“Anne” and the Intelligent Museum

The decision was made to create a museum – but not an ordinary museum of artifacts and documents. As Simon Wiesenthal expressed, it must not only remind us of the past, but remind us to act. This Museum should serve to prevent hatred and genocide from occurring to any group now and in the future. The daunting task was to create an experience that would challenge people of all backgrounds to confront their most closely-held assumptions and assume responsibility for change.  –Museum of Tolerance, A Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum

The quote above can be found on the Museum of Tolerance (MOT) website in a section discussing the vision and history for the museum. Traditional museums contain and maintain ‘artifacts and documents’ but the MOT goes further and hopes to inspire action through their objects. This quality to spark action with the use of objects is an important part of being an ‘Intelligent Museum.’ The objects are not the main reason for people to visit a museum and the museum should actively “use information to create understanding (McDonald and Alsford, p. 73).”  In the newest, permanent exhibition Anne, the museum attempts to engage the visitor into possible action utilizing their collection and digital media, specifically interactives.  The museum hopes the visitors will become active participants to connect with the life and story of Anne Frank and continue her legacy through social action.

The interactives in the Anne exhibit encourage the visitors to become active participants within the exhibit. McDonald and Alsford state on their paper on the Intelligent Museum that, “Participation is recognized as an aid to the learning process (McDonald and Alsford, p. 77).” For example, in the last room of the exhibit, the visitors gather in a social space to have the opportunity to continue to learn about Anne’s remarkable actions and her legacy through shared pledges.

This video shows visitors engaging and interacting with multiuser touchscreens:

The exhibit is mindful of the museum as a social environment and accommodates multiple visitor interactions with the interactives at one time. With these multiuser touchscreen tables, visitors can choose a topic based off the themes presented in the exhibit based off Anne’s diary. Topics involve challenges and social issues that persist today such as promoting human dignity, earning respect, fighting discrimination, keeping faith, etc. If the visitor becomes inspired to pledge an action based off the established topics, he or she can actively share this pledge on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Also, as soon as the pledge is made, the person’s name and statement of commitment to action appears on a screen next to the touchscreen tables. Every pledge is shared and collected to become part of the exhibit and becomes part of a larger conversation.

An Intelligent Museum encourages active participation and engagement of its visitors which the MOT encourages in its integration of digital media. But the collaboration and sharing of ideas and action ends at the museum. The MOT does not use social media to deepen engagement or continue the discourse it initiated in the exhibit. The conversation ends with a tweet or Facebook post.

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Shared tweets but conversation ends here.

The exhibit can continue this discourse through the use of the virtual space and keep the discussion between everyone on-going. As McDonald and Alsford state “Contemporary concerns, changes and challenges plaguing society on all fronts — cultural, technological, environmental — make it more important than ever that museums be responsive and relevant to the information needs of society (p. 72).” Throughout the Anne exhibit, the visitor confronts the challenges Anne faced as a victim of the Holocaust and also as a human being.  This exhibit makes those issues relevant and meaningful to their visitor successfully. The exhibit hopes to inspire change for the betterment of all society through the encouragement of active participation on shared networks.

But social media and the museum’s webpage could potentially open up the conversation between the museum and its visitors and also visitors between visitors. This virtual space could continue to provide ideas of social change and action and follow-up with visitors on the status of their pledges. By utilizing social media and the museum’s webpage, this could extend the conversations beyond the museum’s physical site and the museum could turn into a better Intelligent Museum. This would continue the learning process and keep their visitors active participants to meet museum’s vision of visitors assuming responsibility for change. This shared and extended network can remind them of the same quote by Anne Frank that they saw before they exited the museum: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

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The visitor exiting the exhibit with an inspirational quote from Anne Frank
Photo Credit: Matt Construction

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