Karina GRÖMER | Anton KERN | Andreas KROH
(Natural History Museum Vienna, Vienna, Austria)

Keywords: exhibition, Natural History Museum Vienna, films, animations, 3D-projection

Digital media and technical equipment both in temporal (special) and permanent exhibitions media illustrate and enable deeper insights into the content on display. For exhibition designers, it is a small line between useful media inserts and use of media that dominates the display over the original objects.
In the permanent exhibitions of the Natural History Museum Vienna media of different kind is in use: film clips about research activities, animations, virtual activities with Kinect® systems, 3D-projection, interactive stations, and a “virtual changing room”.
We examine the interaction between museum visitors and media: How are the installations used? What are people doing? How much time do they spend at the stations? Do different age groups of users react differently? Is there a difference between originally intended use and real use by the visitors?
Developing exhibition media is very time consuming and, therefore, expensive. The installations are developed at a specific point of time with using currently available techniques. Technical progress, however, is rapid. Specifically in the field of 3D animation, products age rapidly. Likewise, the media stations themselves are aging and after a few years the software used may no longer be supported by the producers anymore and replacement for hardware, as well as skilled technicians may be difficult to come by. Intended lifespan of permanent exhibitions typically is 15 to 30 years. With few exceptions, media stations have a much shorter life cycle. In our experience IT hardware of media stations typically needs to be replaced every five to ten years and 3D animations tend appear old fashioned after ten years. This shorter life expectancy of media stations needs to be factored in when planning permanent exhibitions and both staff for maintenance as well as funds for replacement need to be set aside to guarantee long-term function.

Relevance for the conference: The CHNT-conference usually discusses the advantages of modern media – here a critical assessment of their use in long term perspectives is given on example of two permanent exhibitions at the Natural History Museum Vienna.
Relevance for the session: This contribution discusses media stations in the permanent exhibitions of Prehistory (2015) and Palaeontology (2001-2011) at the Natural History Museum Vienna in terms of a long term perspective: costs for maintaining, ageing of media, problems with functionality in “over-use” (groups of school children, thousands of visitors in Museums Night).
Innovation: Critical assessment of media stations in use at the NHMW showcases the importance of accounting for their shorter lifespan in contrast to traditional museum objects when planning permanent exhibitions.
• Guide to the collections of the NHMW