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Long form digital stories

Mindcraft is an immersive, slow digital story about the emergence of hypnotism. Photograph: Wellcome Collection.

Danny Birchall, Museums should make time for slower digital experiences, The Guardian, 23 January 2015

The Wellcome Collection’s Mindcraft, an interactive digital story about murder and mental healing, takes inspiration from long-form journalism.

Museums might expect their visitors will spend an hour or two on a physical visit to an exhibition, but how long should they spend with digital content? A colleague of mine talks eloquently about “snackable” content: short bursts of entertaining and enlightening information. Many museums now excel in just this kind of engagement with users, through everything from mobile-responsive websites to innovative social media projects. But if museums can deliver snacks, why not three-course meals? Is there space in museums for slower and longer digital experiences for audiences to savour and enjoy?

Late last year Wellcome Collection launched Mindcraft, an immersive and interactive digital story about madness, murder and mental healing. Over six chapters it tells the story of the emergence of hypnotism, from the animal magnetism theories of German physician Franz Mesmer to the healing therapy of Sigmund Freud. Along the way users can browse image galleries, take a quiz and delve straight into our digitised collections to find out more. The whole experience lasts about 15 minutes – a relatively long time online.

How did we come to make something like this? When Wellcome Collection began its development project to expand and enhance the spaces within the building, we looked to create new kinds of experiences for our visitors. We wanted spaces in which people could spend longer with the collections and temporary exhibitions that lasted longer than three months. Digital was key to this.

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Danny Birchall is digital manager at the Wellcome Collection