Monday, 18 January 2016

IS SEEING BELIEVING? ON THE ADVENTURE(S) OF IMAX IN THE MUSEUM

MUSEUM MONDAYS

BY: MAYA DONKERS

As the light rain turned to downpour, visitors ran to join the line-up forming inside the Royal BC Museum. It was 3-days until Christmas, and the next showing of The Polar Express in IMAX was set to begin in 30 minutes.

Welcome back to Museum Mondays, Musing’s readers! Our first week back in the MMSt classrooms were filled with the chatter of students reminiscing about the holidays and the museums that they visited. Much to my (secret) humiliation, the only museum I visited over the winter break was the Royal BC Museum.

But wait - the RBCM is certainly a museum, and isn't it a great one to visit? Not when the only reason I went to the museum was to see The Polar Express in IMAX.

Do you believe? Still from The Polar Express. (Source).

The emergence of IMAX as a form of scientific spectacle has been said to be more than “smart marketing” for science centres and museums. According to Dr. Joanna Ploeger, “To provide science as entertainment can be to promote a seductive yet distancing rhetoric for relations between science and society… it packages science as an object for the pleasure of paying audiences.” Although IMAX was placed in museums to contribute to the development of science education, the trouble remains that if a museum or science centre relies on IMAX to build patronage, it can ultimately produce spectators rather than participants within the greater museum context. 

Does IMAX in the museum exist to educate or to entertain? In recent years, IMAX has created desire for the museum as a destination for entertainment by playing major blockbuster films. In my opinion, here-in-lies the question: is IMAX attracting a museum-invested audience or a movie-going crowd? 

IMAX at the RBCM. (Source).

Here is what is currently on show at IMAX:


1. Spectre

2. Bears

3. Antartica

4. Pandas

5. Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey

6. Alaska: Spirit of the Wild

7. Van Gogh

Coming soon:


1. Humpback Whales

2. Galapagos

3. America Wild

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

IMAX's four faces of 'edutainment'. (Source).

Here is what is currently on exhibition at RBCM:


1. Wildlife Photographer of the Year

2. Our Living Languages

3. Permanent Galleries

Coming soon:


1. Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age

2. British Columbia’s Species at Risk

3. Permanent Galleries


Join this admission line for museum-entrance only. (Source).

Do you see any crossover(s) between IMAX showings and the exhibitions?

IMAX might be an "immersive" technology, but that does not mean its interactive. In fact, it has been argued as being nothing more than a passive experience for most viewers. As the IMAX experience requires no actual engagement with the given subject of the film, I suggest that there is little difference between seeing Antartica or Spectre, since the viewer remains as removed from the nature film as the blockbuster.

The IMAX Victoria webpage describes the movie-going experience as, “You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn while being entertained.” Although this seems to be the key feature of IMAX, I remain unconvinced that visitors to IMAX are also encouraged to be active participants to the museum.

I don’t have any answers to my musings, I leave that up to your thoughts on the topic in the ‘comments’ section below. All I know is that I waited in line for a sold-out show of The Polar Express, while a total of five visitors walked up to the empty admissions desk to purchase entrance into the museum.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Maya, I always enjoy reading your blog as they provoke our own musings. The last few items I visited the RBCM was to attend a show at Imax, both for a Hollywood Block buster and to see a National Geographic showing.Perhaps one day I will go to see both -an Imax show and a new exhibit. Ultimately I suppose both venues aim to compliment the other which should ideally lead to both being well attended. However the blockbusters are a definite crowd pleasure and tend to have a far greater audience.I'd be interested in reading what the Museum's take is and how they evaluate attendance and cross-over interest. Great blog to start the New Year. Museums provide an invaluable insight into history and culture. The RBCM has shown ome amazing exhibits over the years. Will the showing of Star wars show an increase in museum ticket sales? I wonder..
    M

    ReplyDelete