Monthly Archives: May 2013

Let’s pause for a commercial break…

With resources like Hulu and Netflix, it seems like I hardly ever watch live television. Recently I turned on the TV to enjoy the series finale of NBC’s The Office and flipped through neighboring stations PBS, ABC, and CBS during the episode’s breaks. While I had mixed feelings about the show (Should it have ended at the close of season 7? Do Dwight and Angela belong together after everything?), I was struck by the commercials – and the presence of museums in the advertisements.

Have you seen these two different commercials?

Liberty Mutual American Experience “Sacagaewa” (PBS)

AT&T HTC First “Museum” (NBC)

The Liberty Mutual commercial plays upon views of traditional museum dioramas, and suggests an ability to only communicate stagnate and stale historical narratives. Museum dioramas such as the one pictured are fairly common components in some cultural and natural history museums – dating from a specific period in exhibition design, museum education, and historical interpretation. What troubles me about this commercial is it suggests museums do not change or strive to create engaging or changing narratives…and audiences should consult an insurance company instead. The commercial acts as both a criticism of historical simplification and the possible effectiveness and storytelling ability of museum dioramas.

The AT&T commercial details museum visitors drifting through a gallery engrossed with social media in place of the works featured in the museum. Recently Nina Simon, the powerhouse behind Museum 2.0, commented on the AT&T commercial noting that the integration of social media and technology in our daily lives is overwhelming and distracting, and that the “commercial could have just as easily been framed in another context that affords focus–work, a dinner party, playing sports.” Because the commercial was featured in a museum however, it does push those in the field to examine how museums can create engaging connections for visitors.

How can we continue to create positive and engaging experiences? Museums and cultural centers continue to embrace technology and social media – from ipads and QR codes in galleries to behind the scenes information on tumblrs, Facebook, and more! A recent example – Earlier this month The Christian Science Monitor detailed how the Cleveland Museum of Art engages its tech-savvy visitors with technology. Like many sites of informal learning, museums continue to evolve, push, and grow with the different learning styles, needs, and wants of museum visitors.

What do you think? Do these commercials highlight popular conceptions of the museum experience? What can museums do to market themselves and highlight growing and evolving efforts to meet audience wants and needs? As a museum professional or museum visitor, have you seen great examples of visitor engagement?

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