Nadzeya Charapan (Uppsala University / Vilnius University)

Visitor Museum Experience – To Be Or Not To Be Digital?

As digitalization became mainstream, many museums develop websites, applications, digital interactions, and social media accounts. Undoubtedly, digitalization provides vast affordances for the facilitation of long-lasting relationship with their audiences and enhances visitor experiences. However, many cultural institutions adopt a rather ambivalent position towards the ubiquitous digital intensification, since there is a possibility that physical visits to museums would be inexorably abandoned to the benefit of virtual visitations. In this paper, I will address the issue of complementarity and the complexity of the visitor experience. The main research questions are: What is the relationship between physical and digital attributes of museum experience? Do they complement or substitute each other? What is the role of VR/AR realms in the production of the visitor experience in the digital age?

Through the analysis of student experiences from Gamla Uppsala Museum (Uppsala, Sweden), communicated in the form of academic essay (n= 16), as well as the participatory observations during the study visit, the paper is designed to generate insights into the ecosystem of visitor experience addressing the VR and AR components of student’s engagements with and within the archeological site. The study will critically reflect the symbiotic digital/analog blend of the museum visit, and also provide a holistic view of the museum communication strategies in the era of digitization.