Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Mahuki: connected museums

Wellington’s Te Papa museum is embracing technology with Mahuki, an innovation hub that aims to give visitors an interactive experience and access to their extensive collection. Image: Architecture Now.

Melissa Firth, Mahuki: connected museums, Architecture Now, November 2016

Te Papa’s mandated mission is to preserve and treasure the past, enrich the present and help New Zealand meet the challenges of the future. Mahuki, Te Papa’s innovation programme, is contributing to this mission.

Today, the mobile internet is ubiquitous. In New Zealand, 70 per cent of the population now own a smartphone and/or tablet compared with 46 per cent just three years ago. This means a huge shift in people’s behaviour and expectations, which affects businesses of all types.

Everything, from friends’ status updates to pre-ordering your morning coffee, is on demand on your device. As digital users, we expect the right piece of information to be at our fingertips, and we expect not just to consume content but to be able to create and publish it as well. These dynamics are sweeping the world, disrupting multiple sectors including the media, hotels, transport and retail. It’s clear that the culture sector is ripe for digital transformation, too.

As cultural focal points for our communities, museums must find ways to keep the exhibitions and other experiences we use to interpret collections and knowledge for audiences and their changing needs fresh, accurate and relevant.

At Te Papa, with a discipline strength in Natural History, for example, climate science and knowledge are updated in rapid cycles. As Te Papa enters a five-year renewal period for our fixed exhibitions, modularity and the ability to refresh content and reconfigure exhibition components ‘on the fly’ will be essential.

Also key to the role of museums is the ability to enable and promote discussions around nationhood and identity.  Contemporary audiences want to be empowered to contribute to their national story, rather than simply being served information. For this reason we need to include the voices of our communities, enable conversations and sharing, and provide places where audience-generated content can sit alongside more traditional and authoritative narratives.

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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 2021
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