.

Collection Wall is the largest multi-touch screen in the United States, featuring over 3500 works of art from the permanent collection. It facilitates discovery and dialogue with other visitors, allowing people to create their own tours to take out into the galleries on iPads.

The six interactive stations (known as “lenses”) feature touch screens that allow visitors to find out information on related artworks. Hotspots also provide additional information by touching specially designated areas to find out new details.

One of the most interesting lenses is the “Sculpture lens”, divided in two sections. The first, Make a Face, provides facial recognition software, to match visitor’s facial expressions with one of artworks in the museum. In the second one, Strike a Pose, people are asked to imitate the pose of a sculpture, and are given feedback through an electronic display, relating to the accuracy of their pose. At the end, they are able to share their poses and their faces through Internet.

In that way the visitor can experience an active and funny approach, thanks to a deep and successful empathize process between people and art.

But we are not just talking about entertainment, because once the visitor is completely focused, it is possible to let him understand more information in a relaxed atmosphere. In this field we can now quote other lens, such as “Stories lens” and “Globalism lens”. About the last one, Global Influences can be a particularly efficient lens, because the visitor is asked to guess which two countries on the map influenced a specific artwork. Then an introductory animation explores how many pieces of art reflect the influences of multiple cultures.

Of course there is a special family-friendly space, called Studio Play. Here we can find two different activities. One of them is Line and Shape, where children can draw lines across a small wall, using just the touch. The program then rapidly scans 7,000 works of art in the collection and then places an image of a matching line underneath the line drawn.

So, to conclude, this large and small-scale interaction helps to find what are you looking for, in a way that is placed between entertainment and education, without being trivial. This museum was able to renew itself, giving people the opportunity to look, to watch and have fun among art objects.


Francesco Zanibellato



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