Why museums need to consider AR for their next exhibition:

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Museums That Have Increased Attendance as a Result of Using Augmented Reality in an Exhibition

Five examples of museums that have shown increased attendance as a result of using augmented reality (AR) in an exhibition are detailed. For each museum, the name of the institution and exhibit, and dates the exhibition was active are provided. Where applicable, we attempted to identify exact attendance numbers before and after the exhibition, name of curator, and the name of the exhibit designer. Where information was not publicly available, we noted positive trends due to favorable news coverage and industry recognition as a result of the innovative nature of AR museum exhibits in general.

1. Cleveland Museum of Art

Featuring a 5' x 40' video wall linked to a smartphone app, the ArtLens interactive Exhibit at Cleveland Museum of Art ("CMA") was the first of its kind when it went live in 2013. By late 2017, individual attendance at the museum had increased by 31 percent and family attendance had increased by 29 percent. The Chief Curator of the ArtLens exhibition is Heather Lemonedes and the Exhibition Designer is Jim Engelmann. Indicating strong interest in the ArtLens exhibit, Jane Alexander, the Chief Information Officer at the CMA, remarked that "over the last four years, almost every major museum has sent a director for site visits."

2. Franklin Institute

On October 25, 2016, The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia launched a significant initiative including a virtual reality demonstration space called "The Holodeck," a virtual reality content library, and in-exhibit virtual reality experiences. According to a press release, the launch represented "the most comprehensive, multi-tiered virtual reality initiative of museums worldwide." Publicly available statistics indicate 900,000 visitors to the museum in 2016 vs. 888,084 in 2015. At the time our research was conducted, 2017 visitor statistics had not yet been published.

3. San Diego Natural History Museum

The San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT) opened a new augmented reality (AR) exhibit called Ultimate Dinosaurs on February 25, 2017. The exhibition was scheduled to continue through September 4, 2017. Ultimate Dinosaurs was produced by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. Curation of the exhibition was led by Dr. David Evans, curator of vertebrate paleontology in the ROM's Department of Natural History. According to a published annual report, 449,472 people visited the museum in 2016. At the time our research was conducted, the 2017 annual report had not yet been published.

4. Kennedy Space Center

On November 11, 2016, the Kennedy Space Center launched an ongoing augmented reality exhibit called Heroes and Legends. The entire exhibit is dedicated to the pioneers of America's space program. The Kennedy Space Center hosts about 1.5 million visitors per year. Heroes and Legends was designed by the Orlando firm Falcon's Treehouse, led by President and Chief Creative Officer, Cecil Magpuri.

5. Clyfford Still

An augmented-reality exhibit called "Still & Art" was launched at the Clyfford Still Museum on September 29, 2017, to be featured through January 21, 2018. The exhibit occupied all nine galleries, featuring more than 80 Still paintings, sculptures, photographs, and paper works. According to an article in the Denver Post newspaper, it is one of only 10 museum shows in the world to use augmented reality. The museum partnered with technology partners such as app developer GuidiGO, Google, automated-reality firm RYOT to design the exhibit.

CONCLUSION

Five examples of museums that have used augmented reality (AR) in exhibitions were identified. Before and after attendance statistics were identified for three of the five museums. For the remaining two museums, where attendance statistics were not available, we noted successful results in general as a result of the augmented reality exhibits, due to favorable news coverage and industry recognition.
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