National Museum of China uses technology to create a smart facility. Source: Shutterstock

National Museum of China uses technology to create a smart facility. Source: Shutterstock

Chinese museums use technology to give visitors an immersive experience

MOST MUSEUM visitors don’t expect technology to play a part in managing the facility or providing a more immersive experience — but China is raising the bar in this space.

At the recent Huawei Asia Pacific Innovation Day in Chengdu, China, National Museum of China Director of Data Management and Analysis Li Huabiao shed some light on the use of technology in the facility.

“In this age, the National Museum of China is a palace of artifacts and relics which provides a window into Chinese culture that dates back a few thousand years. Using technology, we hope to manage that well and provide a good experience to visitors.”

Li’s presentation at the Huawei conference was around creating a smart museum, a concept that it has been working with Huawei on since early 2018.

The most interesting thing that Li shared with Tech Wire Asia is that the National Museum of China has about 1.4 million artifacts and less than 100 staff, clearly indicating the role of technology in preserving artifacts and relics for today’s visitors and for future generations.

“Technology plays a massive role in the real-time management of artifacts. Sensors monitor artifact warehouses for temperature, pressure, humidity, and other conditions that make it possible for us to optimize the environmental conditions for each artifact or set of artifacts.”

According to Li, the museum uses RFID chips to tag artifacts and collect data, allowing the smart museum management software to automatically create work orders for staff, optimizing their time and efforts.

Of course, RFID and sensors in the museum’s internet of things (IoT) ecosystem play a significant role in how the museum manages the security of its artifacts as well — ensuring things are always in the right place in the palatial space, despite the limited workforce.

It’s important to note that a majority of the technologies currently in use at the museum, and those expected to be implemented in the near future, are enabled by a robust 5G infrastructure.

While Li is working closely with specialists of all kinds, including engineers at Huawei, to create a smart museum, he believes that visitors will benefit from the use of technology when it is used to bring artifacts and relics to life.

In the Wuhan Provincial Museum, for example, Huawei and China Mobile helped historians and museum administrators breathe new life into a 2,400-year-old bronze chime using 5G and virtual reality (VR).

Visitors were able to strike the Zenghouyi chime-bells, a treasure of the museum dating back to the Warring State Period (475-221 BC), in a virtual environment.

The chime, after excavation in 1978, has only been physically struck three times — making this VR experience a massive crowd pleaser and a major attraction for the museum.

Panoramic cameras were also installed to capture real-time videos of the chime, which were then transmitted via the 5G network to mobile applications and screens at the museum.

“With larger bandwidth and lower latency, the 5G network makes such live broadcasting of collections possible. It presents smoother videos and allows access to a greater number of viewers,” said Wuhan Provincial Museum Deputy Director Yang Lisheng.

According to local media, China owns 767,000 sites of immovable cultural relics and more than 100 million movable artifacts.

Further, the National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) believes that rapid rise in popularity of museums in the country has caused state officials to increase their number from 349 museums in 1978 to more than 5,000 in 2019.

Overall, in the coming months, Li expects to work on more innovations at the National Museum of China, using 5G artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT — and is currently finishing (big) data management, integration, and automation projects that lend themselves to the use of advanced technologies.

In the future, museums outside China are also expected to use these technologies to better preserve their artifacts and provide better experiences to users.