Today, ACMI, Australia’s national museum of screen culture, opens its doors following a $40 million AUD redevelopment. The ambitious multiplatform museum will deliver all-new spaces and galleries supported by world-leading technologies.
“The new ACMI sees physical and digital content connected in ways not yet seen in Australia – setting the museum apart and establishing ACMI as one of the most innovative and digitally transformed museums in the world,” said ACMI Director and CEO Katrina Sedgwick OAM.
In 2015, Sedgwick recognised the need for a museum of screen culture to be able to be more responsive to the rapidly changing world of screens and connect to visitors lived experience. Seb Chan, ACMI’s Chief Experience Officer, has led this technological transformation. Working with local and international designers and technologists, Chan has realised Sedgwick’s vision, building new capacity and flexibility across the museum while delivering a unique Australian experience.
Central to the new ACMI is the Lens. Conceived by ACMI and designed by Publicis Sapient/Second Story, the Lens is a free take home NFC device modelled on the nostalgic shape of Viewmaster Reels.
“The Lens enables visitors to collect and take home anything that they see – from films to videogames, artworks to objects, videos and interviews,” said Chan.
Swinburne University’s Centre for Design Innovation worked with ACMI to produce the Lens, refining its final design to be recyclable and ecologically low impact. The Lens interacts with NFC readers throughout the galleries built on affordable and easily replaceable Raspberry Pi hardware.
In order for visitors to be able to use the Lens ACMI developed XOS, a software architecture and suite of Python-based tools that allows the museum’s disparate systems and enterprise databases to communicate with each other. XOS enables the flow of content, data, and controls from back of house to the galleries and out to the web.
This has allowed ACMI to modernise and accelerate creative experimentation and exhibit production – reducing the time from curatorial idea to the gallery floor. Inside XOS is also a suite of open source tools written to do exhibition-specific tasks ranging from temperature monitoring to media transcoding to playback.
With the Lens and XOS, ACMI makes it fun and easy for visitors to take home what they are interested in while also learning from the spatial and content insights gained from what they collect. This information will help develop new types of future exhibitions.
In The Story of the Moving Image, ACMI’s free centrepiece exhibition, the Lens is integrated into interactive moments where visitors can make or record their own content. At the Flipbook, Edit Line or Foley Studio, the Lens is used to save the video content that visitors have made and allows them to download and view that content later on from home.
At the climax of the exhibition, the Lens is used at the Constellation. A room-scale experience, the Constellation comprises six interactive touchscreen tables with an interface developed by Grumpy Sailor and a data visualisation called Entities designed by OOM Creative and More Studio. The Constellation takes the items collected by visitors on their Lens throughout the exhibition and connects them up to hundreds of other films, TV series, artworks and videogames beyond the scope of the gallery. Each recommendation is handpicked by ACMI’s expert staff – going against the current grain of computational recommendation – and is intended to open up new ways for visitors to think about the screen culture.
With an organisational value on transparency and collaboration, ACMI has been open sourcing much of its technical work since 2016. Beginning with an open source in-gallery media guide that has been reused by institutions from Brazil to Sweden, and most recently by London’s Science Museum, ACMI is committed to making its software development as open source as possible. Recent additions include the museum’s gallery media players and temperature monitoring tools. ACMI’s current software codebase is can be explored here.
The new exhibition also includes 17 state-of-the-art projectors supplied by Major Technology Partner Panasonic. Adding to the cinematic experience, Supporting Partners iGuzzini and Yamaha have provided world-class lighting and audio, respectively, with 139 speakers delivering crisp sound alongside custom exhibition lighting.