Museum changes bring a modern touch to Fort Rucker
January 12, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Aviation Museum on Fort Rucker is integrating new information technology into exhibits to provide a better experience for visitors.
The changes coming to the museum are spearheaded by Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, according to Steve Maxham, museum director.
"The general came to us and wanted to do something to help us get better in the public dimension," said Maxham. "Something that would help us better present the collection to the public and he was really big on being able to infuse technology."
Part of this integration is adding digital screens and media devices to many of the exhibits in the museum. The museum also entered a contract to acquire a wireless network system in order to have the museum on its own network. This was the first step in integrating information technology into the museum exhibits, according to the director.
"What [the network] allows us to do is push more information out onto the exhibit floor to various stations, which is more than we can do with a label or photograph," said Maxham. "It gives us an added technological dimension that we didn't have before."
Currently there are eight stations in the building that are strictly digital signage. Patrons can walk up to certain exhibits in the museum, and instead of reading a photograph or a label, there is a large format television screen that rolls content relative to the subject of that particular exhibit.
"It's more than just photographs that we can put in front of the exhibit for people to see," said Maxham. "We now have photographs, moving images and archival footage that can be shown that we didn't have before, giving a deeper level of interpretation."
Along with the digital presentation that the museum has integrated into some exhibits, they have also integrated interactive touch screen media tied to exhibit of the four roles and missions of Army Aviation.
"The touch screens give the visitor access to more information if they wish to learn more," said the museum director. "They will have access to interviews with people in the branch and videos, both historic and current.
"That's the real advantage of these information technology upgrades," he said. "To be able to walk up and pop up a photograph on a 60-inch plasma screen as opposed to looking at an static photo on a wall."
The addition of quick response codes, barcodes that can be scanned and read by handheld devices, such as smart phones, in order to gain more information about what the code is pertaining to, onto every aircraft exhibit in the museum is another upgrade that is being implemented in its integration of information technology.
According to Maxham, visitors to the museum will be able to either use their own smart phones or be issued iPod Touch devices to scan the QR codes and gain more information on the particular exhibit.
"Our aircraft labels are very basic, showing only a few photographs," said the director. "The QR code allows us to go beyond that basic label for the person that wishes to gain more information on that specific aircraft.
"The QR codes will allow our aircraft labels to have a lot more depth for the visitor," he said. "When [visitors] scan the code, they will get an audio narration on the particular aircraft they are looking at, along with a slideshow that wouldn't otherwise be available."
Along with the implementation of QR codes in the effort to update the museum, it has also undergone some upgrades in its theater where the film, "The History of Army Aviation" is shown.
"The film was brought up to date to be more current," said Maxham, "and the museum staff created the space where the movie will be shown."
Some of the additions to the theater include: a three-decked floor, built in order to add stadium-style seating; 40-inch high-backed rocker chairs, added to provide better comfort, and a 7.1 surround sound system, which was installed to add to the experience, said Maxham.
"The theater room was previously used as a multipurpose room, but now is specifically the museum theater," he said.
With the changes that the museum has undergone and is continuing to undergo, Maxham says that the changes have been minimally invasive to museum goers.
"We didn't have to move aircraft around or build walls so it wasn't disruptive to our patrons at all," he said. "It was transparent to anyone coming through the museum and didn't affect our daily business, but it's not over.
"[These upgrades] set the standard for what we want to accomplish," said the museum director. "This is just creating the potential. The capacity for the server to hold information is huge. We will take what has been established and we'll be adding information to that every week for the next few months."