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In 1953, UNESCO published a 'Manual of Travelling Exhibitions' to reflect the increasing number of touring exhibitions since World War 2. Updated in 1963, the problems identified as facing the museum sector, "tight budgets, small staff, inadequate storage area and exhibition space" could well have been written today. Last summer, the Touring Exhibitions Group (TEG) conducted research into touring exhibitions practice in the UK, providing an up to date picture of the touring landscape for today's museums.
In this post we take a look at some of the rewards and challenges involved in organising touring exhibitions and offer ideas on how the ColliderCase system can provide an augmented reality experience that caters for different audiences and locations and is capable of withstanding the rigours of travelling.
Touring exhibitions are a fantastic way to raise the profile of both the tour organiser and the receiving venues. According to the 2016 TEG report, 97% of respondents involved in organising a touring exhibition cited profile raising as either an 'important' or 'very important' factor in their decision. Close behind at 95% was enabling access for a wider audience. Temporary and touring exhibitions offer an excellent way for museums to maximise use of their stored collections and for those museums without a physical venue, this may be the only avenue through which their objects are available for public viewing outside of a purely digital context.
One museum that has enjoyed considerable success from their touring exhibitions is Bury Art Museum. This small museum lost its accreditation in 2005 following the sale of an artwork to bridge a funding gap. Their response, organising a consortium of small museums to tour China, was seen as risky but the gamble paid off, with the resulting exhibition reported as drawing record crowds to more than one venue and with total numbers of visitors exceeding 3 million. This success not only bolstered the museum's reputation on a local, national and international scale, but also contributed to the re-instatement of their accreditation.
More recently, the Natural History Museum caused Diplodocus sized waves when they declared that Dippy, who has been welcoming generations of visitors to the Hintze Hall for 112 years, was to be replaced by the skeleton of a blue whale. But all was not lost as the announcement of a two year 'Dippy on tour' programme caused ripples of excitement across the country and is set to kick off in February next year at Dorset County Museum.
Organising a touring exhibition can also be a way of accessing new funding streams and help off-set costs. With the government currently engaging the museum sector in consultation about proposed tax relief for touring and temporary exhibitions, it is hopeful that increasing numbers of museums and galleries will be able to showcase more of their collections in this way.
One of the challenges with taking exhibitions on the road is the need for components to be flexible to adapt as much as possible to each venue's temporary exhibition space and to work with available resources. This is where a ColliderCase can add real value to a touring exhibition. Taking up no more space than the footprint of a normal showcase, needing only a single plug socket, and not reliant on visitors bringing their own devices, a ColliderCase delivers a high quality augmented reality experience to every tour location.
The TEG report highlighted the lack of family-friendly exhibitions available to hire as a challenge facing museums wanting to host touring exhibitions. We can help there too! The digital content of each ColliderCase can be created to suit a range of different ages and interest levels with options made available to visitors at the touch of a button. With a case-sized viewing area rather than a small, hand held screen, all the family can engage with the content simultaneously, helping to encourage conversations between group members.
There's good news for operations and logistics staff too; each ColliderCase can be supplied with bespoke flight cases to withstand the rigours of a touring exhibition, and set up and take down of the case requires just two people. Conservation staff can be equally confident that loaned objects will be safe and secure as the system is compatible with leading showcase manufactures and the digital content has no impact on the conservation envelope of the display case.
To see ColliderCase technology in action, click on the videos in the right hand sidebar. We also have a list of frequently asked questions.
If you are interested in exploring the exciting options that a ColliderCase can bring to your touring exhibition, please contact us to discuss your requirements. We'd love to hear from you.