An Incomparable Exhibition at the Bode Museum
The Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) are exhibiting a very exciting exhibition of European and African sculptures at the Bode Museum. D-LABS has especially developed a museum app for this purpose that reveals the differences and similarities between the cultures of both continents – quietly captured with a new type of technology.
Under the slogan: “Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode Museum”, the exhibition at the Berlin Museum Island shows African masterpieces from the currently closed Ethnological Museum, presented together with the European sculptures housed in the Bode Museum.
The experimental juxtapositions are spread over all three floors of the museum. They are in direct dialog with each other and embody the great themes of humanity: power and death, beauty and identity, justice and remembrance.
In cooperation with SAP SE, D-LABS has implemented a digital pilot project for the ‘Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz’ (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), laying the cornerstone for the digital transformation of one of the world’s largest cultural institutions.
It starts with the design and development of a museum app that manages to break down the complexity of art history and ethnology to the essentials and to convey it to all visitors in an appealing way. This can be installed on iPhones and Android smartphones or used on-site on a loaner unit.
The app illuminates the different aspects of the sculptures with catchy descriptions. It offers both short introductions for visitors that are able to invest just a little time as well as exciting in-depth multimedia material for those eager to learn, such as the X-ray of a nail-studded African power figure or a look behind the scenes of the restoration workshop.
In addition, the app allows the visitor to track their location in the museum building. Up to now, visitors to the large building complex of the Bode Museum could only find their way around to a limited extent. With the help of the app, users can now orient themselves much better within the building.
The historical landmark building repeatedly put our software developers to the test. Our solution therefore combines several technologies: In addition to conventional Bluetooth wireless technology we use a newly developed sound technology to locate the app users. It was developed by our partner SonoBeacon GmbH. Together via project work we optimized the technology for its first productive use.
While widespread Bluetooth technology has a large range and thus can be used well in large halls, unfortunately its radio signal penetrates the museum’s walls of stone almost unmuted. The sound transmission of the new technology, in turn, its precision sparkles at shorter ranges. A combination of both technologies ultimately led us to our goal because the advantages of one technology offset the disadvantages of the other.
Initially, the location feature is only available for Android devices. Over the next few weeks, we will be able to test the SonoBeacons used worldwide for the first time under real-world conditions and use the insights gained to further improve the localization feature.
In addition to the realization of the app, optimizing the processes within the museums and providing the participants with assistance on the path towards digital transformation was particularly challenging for us.
We thank the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, SAP and SonoBeacon for their productive and collaborative partnership. The result is a coherent app that allows visitors to become fully involved with the outstanding works of art. The “Incomparable” exhibition lets you immerse yourself in two very different worlds and is definitely worth a visit.
Cover picture © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Fabian Fröhlich
Christ child © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst / Antje Voigt
Akuaba © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum / Claudia Obrocki