Case Studies

Case Study 5
The Senckenberg “Museum for Tomorrow”, Germany

Partners: HRM and SGN
Project Themes: Ethical Design for Access and Engagement; Creation and Authoring; Immersion and Presence

Throughout Germany and Europe, the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt is widely well-known as “the museum with the big dinosaurs”. With a 200-year tradition in natural science research, the Senckenberg Research Society engages in the connections between biodiversity, environment, and climate. It looks behind the provenance of exhibits, at the cultural history of museum communication, including colonial legacies and the changing human interest in nature and culture. For example, however fascinating the dinosaurs appear, they are mainstream symbols of species extinction, and the museum contains many less prominent fossils where their extinction connects to climate changes. The museum already deploys state-of-the-art technology such as VR stands, handheld AR and smartphone media guides, which all require the supervision of visitor services staff. For co-design events and formative evaluation, Senckenberg holds established connections to memberships, a museum friend’s association and a youth council, and performs frequent public events.

Despite this technologically savvy approach the museum is entering unknown territory when it comes to integrating novel locative immersive technology, such as AR with head-mounted displays, and interactions based on digital sensors. Curatorial expertise is currently missing in how and where to employ it meaningfully or what the target groups should be. Workflows for the design and supervision of this sort of experience are yet to be explored at the museum. This case study, led by Hochschule RheinMain in collaboration with the Senckenberg, will explore curatorial approaches of integrating locative games with immersive AR for permanent exhibitions as well as for special exhibitions. This case study will contribute to Theme 1: Ethical Design for Access and Engagement through improving the accessibility and deployment of immersive technologies (hardware as well as multi-sensor interaction challenges) within the cultural heritage context, while also looking at differences in diverse target groups. Further, the case study makes a primary contribution to Theme 5: Immersion and Presence by its involvement of experimental, beyond state-of-the-art technology that maximizes the technology-supported integration of digital worlds with the tangible, physical reality at a location. This delivers design knowledge to increase the fascination and emotional involvement of end-users. It also contributes to Theme 2: Creation and Authoring by taking the perspective of the creators of such immersive experiences, with the aim to provide evaluated toolsets and production principles.

Credit: Senckenberg / Sven Tränkner