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Museums and the Web

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Can Moderate-priced Technology Extend the Museum Experience Successfully?

Hosan Kim, Ph.D., Dongsoong Art Center, with Ockrang Kim, Hyangbin Kim, and Jaejeong Kim, Kokdu Museum, Rep. of Korea

Abstract

The exhibition, “Afterlife: The Journey to the Other World” (July 16 - September 25, 2011) was unique from other exhibitions in Korea in three ways. First, this was the first attempt in Korean museum history to combine Korean traditional culture with a reinterpretation of the present as a ‘Webtoon (a professional cartoonist’s serial cartoon). Second, we adopted new media like AR (Augmented Reality) and Media Art to play important roles in the storytelling of the exhibition. It’s also the first attempt in Korea to adopt such technology as the storyteller of an exhibition. Third, since we were adopting an open source platform and working with students from a college, we were able to produce this exhibition at a half the price museums in Korea usually spend (over $40,000 for one special exhibition).

Keywords: convergence technology, museum experience, moderate priced technology, affordable technology, Augmented Reality

General Introduction

1.   Context of Exhibition: Characteristics of Korean museum’s foundations and their development

After the foundation of the first Korean museum in 1910, museums in Korea have gone through dramatic growth due to Korea’s unique historical background. Most of Korean museums were ‘imported,’ whereas museums in western countries were results of cultural revolutions or were transformed from private collections. Korean museums became a symbol of modernized society as well as of sophisticated culture or “Korea.” In this paper, we will discuss three controversial characteristics pf Korean museums’ development over the past hundred years.

First, Korean museums have been growing in quantity as opposed to quality. Since the late 1990s, the Korean government has encouraged and focused on building more museums. The government financially supports 40 percent of the total cost of establishing a public museum, and actively encourages any private museums’ development. As a result, in 2010 Korea grew to 796 museums from 380 in 2004. This represents 48 percent growth in six years. (http://www.index.go.kr)

Second, museums in Korea have a great interest in integrating the latest technology into their exhibitions. Many Korean museums have tried to use technology from their foundations. Since Korea has been strong in IT since the1990s, museums saw how this could distinguish Korean museums from foreign ones when successfully implemented. However, it takes some time to fully evaluate such technologies’ role and effectiveness. Furthermore, the companies that develop such technologies demand costly loyalty, so small museums encounter their limits in adopting these technologies.  

Third, Korean museums are not considerate of their audience. Most Korean museums were established according to the government’s cultural plans. Therefore, visitor admissions or the statistics of how people visit such museums were not taken into consideration from the very beginning. It is disappointing to note that the average frequency of annual museum visits per person in Korea is only 0.37 times, while the annual average visiting rate to libraries is 2.36 times per person. (Survey report on cultural enjoyment, 2010)

2.   Production of an Exhibition of Kokdu Museum

Information about the Museum

  • Kokdu Museum
  • Established in 2010
  • Private Museum
  • Collection: Over 20,000 pieces of Korean traditional biers and their decorations
  • Current Facility: Permanent Gallery 198㎡ with one bier and 100 decoration pieces and Special Gallery 132㎡

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of the Current Facility

  • Strength: The biggest collection of traditional Korean biers and their decorations in Korea. Synergy is expected when integrating a themed exhibition with current permanent collections.
  • Weak: There is very little literature or documentation of biers or their creation at the Museum. Therefore, it is difficult to exhibit documentation or historical information on current pieces.
  • Opportunity: There is a great opportunity for diverse reinterpretations of the afterlife since the Sang-yeo (Korean traditional coffin) represents a vehicle that delivers the deceased to the other world.
  • Threat: Limited cost per exhibition considering that it is a private museum. The profound theme of the museum relates to death, therefore, the museum needs to come up with lighter and more uplifting aspects of exhibitions.

Strategy and Tactics of Creating a Successful Exhibition

  • Strategy
    • Selection and Focused Target: We focused on our target audience, which was teenagers, because we knew that certain exhibitions and their content entertain and educate certain age groups better.
    • “Fun” Strategy: To many students, museums can be old-fashioned and boring places where they have to go to do their homework. We try to find themes and to create exhibitions that appeal to younger age groups to encourage their natural interests in the subject.
  • Tactics
    • SNS and trend researching
      • We are following gurus and masters of New Technology via Facebook and Twitter.
      • We also continue our research into museum technology via Youtube, Naver, Daum (two biggest Korean Search Engines) and Google Scholar Service.
    • Adopting technology and selecting partners
      • For our latest exhibition, we adopted AR, Kinect technology and Media art. We found opensource AR platforms via “YouTube,” and learned that Kinect technology can be implemented successfully with relatively low costs. We put much of our attention into these two technologies because both AR and Kinect technologies have rarely been used in art exhibitions, whereas Media art is used more often.
      • We carefully selected Seogang University’s Game and Education department to be our partner. Seogang’s Game and Education department showed us many great AR and Kinect videos during our meetings and suggested the adoption of these technologies in our museum’s exhibition.

Financial Estimate

Context

 Estimate (USD)

Currency

Copyright (Webtoon: With God)

       5,282

USD 1=

KRW 1136

 

Technology (AR: 7 pieces, Media Art: 1)

       5,810

Exhibition Design and Construction

      10,651

Advertising

         880

Pamphlet Design and production (2 Kinds, 3000 pieces) 

       2,641

Total

24,837

Table 1 : Financial Estimate for This Exhibition

3.   Theme of Exhibition and Production

The exhibition Afterlife, The Journey to the Other World, was based on a traditional Korean belief, called Siwangsasang, which prescribed that the deceased must go through ten after-death trials about his/her previous life.
Among those ten were seven commonly known trials, and people counted those days accordingly and had a memorial ritual on the 49th day after death.
The Joseon dynasty (1392~1910) reigned during a strictly Confucianist era, which greatly valued filial duties. Other religions such as Buddhism, Taoism and Shamanism were able to retain their power because the Joseon people saw a great deal of filial duties and values in those ancestral rites.
By studying the Joseon dynasty's religious movement, we've learned that all these different religions and cultures melted together and brought Korea a cultural synergy.

Figure 1 :  Special Gallery

Figure 2 :  Special Gallery

Designing the Space

  • Utilizing the limited space we have, the exhibition leads the audience from the present to a path that leads them to the other world, and from there, it takes the audience to seven trials in the other world. This path originates in traditional Korean culture and beliefs that, when a person dies, he/she sits on the coffin and bier to go to the other side of the world through a road called ‘Jeoseung-gil,’ the path to the other world. 
  • Permanent Gallery: This gallery exhibits coffins, biers and their decorations. This gallery works as the pathway to the other world.
  • Video Room: The Video Room is located in between the permanent gallery room and special gallery. In the video room we installed media art that exhibits a boat crossing a river, which delivers a message to the viewers that they are crossing the river to go to the trial in the other world.
  • Special Gallery: Without any objects on display, this room is a full-blown AR gallery with original images from the webtoon, “With God.” A webtoon is cartoon that is usually posted on the web and accessed via search engines and newsletters online. Viewers can walk around 7 different AR trials.

Unique features of the exhibition

1.   The Very First Exhibition Integrating Webtoon

  • Taking into consideration the Korean Museum’s context and research into the content, we integrated the webtoon into the exhibition.
  • It was first time ever that a webtoon has been synergistically integrated with other cultural content in the museum.
  • The webtoon, “With God,” is about the world after death and deals with traditional Korean culture and beliefs around death. In this tradition, Mr. Kim died out of stress and exhaustion one day, and he goes through 7 trials in the other world. Korea’s traditional belief about death oriented in the Buddhism of China and Taoism, but the meanings and the way the deceased is punished differ from one region to another.

2.   Exhibition with New Media

  • In our research, we saw lots of exhibitions that combine new media only as supplemental content for the show. For example, a major museum in Korea, the Leeum Museum, opened its most recent exhibition called “Hwawon – Joseon Dynasty’s Professional Court Painter” with the latest technology, but it unfortunately was limited to inside the exhibition gallery.
  • Our exhibition expanded to beyond the galleries: we arranged screens displaying 7 different AR programs in every corner of an open space, so that viewers can follow the exhibition even when they are outside of the exhibition galleries.

3.    Collaboration with College Students and Usage of Open Sources

  • Since we were creating the exhibition within a budget, we gladly used open (license fee-free) AR sources as well as great help from college students.
  • This collaboration, we believe, is not only good from our financial point of view, but also is wonderful for the students at Seogang University to gain experience.
  • After our successful exhibition, Seogang University is positively considering giving school credits to the students that were involved with the project. We also have been continuously working with the Game and Education department at Seogang to develop a technology that will help the museum and its shows.

Exhibition Technology

1.   “Reinforced reality” in the Exhibition

Introduction

Once a video is recorded with a webcam, a computer reads certain markers to generate a virtual object over the real video.

Used Program and References

  • Max2011
  • ArtoolkitPlus
  • VedioInput
  • Ogre3D

Introduction of Used Program and References

Max2011

Max2011 creates 3-dimensional graphics such as animation characters. (http://www.autodesk.co.kr/adsk/servlet/pc/index?id=16671755&siteID=1169528)

ArtoolkitPlus

ArtoolkitPlus is a computer-generated library that recognizes patterns and markers within a video. (http://handheldar.icg.tugraz.at/artoolkitplus.php)

 Figure 3 :  AR Marker using this Exhibition

 

VedioInput

VedioInput is a free program that captures a video in high speed and creates a still-cut from it. (http://muonics.net/school/spring05/videoInput/)

Ogre3D

Ogre3D is a free engine that creates 3-D graphic apps. (http://www.ogre3d.org/)

Creating Reinforced Reality

Step 1: Design figures that will be later created as a 3D animation. (3D MAX)

Figure 4 :  3D Creature using AR

 

Step2: Calculate distance between camera and marker by reading images captured from webcam. (ARToolkitPlus)

 

Figure 5 :  Operating key map of AR

Step3: Once a marker is located and tracked, render the marker with 3D modeling.

 

Figure 6 : Screen shot of AR

Media art that utilizes empty drink bottles

Introduction

When a person hits a drink bottle, a computer reads the bottle’s index, strength and speed of the hit and re-renders it visually.

Used Program and Reference

  • Visual Studio 2008
  • Adobe Photo Shop CS 5

Introduction about Used Program and References

  • Visual Studio 2008
    • Based on Microsoft Window OS, Visual Studio 2008 is for programming using C and C++.
  • Adobe Photoshop
    • Adobe System’s graphic program that is used not only for 2D works but also for 3D works.

Creating Media Art

Step 1:

Once bottles are selected, we measure their unique fundamental frequency. Bottles usually make a frequency and sound within the 12 octaves that music uses. (See Figure 7) Therefore, reading a bottle’s unique frequency can be an effective way to recognize its unique index.

Figure 7 : Recorded sound’s unique frequency spectrogram

(X-axis means time and y-axis means frequency. Redder it is, more powerful Frequency is. )

Step 2:

When a sound is strong enough to be recognized as user-made bottle sound, the sound goes through additional steps. First, the computer compares the sound with pre-registered sounds of bottles to recognize the index of the bottle. For better results, we used a cost function, which is read to be a positive cost made by certain bottles, and a negative cost made by all the other bottles. Also, by analyzing the power of the sound registered, the computer analyzes the strength of the hit, and how many frequencies it generated.

Step 3:

To prevent noise, computer doesn’t recognize other loud sounds other than pre-registered bottles sound. We also pre-registered the sounds of hitting surrounding objects such as tables or exposed iron columns; when sounds of hitting such objects are detected, we delete them automatically from the computer’s response.

Step 4:

We designed four wave shapes and programmed the computer to mimic the movement of waves and project them into the shapes. When visitors ride the boats to cross the river to go to “the other world,” the rocking boat, moving waves and projected waves give them a realistic boat ride. We also paid attention to details such as human-shaped silhouettes on the wall and a three-sided plot of the moving boats. The overall design originated from the webtoon, “With God.”

 

Figure 8 : Installation shot of Media Art

 

Exhibition Evaluation

1.   Visitor Statistics

Total operating days: 62 (period: 2011. 7.16~9.25)

Total visitors: 1723 (23% of total visitors of 2010 (7192))

Daily average visitors: 27

2.   Internal Evaluation

We think that we were successful in breaking out from ordinary two-dimensional exhibitions and engaging the audience to move actively around the “Reinforced Reality” exhibition. In particular, we were very pleased that “Reinforced Reality” became the key role of the exhibition whereas, in most of other shows, it has been limited to being a supplemental element.

Second, we are very happy to see the audience engage actively within the show. We think that their engagement brought another element to the show not to mention their better focus and concentration about the subject of the show.

3.   Evaluation of Visitor Survey

itemization

Survey plan for exhibition visitors

Research subject

Visitors to this exhibition / 333 people (return rate 85%)

Ages

10s ~ 50s

Research period

2011. 7.16 ~ 9.25

Enumeration

18 questions / Paper survey

Confidential level

95%, sampling error  ±3.83%

Researcher

Hosan Kim, Hyangbin Kim

Table 2 : Basic information of visitor survey

 

V1

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid

Under 10 min.

17

5.1

5.1

5.1

10~30min.

186

55.9

55.9

61.0

30~50min.

121

36.3

36.3

97.3

Over 50min.

9

2.7

2.7

100.0

Total

333

100.0

100.0

 

Table 3 : The time spent in the visit

 

Q6

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid

great contribution

91

27.3

27.7

27.7

a little contribution

161

48.3

48.9

76.6

average

65

19.5

19.8

96.4

not much

10

3.0

3.0

99.4

never

2

.6

.6

100.0

Total

329

98.8

100.0

 

Missing

System

4

1.2

 

 

Total

333

100.0

 

 

Table 4 : Did this test of convergence between technology and a webtoon contribute greatly to this exhibition?

 

Q7

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid

very effective

125

37.5

37.5

37.5

a little effective

141

42.3

42.3

79.9

average

48

14.4

14.4

94.3

not much

14

4.2

4.2

98.5

never

5

1.5

1.5

100.0

Total

333

100.0

100.0

 

Table 5 : Do you think that AR and Media Art could be effective methods to understanding what you see in this exhibition?

 

Q14 * Q7 Cross tabulation

 

Q7

Total

very effective

a little effective

average

not much

never

Q14

10s

Count

20

19

7

1

3

50

% within Q14

40.0%

38.0%

14.0%

2.0%

6.0%

100.0%

20s

Count

43

43

18

7

2

113

% within Q14

38.1%

38.1%

15.9%

6.2%

1.8%

100.0%

30s

Count

39

40

17

3

0

99

% within Q14

39.4%

40.4%

17.2%

3.0%

.0%

100.0%

40s

Count

19

36

6

1

0

62

% within Q14

30.6%

58.1%

9.7%

1.6%

.0%

100.0%

Total

Count

121

138

48

12

5

324

% within Q14

37.3%

42.6%

14.8%

3.7%

1.5%

100.0%

Table 6 : Cross tabulation between Ages and Table 5’s Question

 

Q13

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid

100~91

82

24.6

25.4

25.4

90~81

140

42.0

43.3

68.7

80~71

82

24.6

25.4

94.1

Under 70

19

5.7

5.9

100.0

Total

323

97.0

100.0

 

Missing

System

10

3.0

 

 

Total

333

100.0

 

 

Table 7 : Visitor’s satisfaction about this exhibition as a score

 

$AR Frequencies

 

Responses

Percent of Cases

N

Percent

ARa

3D Character’s  feature

125

37.0%

38.7%

Sound Volume

29

8.6%

9.0%

Instruction of using  AR marker

43

12.7%

13.3%

Error of using  AR system

91

26.9%

28.2%

Etc.

50

14.8%

15.5%

Total

338

100.0%

104.6%

a. Group

Table 8 : Frequency of use of AR

 

Conclusion

We understand and share the frustration that comes from financial limitations. It is a difficult hurdle for any museum. Museums are now in competition more than ever with other recreational facilities. Maybe it is easier for large museums to bring in more viewers by adopting the newest technologies; however, small museums have many more limitations in many areas, and therefore it is harder for them to meet the expectations of museum-goers. Now, our main concern and focus is how to utilize the technology that we already have to maximize the experience of each individual visitor. Our exhibition was produced with open source and low-cost programs. We also integrated a webtoon as a part of the exhibition and it was a success. We understand that if there had been more input, there could have been a better outcome. However, we were very pleased and satisfied that, even with our financial limitation of $24,000-30,000 USD, we were able to successfully exhibit a wonderful show that possibly suggested a new direction for exhibitions in medium-sized museums.

Reference

Korea Culture & Tourism Institute (2010), Survey report on cultural enjoyment, Seoul: Korea Culture & Tourism Institute.