museum4punkt0: Digital Technologies Open New Experiential Worlds in Museums

Humboldt Forum

Take a virtual look below the forest floor or navigate the surface of the moon, celebrate Carnival all year long or discover what’s hidden behind a painting: The museum project “museum4punkt0”, funded with 15 million euros by the BKM, Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, is developing digital offers throughout Germany aimed at transforming a museum visit into a memorable experience. The seven participating museums from Bavaria, Saxony, Baden-Württemberg and Berlin are presenting 360-degree augmented reality tours and virtual tours. 

The Germany-wide collaborative project “museum4punkt0” was launched over a year ago. Its goal is to use digital means to enhance museum visits. Apps, virtual realities and site-specific recommendation systems are now a routine part of our digital daily lives, but remain rare in museums. Digital technologies offer a wealth of possibilities for exploring inaccessible living environments, experiencing historical events and gaining background knowledge about a museum object. In order to unlock this potential, museum4punkt0 is adopting a unique approach now in place throughout Germany: seven museums of different sizes and focuses are jointly working on new formats that support learning, discovery and participation in museums, while continuously trying out new prototypes with visitors. The results – from source codes for apps and virtual reality applications to guidelines for implementing new technology in museum operations – are in turn being made freely available to other cultural institutions for use and further development. The BMK is making 15 million euros available for this purpose until 2020.

The first interim results were recently presented in Berlin, ranging from 360-degree films to augmented reality tours and virtual excursions across the moon. Minister of State Monika Grütters commented on the completely new form of collaboration: “The participating institutions exemplify the diversity of the German museum landscape and are jointly developing new digital products to appeal to tomorrow’s public. We have to change museum infrastructures to be able to respond to changes in visitor behaviour patterns. That’s why it is so important that museum4punkt0 offers its products as open source and for subsequent use.

The president of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), Hermann Parzinger, emphasised: “The SPK in its role as an institution of the federal government and the federal states gladly took on a leading role in the museum4punkt0 project because we are particularly interested in this transfer of knowledge in this age of digital change. In the project, institutions of various sizes, structures and levels of experience with digital processes have grown together into a close-knit network. A consistent sense of community is important if cultural institutions are to survive the digital transformation, and museum4punkt0 sets a precedent. Its prototypes enable other museums not to have to start from scratch with their digital projects, allowing them instead to build on the deliberations, insights and solutions of this intramuseum undertaking. In this regard museum4punkt0 is an important catalyst for current transformation processes in the SPK – with a view to our digital offers, but also to our working methods.”

After months of intensive visitor and user research, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin are developing services that digitally complement the museum experience before, during and after a visit. Experiments have shown how augmented reality can be used creatively – for instance to reveal concealed layers in paintings, to illustrate social contexts of exhibits, and to design interactive virtual tours. Christina Haak, deputy general director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, concludes: “In our contributions to the project we have already gained valuable insights from extensive visitor and user research on the motivations, expectations and experiences of people visiting museums. By the end of the year we intend to process this information on the use of digital technologies in museums for use in various tools geared to specific target audiences. In addition we have produced the first prototypes of applications, with which we, for example, looked into the potential of using augmented reality at the Gemäldegalerie (Old Master Paintings) or at the future Humboldt Forum. We will iteratively incorporate all of these findings directly into future developments and make them available to the museum community.