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  • Writer's pictureLivi Adu

How is Artificial Intelligence going to change the Museum Sector?

Discovering a Whole New Era: Exploring Culture and Heritage Through Artificial Intelligence

In our fast-paced world, AI is reshaping museums, where art, culture, and tech converge. Picture walking through a museum, and an artefact comes alive, sharing its story. That's the AI-driven future. AI isn't just a buzzword; it's a portal to rediscover our shared heritage. It transforms engagement, ensures inclusivity, and challenges old narratives. Museums globally embrace AI, opening doors and illuminating traditions. Let's explore this thrilling journey into cultural institutions together.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the fusion of computer science and robust datasets to enable problem-solving. It encompasses machine learning and deep learning, sub-fields often associated with AI, both relying on algorithms to create expert systems for predictions or classifications based on input data. At its heart, AI is like when computers team up with lots of information to solve problems. Think of it as a computer wizard that uses special rules to make smart predictions or sort things out based on what it knows from all that information.

AI has been transforming various industries, from healthcare to transportation, and now it is poised to make its mark on the museum sector. Picture this dynamic technology breathing new life into the world of museums. AI, with its prowess in analyzing vast datasets, recognizing patterns, and understanding human behaviour, is set to revolutionize the museum sector. It's not just a leap; it's a transformation that promises personalized museum tours tailored precisely to your interests, all thanks to AI's data-crunching prowess. This not only enhances the visitor experience but also allows museums to better understand their audience and tailor exhibits accordingly.

a head half is human and half a cybernetic head with blue wires in the shape of the human head and a blue light where they eye is.
Adobe Firefly's AI self-portrait. Is this how it 'sees' itself? Or is that what it imagines we think it looks like?

Opportunities for AI in showcasing culture

The potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform the museum sector is nothing short of breathtaking. It's akin to giving museums a turbocharged engine to navigate the future of cultural heritage. While some may initially view AI with skepticism, fearing it might disrupt our rich tapestry of traditions, I'm here to tell you that AI is, in fact, a powerful guardian of our shared legacy. It has emerged as the ultimate strategic partner for cultural organizations, a trusted advisor seamlessly integrating data into daily operations and illuminating organizational strategies. Imagine an AI that could help archaeologists decipher ancient scripts, unveiling the secrets of lost languages, and shedding light on artefacts from forgotten civilisations. However, AI's impact extends far beyond the realm of historical mysteries.

Education experiences are undergoing a transformation too, with AI serving as the ultimate guide. It facilitates the sharing of cultural heritage knowledge, making it universally accessible through its adaptive and personalized features. This educational revolution is not just confined to museum walls. AI's influence extends to marketing efforts, offering the potential to amplify the reach of museums, secure valuable sponsorships, and optimize their online presence. AI is turning promotional endeavours into a breeze by streamlining content creation, from image enhancement to SEO optimization. AI can also erase geographical boundaries, inviting individuals from across the globe to connect with art and culture. It powers chatbots and voice assistants that transform museum visits into captivating and interactive adventures, making learning an irresistible pursuit.

AI's true magic lies in inclusivity, revolutionizing audience engagement through interactive exhibits and personalized experiences tailored to diverse abilities. It stands as the architect of accessibility and equity, demolishing barriers that once limited engagement for individuals with disabilities. The integration of AI into museums is an exciting journey that promises a future where art, culture, and history become more accessible and engaging than ever before. It's about wholeheartedly embracing transformative possibilities, navigating uncharted territories, and unlocking boundless creativity and knowledge. As this technology rapidly advances, the museum sector must embrace these transformative possibilities to unlock new dimensions of creativity and knowledge. It's a future where art, culture, and history become more accessible and engaging than ever before.

A beautiful woman with brown skin. she is wearing a marron beanie hat and knitted jumper. She is looking at a cabinet in a museum. Cabinet is filled with assorted gold jewellery with interpretation panels.
Imagine being able to experience this exhibit if you were visually impaired. what could you do, as a museum professional, to make this exhibit engaging for these visitors?

Who is using AI in the heritage sector?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

In the world of museums, AI is revolutionizing the way we work with our collections. Take the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for example, uses AI to enhance visitor experiences and to help with conservation efforts. The Met has embraced AI to enrich its collection. Through the artful use of machine learning, curators at the Met now possess a digital magnifying glass, revealing intricate visual patterns and hidden connections within their extensive artistic archives. These newfound insights breathe fresh life into the understanding of art movements and their interplay with individual pieces, once concealed in obscurity. The Met has ventured into uncharted territory, embracing open access and AI through collaborations with luminaries like Microsoft and MIT. This synergy has yielded a hackathon, birthing five remarkable AI prototypes, including the impressive Art Explorer. This AI marvel enriches the user experience by revealing visually akin artworks, refining tagging through object detection, and weaving artist biographies into a captivating tapestry. A network graph unfolds, inviting art enthusiasts to unearth long-dormant visual connections. The potential to make The Met's art collection accessible and enthralling online is nothing short of extraordinary, underscoring AI's limitless

creative potential in the art world. Feel free to explore the Met's Art collection online now.

Screenshot of The Met Collection website
Screenshot of The Met Collection art database website. © 2000–2023 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Miraikan in Tokyo

Another intriguing case study in AI integration comes from Japan, Miraikan - The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo's efforts to enhance accessibility for visitors with visual and auditory impairments. Central to this endeavor is the remarkable "AI Suitcase," a navigational robot meticulously designed to cater to individuals with visual impairments. Ingeniously housed within a compact, carry-on-sized suitcase, this technological marvel is equipped with sensors reminiscent of those found in autonomous vehicles. Its purpose? To adeptly guide users through predefined areas within the museum, deftly circumventing obstacles and enhancing the overall user experience by reading exhibit explanations aloud. While the primary objective of Miraikan is to augment accessibility within their museum, their aspirations reach far beyond their own walls. Their pioneering work with the AI Suitcase serves as a visionary template for the broader application of such technology in urban environments. By artfully showcasing the symbiosis of humanity and cutting-edge technology, they hope to ignite essential dialogues about how cities can seamlessly adapt to accommodate these innovations. In envisioning a future where technology bridges gaps and fosters inclusivity, Miraikan is pioneering the way for a more accessible and equitable world. I have never been to this museum but, I would love to. If you have visited I would love to hear about your experiences, feel free to comment on this post below.

Screenshot of Miraikan's website
Screenshot of Miraikan's website © Miraikan - The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

Ithaca, international collaboration between Athens, Venice and Oxford

Ever heard of Ithaca? It's not just a Greek island; it's an AI software rewriting history books. Ithaca, a pioneering deep neural network, is revolutionizing epigraphy, restoring, attributing, and dating ancient Greek inscriptions. Deciphering and dating these inscriptions has long challenged historians, but Ithaca achieves remarkable results, boasting a 62% accuracy rate in restoring damaged texts—a significant leap from the 25% accuracy achieved by historians alone. Furthermore, it enhances collaboration between historians and AI, promising a brighter future for epigraphic research. This innovative tool sets new standards for digital epigraphy, emphasizing the importance of cooperation between humans and machine learning in unlocking ancient texts' secrets. This breakthrough opens the door to the development of more AIs for deciphering lost languages, enabling scholars to unlock hidden secrets in valuable artifacts. AI's potential in cultural preservation and education extends beyond simulations and translations. Its data analysis abilities reveal previously unseen patterns and connections across different cultures and time periods, shedding light on shared experiences and influences. AI also aids in restoring damaged artifacts. If you have Ancient Greek text that needs translation, try this website: link to Ithaca.

Screenshot of Ithaca's website
Screenshot of Ithaca's website. © 2022 DeepMind & Ithaca team.

Towards a National Collection in the UK

AI isn't just about solving puzzles; it's rewriting the rules of engagement for museums. Towards a National Collection is revolutionizing the way we engage with cultural heritage, and at its core lies the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Through extensive audience research, AI algorithms analyze user preferences and motivations, allowing for a personalized presentation of heritage collections tailored to individual interests. Moreover, AI-driven enhancements within the project's web maps and interfaces facilitate seamless navigation and exploration of heritage items. Machine learning models suggest related content based on user interactions, while AI-powered virtual assistants provide real-time assistance. By harnessing AI, National Collections democratises access to cultural heritage and offers a more interactive, user-centric experience, ushering in a new era of heritage engagement. For more details, visit the project's website:

Screenshot of Towards a National Collection discovery projects page.
Screenshot of Towards a National Collection discovery projects page. Funded by UKRI.

What are the challenges and limitations of AI?

In our ever-evolving world of museums, the infusion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) brings both excitement and reflection. We're captivated by AI's potential to elevate our cultural institutions, but it's equally crucial to recognize and navigate its challenges. Privacy and data protection stand as primary concerns in the AI-driven museum landscape. As we collect immense volumes of visitor data using AI-powered technologies, safeguarding this information and preserving privacy becomes paramount. With GDPR in play, we tread carefully, balancing personalized visitor experiences and data protection. Implementing robust encryption protocols and stringent access controls is a key step toward securing sensitive visitor data.

Yet, another quandary emerges in the realm of AI-based decision-making. While swift at analyzing vast datasets, machines lack human intuition and contextual awareness. This presents a challenge in areas like curatorial judgments, where human subjectivity holds sway. Moreover, AI can inadvertently perpetuate biases present in its training data, potentially resulting in biased outputs that marginalize specific groups. Collaboration is paramount to harness AI's potential while addressing its challenges fully. Museum professionals, tech experts, and policymakers must unite to establish ethical guidelines and ensure compliance with data protection regulations. Doing so empowers AI to enrich our cultural heritage without compromising our values or jeopardizing visitor privacy. In my upcoming blog posts, I'll delve deeper into this fascinating journey of AI in museums, exploring its boundless possibilities and the responsible path we must tread.

a little cute white humanoid robot holding a tablet
Will robots be the our new co-workers?

Conclusion: AI and the future of museums

We should embrace these opportunities, not fear them. With responsible AI integration and collaborative efforts with human experts, we'll weave an even richer tapestry of our shared human history for generations to come. Although we're not without challenges, like navigating the ethical nuances and ensuring human involvement, AI has left an indelible mark on museums worldwide. Picture this: a future where you step into a museum, and AI-powered voice assistants greet you, unveiling the secrets of each artwork with historical insights and artistic depth. As you wander, AI algorithms suggest new artistic discoveries based on your unique interests, making every visit an adventure. But the wonders of AI don't stop there; it's about accessibility too! Imagine language barriers vanishing, thanks to instant translations via wearable devices or mobile apps. No matter your native tongue, you'll connect deeply with the art. The future of our museums is an exhilarating blend of tradition and innovation. By harnessing these technologies responsibly and collaboratively with human experts, we can ensure that future generations inherit a richer tapestry of collective human history.

a human hand shaking a robotic hand
lets make AI our new work partners and step into the future together




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