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Attractions in the millennial age

Attractions in the millennial age

By Triggerfish

For many millennials, the first introduction to cultural attractions will come in the form of a school trip or family day out as a child. There’s often a sense of nostalgia that comes with a visit to your local museum or gallery, something that takes you back to being a kid, gawping open mouthed at the Egyptian sarcophaguses at the British Museum or the artistic masterpieces of Tate Britain.

15.11.2018

Attractions in the millennial age

While these institutions may have their roots firmly planted in the past, they are certainly not exempt from the unremitting march of the future. As such, the sector has seen a huge shift as the very model of a museum, gallery or attraction faces its next chapter and takes steps to adapt to a changing modern world.

So what does this mean for the modern attraction and how can those who chronicle culture, ensure they are ready for the next stage of the cultural attraction evolution?

Personalisation and interactivity

Personalisation is a word that’s been thrown around a lot recently and while the idea may have been around for years, never before has it been so possible to tailor experiences on a mass scale. The modern consumer is discerning, overloaded with options and desperately seeking something that speaks to them personally. As such, it’s becoming more important then ever to make cultural offerings relevant and personal.

It’s important that guests feel like they’re part of the exhibits, rather than spectators observing from a distance. One of the best ways to achieve this is to personalise the experience and encourage interaction. Museums and visitor attractions have evolved from a simple TV display with a video on a continuous loop to much more immersive installations involving touch interactivity and virtual reality. The Science Museum for example, introduced its Wonderlab exhibit, giving visitors free use of slides, selfie mirrors and even a chemistry bar! This allows guests to experience science first hand by becoming part of the experiment.

There are also some pushing the boundaries of personalisation and interactivity by creating what are often called ‘lates’. They offer a rare chance to see the museum or gallery after dark. This could mean private tours, artistic workshops and even party nights, DJ and all! The Tate for example offers a great programme of events, giving visitors a more varied way to interact with the musuem and its exhibits on their terms.

Digitalisation

Whether we like it or not, the world has gone digital. As the old adage goes, “if you can’t beat them, join them,” and when it comes to digital, consider yourself well and truly beaten. That doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to the idea that your customer base will refuse to look up from their screens, but it does mean that you’ll need to be savvier if you want to capture their attention.

One of the best ways to do this is to meet them halfway and add digital elements to your offering. Whether this means adding scannable QR codes to displays to offer further reading, creating personalised geo-filters, or even using augmented reality to superimpose a guest’s face onto that of a famous painting, the only limit is your imagination.

Digitalising parts of your offering also has the huge benefit of creating a journey which lasts long after you’ve left the attraction’s grounds. Online resources, games and social profiles all add to the brand experience and help your visitors to connect with the institution remotely whenever they want.

Like with all technology, the key is using it to enhance, rather than replace our real world experiences. While common discourse may have you believe that everyone under the age of 30 uses the virtual world to avoid the real one, this isn’t necessarily the case. More often than not, they are in fact using the tools that are native to them, to find a route which allows them to enhance, mould and collect experiences in the real world. As such, it makes sense for cultural sites to make that digital route as easy to navigate as possible, so that they can reap the real world benefits.

A great example of this is the way Museum of London have introduced donation points which include contactless pay points for card payments. They are aware that a large portion of their visitors are cashless and have made the adjustment to accommodate them. It may not seem like the most ground-breaking addition, but for the 20 something student who hasn’t carried cash in years, it will certainly feel like they’ve been considered personally. Simple but effective.

Connection

A question often asked of cultural attractions is whether they mould or simply mirror society. While art reflects the real world, it is also capable of reforming it through its impact on our thought processes. As such, it’s key for any cultural site to resonate with its audience, while also challenging them to see things differently.

While personalisation and digital prowess is important, it’ll get you nowhere if your offering is simply too distant for guests to connect with. It’s crucial then that those in the cultural industries are able to help visitors connect on a personal level with their product. By humanising their displays and aligning them with theories, people or locations that are still prevalent today, they are able to create a more visceral experience that will last in the mind of visitors.

Museum of London for example celebrated International Year of the Women with a display documenting the female fight for suffrage, opening up the topic to a whole new audience, while helping them relate it to the struggle women around the world still face today.

Saatchi Gallery offered a similar, albeit more modern approach, with their ‘From Selfie to Self-Expression’ exhibition which held a mirror to the current selfie culture and dissected the history of the cultural phenomenon which is so often ridiculed for its inanity.

These examples help us connect with art, history and culture simply by highlighting the human condition behind their formation. If cultural institutions can encourage visitors to see the connection between them and the exhibit, whether it be Roman pottery or modern art, they’ll create something which resonates with us all.

The key takeaways are simple, people want an experience which resonates with them personally, encourages them to get involved and challenges them to think differently. London’s world-beating cultural scene is certainly leading the way when it comes to innovation in the cultural sector so it’s important that we continue to capture and exhibit our societal zeitgeist in ever more interesting and challenging ways. A new age is upon us and the time for action is now. Those who fail to keep a finger on the pulse are sure to lose favour and may well find that they have been consigned to the halls of museums themselves!

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