Get Some Culture. Pick Up Your Smart Phone.
Marketers have started to integrate the emerging QR code technology into campaigns to attract and engage consumers and to share information. Likewise, QR codes present museums with the opportunity to invite visitors to a more dynamic and interactive experience, to educate visitors on works of art and to promote events and exhibits. Some museums have already started to integrate the technology into exhibits.
By Remy Wainfeld, Intern, Digital Integration & Innovation
Quick Response Codes, or QR codes, two-dimensional bar codes originally designed to track automotive parts, have started to appear in nontraditional places. Many people first took note of the technology when the 2009 BlackBerry Messenger 5.0 update included a QR code scanner to share contact information. Due to the easy readability and relatively large data capacity compared to traditional barcodes, as well as increasing usage of smart phones, marketers have adopted QR codes for information sharing, entertainment ticketing and product and event marketing.
Many museums have taken advantage of the new technology to promote exhibits, engage visitors and share information. QR codes on promotional items, such as posters for the Picasso exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,1
invite potential visitors to learn more about the exhibit and drive them to the museum. Moreover, QR codes let museums increase visitors' interaction with the works. The Museum of Archeology in Bologna, Italy, has integrated QR codes into exhibits to provide visitors with an audio and video tour via their smart phones.2
QR codes allow visitors to access more information about the works and artists. For its Love Lace exhibit, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, placed a QR code on each artwork's placard and developed a companion mobile app complete with QR scanning capabilities. Visitors could easily scan QR codes to learn more about the artist and work, and explore the exhibit's complete catalogue,3
all from the same convenient platform.
Implications and Action Items
While QR code technology allows museums to invite visitors to a more dynamic and interactive experience, exhibit planners ought to consider the following implications in effectively integrating the codes into visitors' museum experience:
1 The Mobilists, "QR Codes in Museums." August 30, 2011. http://bit.ly/qgrXaO
- Create a purpose for the QR code. Make sure that the museum visitor has a reason to scan the QR code, whether it be to learn more about the artwork or artist or to unlock a museum tour. Unnecessary or irrelevant information will discourage the visitor from interacting with the exhibit and render the technology useless.
- Instruct museum goers on how to interact with the QR code. QR codes are still a relatively new technology. Provide museum visitors with instructions on how to download a QR code scanner and how to scan the QR code. If your museum already has an app, integrate a QR code scanner into the app to create a seamlessly integrated user experience. Make sure to create a mobile-friendly landing page! Also consider providing free and secure Wi-Fi.
- Make sure QR code usage fits with your photography policy. With their mobile phones already out to scan QR codes, visitors may feel tempted to take pictures of the artworks. Be sure to clearly state your museum's photography policy and consider separating photographable artwork into a separate QR-enabled exhibit. For artwork that visitors are not allowed to photograph, place QR codes far enough away. Encouraging visitors to scan QR codes but prohibiting them from taking pictures sends mixed messages and discourages interaction with the artwork.
2 Loquendo, "QR Codes Introduced in Italy's Museums, Powered by Loquendo TTS." April, 21, 2011.
3 Fresh+New, "Making Love Lace - a cross device exhibition catalogue and the return of the QR." July 6, 2011. http://bit.ly/neTKZV