A guest contribution
By Martin Wimmer & Max Kaplan 30.11.2022 | 5 minutes reading time
What do you have in your collection? Why do you want to digitize it? How exactly do you do that? What’s in it for us? Probably every museum knows these questions. With this healthy curiosity, visitors and users of exhibitions and collections make museum employees ponder. How can you answer such complex questions quickly? Quite simply: with short explanatory films.
Collection Discovery and Development
at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin has taken on the challenge of providing clear answers to such fundamental questions. We are not only busy processing our diverse collections so that they meet the latest standards and can continue to be used for science. We also think it is important to show which concrete processes and workflows take place “behind the scenes”, what they contain and what benefit they bring our users in the long term.
Therefore, our explanatory videos are aimed at everyone who is interested in our work or in science in general. Since the MfN Berlin is a research museum, we would like to bring the aspect of “research” closer to our audience. What exactly do we mean by “research”? For example, that we index and develop our collections. We check the conservatory condition of the individual collection objects, we find ways of preserving them better, and we digitize them. Every object is a data medium – and data means information and knowledge. This knowledge should be available to all people around the world. You should be able to access it to find answers or ask new questions, to do research or to get creative. Sounds a bit vague? This is exactly where our explanatory videos come into play.
So far, we have created
five short videos
, we explained in an intro video what makes the MfN Berlin special as a research museum and mentioned highlights such as the
or the snail scanner. The
dealt with the individual steps involved in opening up the collection; that the objects are conserved and provided with an ID; that we record, save, check and publish their data digitally, for example via our
. In the
, we showed that thanks to the indexing, users can get an initial overview of our collection objects with just a few clicks, without having to embark on a long journey, as it used to be the case in the past – in pre-digital times. While the
shows how users can actively participate in the museum’s knowledge production, the
shows how this knowledge is connected to other institutions.
We showed the first three films for the first time in May 2022 on the
. Two months later, visitors could watch the videos at the Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften in the mineral hall of the MfN. This was initially possible via a small kiosk with a touch screen, which interested users could operate independently to view the videos or photographs of the digitization process or to immerse themselves in the data portal. Jens Dobberthin and Jasper Funk-Smit developed this installation. The clips have since been published on YouTube. They are also communicated via other social media.
How exactly were the films made? The project leaders of the Collection Discovery and Development formed a team with the associated application lab
Mediasphere for Nature
. The two student assistants, Max Kaplan and Martin Wimmer, led by Dr. Jana Hoffmann and in close cooperation with Tina Schneider and Jens Dobberthin, developed texts as a basis for the videos, created videos via the provider Simpleshow and used graphics from Christine Oymann. Based on the texts, storyboards could easily be created in the web browser on Simpleshow, which then was adapted as desired. It was also possible for us to upload external graphics and record the voice-over ourselves. It was important to develop a common thread for each film: What is the initial question? What problem do we want to address and what answer do we give? Where is the wow factor for the viewers? How to wrap everything up in elegant, understandable language?
When creating the videos, it was important to develop effective and entertaining imagery. By hand-sourcing all graphics from Christine Oymann, we gave the videos a consistent artistic style, an appealing combination of infographic and lively cartoon. With these graphics, we constructed three-dimensional scenes. Each image should appear spatial and all graphics should be in a meaningful relationship to one another that is understandable at first glance. Instead of simply putting them in the picture one after the other, we built a space, a presentation room, we recreated what was happening on computer screens or put the drawn Museum für Naturkunde in an open window just a few steps from home. This is how the explanatory videos became real explanatory films.