Worcester Art Museum: Interactive Media in the Medieval Exhibit- Executive Summary

Public museums serve to preserve the works of art and cultural artifacts from civilizations across the globe. The goal of these museums is to educate the public about art, culture, history, and science. The Worcester Art Museum (WAM) strives to enrich the public with over 35,000 objects and artifacts. In addition to these artifacts, the WAM has begun to integrate interactive elements into their exhibits. The Medieval Gallery at the WAM contains several different interactive elements. While working with Jeffrey Forgeng, Curator of Arms and Armor at the Worcester Art Museum, we focused on the interactive elements in the medieval gallery to develop exhibit evaluation methods and a prototype iPad game.

The goal of this project was to provide the Worcester Art Museum with a detailed analysis of the interactive elements found within the Medieval Gallery, as well as a prototype iPad trivia game, “Test Your Knightly Knowledge.” The goal of our interactive element analysis was to determine the current state of the medieval gallery and provide the WAM with methods to evaluate exhibits. The goal of the iPad game was to engage visitors and provide supplementary information about medieval times. In order to reach this goal we needed to complete five objectives:

  1. Develop a set of methods for evaluating future exhibits.
  2. Assess the effectiveness of audience engagement of the new Medieval Gallery.
  3. Compare the assessments of the different interactives in the Medieval Gallery.
  4. Design and pilot a new digital media element in the Medieval Gallery
  5. Analyze the effectiveness of the digital media pilot

To achieve these objectives, we observed visitors within the Medieval Gallery and the Asian galleries, visited local museums, interviewed professionals in the field, and conducted surveys of WAM visitors.

After completing preliminary observations, we developed a rubric that we used to complete observations in the Medieval Gallery. Using this rubric allowed us to collect both quantitative and qualitative metrics about the interactives found in the gallery. From this data, we concluded that the frequency of usage of the interactives greatly depends on accessibility. We recommend that interactives in the Stained Glass Medieval Gallery are separated and the Spanish Ceiling Medieval Gallery iPad is moved to a standing kiosk. The rubric and the surveys were given to the WAM at the completion of our project, and can be adapted for use in any gallery. From interviews with professionals in the field, we concluded that textual content along with the interactive must be presented in a structured and simplistic format. From this, we recommend that a structured and simple text panel be added to the Enameling Interactive. Utilizing the findings from the data collected, we developed an interactive iPad game, to be used within the Medieval Gallery. At the completion of the prototype period, we concluded that elements that encourage education through entertainment, such as the “Test Your Knightly Knowledge” game, are just as effective as strictly educational elements, but appeal to younger audiences. Overall, we recommend that the Worcester Art Museum continue with adding interactive elements into their exhibits to appeal to both younger and older audiences.