Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Electronic Museum Labels

Source: Museum Next.

Ursa Primozic, Using Electronic Paper for Museum Labels, MuseumNext, 26 August 2016

That objects in a museum cannot speak for themselves is nothing new. History shows that the earliest written explanations of exhibits on display date back as far as 530 BCE, when clay cylinders in different languages were used to accompany the artifacts in the Ennigaldi-Nanna’s museum of Ancient Ur. For centuries now most museums have not changed this approach to displaying an exhibit, simply relying on individually printed paper labels in their displays.

The labor and cost involved in the printing and reprinting of these labels is significant.

Of a group of museums recently surveyed, 66% print 200 plus labels per year; 33% exceed 500 plus labels per year. All report an average cost of $70-$100 per label (including design and labor), with a single misprint or a change of text causing this cost to skyrocket. In addition to being costly and time consuming for the curator to change, paper museum labels labels are almost always also fixed in only one language, and font size at a time.

As the role of the museum slowly moved from the curator-led to an interactive audience-led experience, the simple paper information card has increasingly been found to be lacking, especially among the millennials generation. This has contributed to shrinking paid attendance and revenue trends.

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Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2022
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