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Report: New Technology Conference at the National History Museum of the Netherlands

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By Jasper Visser - Posted on 14 November 2009

CEO Erik Schilp opens the conferenceOn Wednesday October 28th 2009 the National History Museum ( of the Netherlands organised its first annual New Technology Conference in ING House in Amsterdam. During the day a select group of about 150 policy makers, museum professionals and researchers discovered the possibilities of innovative media and technology for museums.

CEO of the NHM, Erik Schilp, "Our ambition is to become a leader in the field of technological innovation; on the internet, in our exhibitions and in our building. Technology is never an end, but can be a means to make history more accessible and appealing to greater audiences. Technology also helps us in gathering our collection, building a community and reaching our audience."

The New Technology Conference will be held yearly. Its aim is to encourage and inspire museums and policy makers in the Netherlands to look at the possibilities of media and technology to develop the sector. In addition to the conference, the National History Museum has launched a New Museum Lab. This Lab will work on innovation for museums in close cooperation with universities, businesses, designers and museums.

October 28th five speakers gave their views on technology and media in museums.

Jake Barton from Local Projects in New York showed examples of the use of participatory (multimedia) installations in museums. He showed how media and technology could be used to encourage participation.

Adrian Cheok of the Mixed Reality Lab of the University of Singapore gave insight in the possibilities of technology in the future. He focused on mixed reality and giving visitors a complete sensory experience using innovative technology.

Louise McGregor of the Web Expert Centre of ING talked about the opportunities and challenges of using social media as an organisation. She gave best practices of corporate response to the new reality of a more democratic media landscape.

Sebastian Chan of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney showed the strength of communities and the possibilities to connect to your audience. He gave examples of his work for the Powerhouse Museum and how their community is involved in the museum.

Wim Veen of the Delft University of Technology presented his views on the new generation of people and how they expect to interact with a museum. He spoke about the challenges museums face in dealing with a generation raised with internet and multiple communication platforms.

In addition, the three Dutch Technology Universities presented five pilots of innovative technology that might be used in museums.

The University of Eindhoven built a virtual world in which groups of visitors can discover a historical setting. The researchers also showed how mobile applications can enhance a visitor's experience by combining pre-visit and post-visit activities with the experiences in the virtual world. (see

The University of Delft gave life to the founder of the Netherlands, Willem of Orange. Groups of visitors could engage in a quiz about his life and Willem responded to them in a natural way. Also, they built a serious game about the escape of Hugo de Groot from his prison.

The University of Twente, finally, showed how a virtual character could respond to a visitor's behaviour by rendering verbal and non-verbal communication in real time. Furthermore, they showed how voice-recognition could be used to make audio archives more accessible to visitors.

The New Technology Conference was a success. Many visitors were inspired to have a new look at using media and technology as tools to improve audience engagement. Next autumn the most successful pilots will be presented again as finished products.

Jasper Visser's picture

If you care to see more photos of the event, they're on Flickr: