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The Power of Technology in Travelling Exhibitions

Integration, innovation, and adaptation in Flying Fish experiences


from Victoria, Australia

reading time 6 minutes

Anna Clark of Flying Fish shares insights on trends in experiential technology for travelling exhibitions and how new experiences integrating the latest technologies can help bridge the gap between learning and entertainment to foster visitor engagement.

Travelling exhibitions are an important way to share knowledge, foster creativity, and connect diverse communities in the realms of art, science, and culture. Technology has revolutionised how exhibitions are experienced and toured, opening a world of possibilities for producers, host venues, and visitors.

As Flying Fish marks ten years in the travelling exhibition industry, we reflect on a journey of integration, innovation, and adaptation. Here, we share an insight into how we integrate interactive technology as a means to tell stories, make knowledge accessible, and increase the accessibility and inclusivity of our exhibitions, expanding the boundaries of content delivery and programming opportunities for partners and host venues.

Relevance is Key

When incorporating technology into travelling exhibitions, it is essential to have a well-planned approach that considers the subject matter and the visitor experience. By selecting appropriate technologies that align with the theme and purpose of the exhibition, producers can create engaging and meaningful experiences. Interactive displays and mixed reality (MR) can transport visitors to different contexts or into the creative process of artists, promoting more profound understanding and connection. It is essential to strike a balance between technology and content, ensuring that technology complements the core message without detracting from it.

For example, in the Flying Fish exhibition OceanXperience, visitors are guided through a discussion about the use of technology to further research and collaboration in the field of marine biology. In this instance, its use as a museographic tool also serves the purpose of learning about the practice of scientific research.

Immersive Engagement

Technology can provide a heightened level of engagement for visitors. MR can transport individuals to virtual environments that recreate historical moments, simulate distant lands, or visualise complex concepts. This technology allows visitors to explore interactive and immersive experiences that deepen their understanding of the subject matter.

MR allows visitors to explore interactive and immersive experiences that deepen their understanding of the subject matter.

Flying Fish’s Mission: Astronaut is an interactive exhibition that premiered at The DoSeum in San Antonio (TX, USA) and will soon open in Memphis (TN, USA). It offers a hands-on experience to learn about space exploration and the technology that makes it possible. Through astronaut training challenges, visitors can connect to what it takes to develop an astronaut’s mindset and solve interactive challenges focused on engineering, physics, and teamwork. One of the exhibition’s main sections is Science in Space, where visitors can conduct various experiments to learn about space research. The experiments cover topics such as plant growth, human health, and Earth and space science. In this educational and fun exhibition, the use of innovative technology is understated but effective in producing an unforgettable experience. It engages visitors’ senses, creating a full-body immersion as if they were the scientists experimenting.

Technology also allows visitors to experience life in other people’s shoes. In OceanXperience, visitors are tasked with a mission that closely resembles how real-life Xplorers work and conduct research. This includes using similar tools, such as interactive control panels, mapping touch tables, and touchscreens. In the HoloLab, visitors use the same mixed reality technology used onboard the vessel for scientific research. An RFID tracking system tailors the visitors’ missions to their interests, putting them in the driver’s seat of a personalised adventure filled with soundscapes, touch, and visually dynamic media. Using the same machines in this mission-based storytelling, users can replicate gestures and movements performed by real-world professionals in their day-to-day work, emphasising immersion and learning opportunities.

Enhanced Learning Opportunities

Exhibitions incorporating technology can enhance the learning experience for visitors of all ages. With interactive displays, visitors can delve deeper into specific aspects of the exhibition and access additional information, videos, and quizzes to test their knowledge. These interactive elements encourage a hands-on, participatory approach to learning, making it more engaging and memorable. Technology-driven exhibitions can transform learning into an enjoyable experience by incorporating gamification techniques, motivating visitors to explore, discover, and acquire knowledge in exciting ways.

Stardust: The Universe in You, an exhibition premiering in the Summer of 2025, visually demonstrates complex scientific concepts such as the formation of our universe and the birth and death of stars through interactives. The Star Formation interactive is a holographic experience that lets visitors simulate the energy of a supernova by playing the drums. The Elements in You interactive allows visitors to understand that stardust exists in everything around us by choosing from everyday items and uncovering the elements that compose them on the periodic table.

Advancements in user-friendly interfaces and streamlined systems have made it easy for exhibition organizers to handle the technological aspects of travelling exhibitions.

Manage With Ease

The idea of managing the technology as a venue or producer might seem daunting, but fear not! Advancements in user-friendly interfaces and streamlined systems have made it easy for exhibition organizers to handle the technological aspects of travelling exhibitions. Centralised control systems allow for seamless management of various devices and interactive elements, ensuring a hassle-free experience for staff and visitors. Content management systems enable quick updates, customisation, and, where required, remote maintenance, reducing operational complexities. With technology becoming increasingly intuitive and accessible, and with proper training, managing, and maintaining the behind-the-scenes elements can be a breeze, even for exhibitions on tour.

Accessibility, adaptability and inclusivity

Through technology, physical barriers can be bridged, allowing exhibitions to be accessed by persons with disabilities or who are unable to visit in person. Virtual replicas, 360-degree tours, or live streaming can extend their reach in space and time – letting people remotely enjoy exhibition content from home. This inclusive approach also extends to those in isolated areas or regions without easy access to cultural institutions, providing them with exposure to diverse exhibitions and promoting cultural exchange. Over the years, Flying Fish has converted several permanent exhibitions into touring counterparts, allowing us to adapt and share content with people worldwide.

In 2017, Flying Fish collaborated with the Australian Museum, enhancing their travelling exhibition about spiders in preparation for a North American tour. Spiders: From Fear to Fascination infused contemporary science with state-of-the-art technology. In consultation with Flying Fish, the Australian Museum introduced new content tailored to the US and Canadian audiences, featuring live spiders indigenous to these areas. Advanced technology, ranging from interactive displays to AR spider encounters, was strategically implemented to create a fully immersive and educational encounter. The success of Spiders is a testament to how technology can help us interpret the natural world and make complex concepts easier to understand.

The interplay between technology and content will continue to transform how we experience travelling exhibitions, providing a more accessible, immersive, and engaging experience for all visitors.

Flexibility and Cost-Effectiveness

The ease of use associated with innovative technology has made travelling exhibitions more flexible and cost-effective for organisers, hosts, and producers. Digital assets can be stored and distributed electronically, reducing the need for physical transportation and associated risks. Technology-driven exhibitions offer the advantage of scalability, enabling content updates, customisation, and even the possibility of remote maintenance, thereby reducing ongoing costs and enhancing the overall efficiency of the exhibition.

Julia Child: A Recipe for Life, which premiered in Spring 2023, demonstrates how technology can increase the flexibility of an exhibition thanks to remote monitoring of interactives. If an interactive goes down, a remote monitoring system identifies the issue quickly and ensures a swift resolution – without setting foot in the exhibition space. This ensures that the exhibition runs smoothly without the need for physical intervention and minimises downtime for the exhibition’s most popular interactives, demonstrating how tech contributes to a hassle-free and cost-effective experience for both venues and visitors.

Looking to the Future

The use of technology in travelling exhibitions is a powerful tool. It helps to maintain relevance, foster immersive engagement, provide enhanced learning opportunities, promote accessibility and inclusivity, and offer flexibility and cost-effectiveness. All these factors combine to create transformative experiences for visitors and expand collection and programming opportunities for venues, making it possible for the largest audiences to explore, learn, host, and manage the content with minimal barriers.

The interplay between technology and content will continue to transform how we experience travelling exhibitions, providing a more accessible, immersive, and engaging experience for all visitors, and continuing to inspire curiosity in every corner of the globe.

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