Art Gallery Transforming Museum Experience with Augmented Reality Exhibition

An Ontario art gallery believes augmented reality will transform a visitor’s experience.

Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound has a new exhibit called “Betwixt & Between: An Untold Tom Thomson Story,” which the venue describes as “a multi-faceted, fully immersive, interactive exhibition designed to tell the story of Canadian artist Tom Thomson,” who was an iconic Canadian landscape artist more than a century ago.

Organizers say the project was five years in the making.

“When was the last time you saw an exhibit that you can explore away from the installation via a book or scavenger hunt?” asks Wil McReynolds, director at Augmented Marketing. “I can’t think of one at all.”

This project is a prototype of an augmented reality exhibition, providing opportunities to engage with both established younger audiences and non-traditional gallery audiences, according to McReynolds, who likened the concept to a globally popular mobile game.

“There are three modes of play: Gallery, Book, and Hunt. It is Pokémon Go, except grounded in real life with historical information and the ability to win real world items,” he says. “This has never been done before.”

The app that was developed by Augmented Marketing is fully integrated with the exhibition.

“The app makes it so that all generations can participate in the exhibit at a whole new level of engagement,” says Virginia Eichhorn, chief curator at the TOM. “Having multiple modes of play allows us as storytellers to expand on the story and transcend the physical exhibit by taking participants to locations in the story.”

Betwixt & Between hopes to transcends physical barriers by harnessing technology “to gain insight into the past that was previously inaccessible,” which Eichhorn says “creates a bridge between the past and the future,” providing opportunities to unite generations.

The project was developed by artists Joel Richardson, Germinio Pio Politi and Nyle Johnston, after their discovery of the journal of George Nadjiwon, which reveals a previously undocumented relationship between Nadjiwon and Thomson.

At the closing of the exhibition, McReynolds says that Betwixt & Between will launch a virtual 3D version online for all to experience.