Wednesday, 20 May 2015

TO BE INTERACTIVE OR NOT TO BE INTERACTIVE: COMPUTERIZED CANOEING

EXHIBITION REVIEW

BY: MALLORY HORRILL

Source: http://www.canoemuseum.ca
While visiting friends and family in Peterborough over the long weekend I squeezed in a visit to the Canadian Canoe Museum.

In all honesty the museum far exceeded my expectations. I drove into the parking lot of the institution assuming that I would enjoy my visit but thinking that as a smaller town museum the institution would be limited in gallery space and traditional in its interpretation. I am happy to say I was wrong. 

Opening Night of Exhibit
Source: http://www.canoemuseum.ca
The museum is quite expansive, boasting two sizable floors that take the visitor on a journey through Canadian history from the perspective of the canoe. The institution also has a number of impressive interactive sections including a Metis dress up activity and a live viewing of a canoe being constructed. 

Currently the museum is featuring the special exhibition ‘Skimming the Surface: The Unfolding Story of Sprint Paddling’. The exhibit details the Canadian history of competitive paddling (both canoe and kayak). ‘Skimming the Surface’ showcases notable Canadian athletes of the sport, such as Adam Van Koeverden, who most recently received a silver medal in sprint kayaking at the London Summer Olympics. 

Me on the Kayak Training Ergometer
Source: Mallory Horrill
The exhibit features two impressive interactive portions. The first is a kayak training ergometer, which allows the visitor to take part in a mock kayak race, through the use of an exercise machine and computer program. I blew my computerized opponents out of the water (pun intended) in this activity, however, I will say that I did not have the resistance on the machine set extremely high. 

Unfortunately, my hope of a career in sprint paddling was broken in the second interactive activity called ‘Tippy Kayak Challenge’. The user is intended to kayak along the machine without tipping over. This was not as easy as it sounds. The machine simulates the unruly nature of a vessel on the surface of the water and was therefore extremely prone to motion. In my multiple attempts, I only managed to make it half of the distance along the machine.

Relative on the 'Tippy Kayak Challenge'
Source: Mallory Horrill
Despite my lack of physical prowess in the exhibit, I enjoyed the interactive activities. I received a refresher on Canadian history, learned about a sport I knew little about and even got to try my hand at it. However, I did find myself wondering if the exciting presence of the interactive machines did not detract from the panels and artifacts on display. While I personally read the panels and examined the artifacts, I can’t help but wonder if every visitor did the same. 

What do you think of interactive exhibitions? Can you think of an instance when interactive display was employed really well?

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