For some, there is little more maddening than visiting an art gallery only to find hordes of visitors staring intently, not at the paintings but at their mobile phones.
From today, that sight is not to be sniffed at but encouraged, as the government urges museums and galleries to embrace all things digital to cater to the expectations of a new generation.
The Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) has issued guidelines to teach UK institutions how to “harness the potential of digital technology” to maintain the interest of visitors who are “no longer simply passive receivers” of art and culture.
The “Culture is Digital” report, released by Secretary of State Matt Hancock, urged the sector to make the most of the 78 per cent of adults who own a smartphone, utilising technology to “transform” the relationship between art and the public.
The near future could see the expansion of plans to digitise museum collections throughout Britain, share exhibitions via virtual reality headsets, and upgrade mobile phone offerings to allow people to listen to podcasts about paintings as they stand directly in front of them.
The National Gallery, which hosted an event to launch the DCMS report, is exploring plans for an airline-style ticketing system which could see prices for different times of day vary by demand, and boosting the information on its labels with extra details on smartphone apps.
Gabriele Finaldi, director of National Gallery, said he was “very sympathetic” to those visitors who still wish to come to the gallery to absorb the paintings quietly, but added that visitor demands are “evolving” with the generations.
For regular visitors to the gallery, the “ambitious five-year programme of digital change” will be a significant transformation in a few short years.
In 2014, the gallery finally gave the public its official approval to take photographs of its main collection after introducing wifi.
A year later, its former director, Sir Nicholas Penny, lamented the trend for benches in the gallery being “excessively occupied by young people, who are reading their bloody devices”.
Dr Finaldi said yesterday: “We have remarkable possibilities now to extend [visitors’] experience, the significant proportion of which come through your hand-held device. So let’s look at ways in which the experience of seeing real works of art can be enriched and extended.
“I think it’s a fantastic challenge that we have to take on in museums. We’ve got the real objects, that’s our great strength. How can we engage the visitor, whether physical visitor or virtual visitor, to experience our content and enjoy, interact and learn?”
Mr Hancock said smaller museums and galleries would be offered a “how to guide” to help them use digital technology most effectively, as he argued it could boost revenue and visitor numbers.
The report outlined plans for Arts Council England, responsible for distributing public funding, to create a “Digital Culture Code” for organisations to sign up to “demonstrate a commitment to developing their own digital maturity”.
“Digital experiences are transforming how audiences engage with culture and are driving new forms of cultural participation and practice,” the paper said.
“Technology is having a profound effect on cultural activity, especially for younger generations. Audiences are no longer simply passive receivers of cultural content.
“They are selecting on-demand content, controlling interactive experiences, instantly sharing and distributing content and co-creating artwork itself.”
It added: “Technology provides an opportunity to turn up the dial on audience engagement, enabling cultural organisations to engage more people and to reach out to new audiences.”
Mr Hancock said: “By embracing new technologies and attracting more diverse audiences, we will continue to cement our status as a creative powerhouse in the digital age.”
The response to the use of mobile phones in galleries has previously been mixed, with all major institutions now allowing photographs of its main collection when there are no copyright issued or delicate materials sensitive to light.
Many actively encourage “Museum Selfie Day”, believing the distribution of images of its collection help boost interest in visiting.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, former chairman of the Arts Council, has previously suggested a compromise of a one hour phone-free time slot per day to allow those who object to them to enjoy galleries in peace.
Marina Abramovic, the artist, banned phones from her 2014 Serpentine exhibition to compel visitors to observe things in the moment.
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/07/art-galleries-must-embrace-digital-technology-battle-against/