Museum Frustration

I keep saying I don’t like museums, then I discovered that I visited more museums than most of my friends. Every time I visit a new museum I am there with the hope to be impressed. I am always looking for this surprise that never happen.

The only experience that surprised me was the mummies room in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. I have some photos but be careful they are graphic (dead people from 3000-5000 years ago). 1, 2, 3.

I think museum experiences should be like IKEA. There should be a determined path and the audio guide should give you enough context to understand the pieces and enjoy the experience. Whenever I visit a museum with someone experienced on the topic, I appreciate more what’s inside as I get more context.

We should also get rid of standalone devices for audio guides. Everyone has a smart phone now. Actually since I started writing this blog I thought what’s preventing having innovation in this space? I think the biggest barrier is lack of incentive. Most museums are publicly owned and in some state of monopoly which removes the incentive to do better. No museum goes bankrupt.

That’s where tech should come in. I think there is an enormous opportunity for a startup to get into this space and provide experience guides for museums across the globe. I already heard of some efforts, but I think the traditional thinking of partnering with museums is a waste of time. If I am doing this, I will start by fully mapping one museum, create impressive experience for that museum, and release this app on the store.

There can be some technological barriers like lack of WiFi in most museums. This can be overcome by having those guides downloadable offline.

There will be the question of how to identify the items, there are multiple solutions for that: Museums have a numbering system for each piece for visitors to use on the stupid audio guide devices, you can use the same numbers on the application. A second solution is now possible thanks to advances in machine learning, there can be an offline recognition model on the app that recognizes a picture of the item. It won’t be of high error rate because of the defined search space. A third solution can be by scanning the text description of the piece and doing offline OCR.

It is not a tech problem but rather a content problem. Content is still the king. It is a case where art and tech need to get married, and have a beautiful baby.