Immersive exhibitions: Success strategies for public museums

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Everyone is talking about immersive exhibitions. Enabled by new technological developments, they have become crowd-pullers and successful business models. One prominent example is the Atelier des Lumières art centre set up by Culturespaces in Paris, which recently attracted around 1.5 million visitors a year. In Germany, formats such as Monet's Garden or Dalí Spellbound by producer and tour organiser Alegria Exhibition attract thousands of visitors per day at ticket prices of more than 20 euros. Private museums and start-up companies also offer immersive exhibitions, such as TimeRide, which was founded in 2016 out of actori and enables virtual time travel using modern technical means.

Public museums are increasingly discovering the potential of immersive exhibitions for themselves, but face a number of challenges. In addition to reservations regarding compatibility with the museum's mission, the costs for immersive exhibitions can be higher than for conventional exhibitions. In addition, smaller museums in particular lack knowledge of the technical requirements and possibilities as well as contacts to appropriate service providers. How can immersive exhibitions also be successful in public museums? For which museums are immersive exhibitions suitable? What best practices should be observed when designing and implementing them?
A survey of public museums conducted by actori identified a number of success factors for the realisation of immersive exhibitions with new technologies:

Exhibition concept: The exhibition concept should contribute to the fulfilment of the museum's original tasks (collecting, preserving, researching, exhibiting, communicating). The German Museums Association considers "exhibitions and events with an impact on the public" to be a hallmark of professional museum work. Immersive exhibitions can be designed to appeal to the public. Furthermore, new technologies can be particularly effective in supporting the educational mission, which is clearly demonstrated in science and technology museums. For example, the steam cycle of the Sulzer steam engine or a flight with the Lilienthal glider could be conveyed in the VR Lab of the Deutsches Museum using VR glasses.

Consideration of commercial aspects: When planning immersive exhibitions, commercial aspects should be included to a greater extent. With a professional marketing strategy, museums can attract many new visitors. Through appropriate admission fees, events and programmes, the sale of merchandising articles, partnerships or sponsoring, income can be increased, which can also justify higher investments in an immersive exhibition. Retention strategies, such as the sale of annual memberships, should be considered in this context.

Market and technology understanding: It is necessary for museums to develop a certain understanding of the formats and technologies available on the market. Smaller institutions outside of urban centres in particular refrain from immersive exhibitions due to a lack of knowledge of the technical requirements and possibilities. A tender should only be issued after a better understanding of the market and should cover the entire value chain, including the availability of the service provider for repair and maintenance during the exhibition, in order to make exhibitions a sustainable success.

Partners: The attractiveness of immersive exhibitions is highly dependent on the involvement of appropriate exhibition designers and/or technology service providers. Possible channels for developing both a better understanding of the market and tapping into potential partners are, in addition to existing contacts, for example the industry platform for travelling exhibitions Teo Exhibitions, the Association for Exhibition Design (VERA) or relevant industry meetings.

As an industry expert, actori GmbH supports you with methodical and technical expertise in increasing your revenue and tapping into new target groups.


A contribution by Pavel Achter, Consulting.

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