The earliest written explanations of exhibits on display in a museum date back as far as 530 BCE, when clay cylinders in different languages were used to accompany the artifacts in the Ennigaldi-Nanna’s museum of Ancient Ur. For centuries now most museums have kept this approach to displaying an exhibit, printing and reprinting gallery cards to let museum visitors into the secret of the ever-changing objects on display.
And while it might not seem so, the simple paper label is anything but simple to craft, with significant labor and cost involved.
Of a group of museums recently surveyed, 66% print 200 plus labels per year; 33% exceed 500 plus labels per year. All report an average cost of $70–$100 per label, which includes design and labor costs. In addition to being costly and time consuming for the curator to change, paper museum labels are almost always fixed in one language and font size at a time.
An editable, real time museum label
As the role of the museum slowly moves from a curator-led to an audience-led experience, the simple paper information card has increasingly been found lacking, contributing to a decrease in paid attendance in museums across the world.
In response, museum label-making techniques have begun to change and evolve with the times and with new technology. The ultimate goal of this evolution is simple: an editable, real-time digital label; one that is simply and clearly just a label, but can be updated remotely, in response to certain events.
And while in the past several prototypes of such a dynamic museum label had been tested, it was in 2007 already that museum practitioners believed the future of technology empowering museums to lie in the electronic paper option.
Built by museums, for museums: the AMLABEL Digital Gallery Display
And so, for over ten years, professionals from the museum industry worked together to address the ever changing advances in technology as it relates to museums. The result is a museum label that is exactly what the industry had been waiting for, the AMLABEL Digital Gallery Display developed on electronic paper.
Different from other digital displays, electronic paper mimics ink on paper, seamlessly blending into the background and offering museums the opportunity to provide visitors with a new kind of gallery experience.
Instant updates, language customization
The AMLABEL Digital Gallery Display runs on electronic paper display technology powered by Visionect. Through the use of existing Wi-Fi networks and a customized CMS platform designed from the ground up, the display allows museums to manage and display exhibition object content in real-time, without the cost or delay of printing paper labels.
Instantly displaying the most current information, the scrolling display, unlike a single printed card, holds as much or as little content as the curator desires. In addition, AMLABEL’s interactive touchscreen allows for complete language and font customization, providing all visitors with their choice of language from a multi-language index and the option of increasing the font size for the visually impaired.
The display comes in two sizes, 6’’ and 9.7’’. With a screen that adapts to the ambient light of its surroundings and an energy consumption 99% lower than traditional LCD screens, the AMLABEL functions for months without requiring a recharge. Battery-powered and completely cordless, it enables a drill-free installation, with little to no effect on the integrity of the gallery space.
Among the first museums in the world to try the e-label was the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with some twenty displays installed as part of the 2016 CORE Exhibition. See the AMLABEL in action here.
And as for future plans? Look for incorporated beacon technology which would allow the AMLABEL to offer generalized wayfinding, customized tours and a complete interactive visitor experience.