Emotions, engagement and participation are more and more central and strategic issues for museums in the 21st century. Both observations and scientific insights agree that emotions are a strong driving factor of visitors’ active attendance and learning in museum contexts.
This is confirmed also by the success of the MuseiEmotivi initiative, active since several years in the Italian Cultural heritage scenario, and the popularity of its #museiemotivi hashtag. Museum visitors look at emotions as triggers of their curiosity and interest for more in-depth knowledge. Museum professionals, in their turn, look at emotions as the focus of innovative research between different disciplinary sectors.
MuseiEmotivi is a workshop series for museum professionals from museums and cultural heritage institutions, organized by NEMECH New Media for Cultural Heritage, a Competence Center participated by University of Florence and Tuscany Region, since 2016. The workshops include training sessions with talks by recognized scientists and experts from different disciplines, addressing the relationships between emotions and new technologies. They are taken inside museum physical locations that provide facilities and opportunity of interactive lab sessions with proofs of concepts. A community of international experts and over 200 professionals has been formed over the years that shares ideas, best practices and challenges of contemporary museums, looking at museums as user-centered dynamic spaces where both digital and physical media should harmonize each other to improve knowledge transfer and audience engagement and remove any accessibility constraints.
MuseiEmotivi and post Covid-19 motives: listening
Following the forced increase of digital solutions in museums due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the MuseiEmotivi Scientific Committee has started an investigation about experiences and new opportunities for “more digital” museums in the post-pandemic era. The experiences and opinions of some of the members of the MuseiEmotivi community were collected in a new report MuseiEmotivi e motivi post Covid-19.
The report evidences that the focus of the MuseiEmotivi initiative is today topical more than ever. Being forcedly closed to the public, museums have been forced to exploit digital technology to keep in contact with the visitors. This has given the opportunity to put into evidence both strengths and weaknesses of the digital from multiple perspectives. Several points were raised. Clearly, museums had to define their digital strategy, and therefore rethink of how keeping in touch with the audience and creating a museum community.
Digital tools were recognized as a non-innocent tool. They were acknowledged as an effective solution to improve interactivity and put museums in a more direct relationship with people. Digital solutions have been regarded as a powerful tool to stimulate emotional involvement and improve knowledge. Not just to generate emotions – where Computer Graphics special effects, Virtual and Augmented Reality and Multimodal experiences are notorious key tools for amplification – but particularly to connect the emotional moment to the cognitive one, ultimately to allow a more conscious and deep experience.
Integration of museum staff with new IT professionals in charge of the museum digital identity was understood as an urgent need, in order to go beyond the updating of the traditional website, adding new services for a continuous and active dialog with the public.
The lockdown made more evident well-known problems and defects and urged effective solutions. Among them, the need of giving higher attention to the local community, to interpret as rediscovering and highlighting the geographical identity and the links of the museum to the local community, while maintaining the original scope and scale.
Lockdown also put both large and small museums in the same conditions. Doors were closed. As the doors reopened, both have forcedly acknowledged the new rules for visitors’ behavior that transformed the museum space. In the museum, visitors now must take care of the behavior of the others much more than in the past, keeping the appropriate distances in a sort of dynamic triangle between them, the artwork and the others. Therefore, the pandemic also started new thoughts on behavior, location and movements of the visitors and space design.
Re-think and share good practices
Following the MuseiEmotivi e motivi post Covid-19 report, MuseiEmotivi organized a Study Day“MuseiEmotivi e motivi post_Covid-19”: Listening, rethinking and sharing good practices in museums at Le Murate Museum Art District, in Florence on 10th September 2020. The meeting was attended by about 30 museum experts either physically present or Zoom-connected and a large audience over the network. We discussed both the experiences in the report and shared opinions on the role of digital in museums in the post-Covid.
Massimo Negri took the opportunity to present the new research program Museums and the web at the times of the Corona Virus. Lasting museological innovations come about during the years of crisis, promoted by Master Erasmus Mundus in Techniques, Heritage, Industrial Landscapes University of Padova and EMA European Museum Academy Foundation, that collects reports of museum initiatives and actions during the pandemic, worldwide. MuseiEmotivi has been a key partner in this research to collect and include contributions of Italian cultural institutions.