Non-Interactive Media

Method: Non-Interactive Media

Non-interactive media – or static media – engages audiences with the museum’s mission or collections through podcasts, video series, or other one-way media.  This method of distance learning is as opposed to interactive media like webinars or video field trips.  For non-interactive media today, we are going to focus on audio and video content, like a podcast or video.  Museums utilize these non-interactive media for two main reasons: to encourage in-person visits or to advance their institutional mission.


Who is the Audience?

This type of media can be tailored for any audience type and age group.  You can find lecture series for adults, family-friendly stories, how-to videos for all ages, and plenty of content for school groups.


Case Study 1: Story Time at the Met Podcast Series

The Metropolitan Museum of Art used to publish a family story time podcast series to encourage museum visits.  The series, Story Time at the Met, features a fairytale, fable, or legend told in an engaging, child-friendly way.  After the 5-minute story, the podcast ends by encouraging the listener to learn more by visiting a related exhibition at the Met.  For example, a story about Johnny Appleseed can be followed up with a visit to the Met to view “Cider Making” by William Sidney Mount.

"Cider Making" by William Sidney Mount at the Met

  “Cider Making” by William Sidney Mount at the Met  


Case Study 2: Voices on Antisemitism USHMM Podcast Series

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum publishes a monthly podcast series called Voices on Antisemitism, featuring scholars, authors, politicians, artists, and religious leaders, who reflect on the ways that antisemitism and hatred influence the world today.  Guests have included Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rabbi Lord Jonahan Sacks, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and they have spoken on such diverse topics as Jewish identity, anti-Zionism, interfaith relations, and the Holocaust on film.  The majority of the USHMM podcasts are designed to advance the museum’s mission “to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.”  Aside from naming the museum as the authors of the series, the podcast does not push listeners to visit the museum.  It is only on rare occasion that an episode relates to an exhibit, like their November 2013 podcast on The Power of Propaganda exhibit that is currently traveling.  I saw it last year at the Field Museum in Chicago and it was excellent.  You can see it at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, Ohio until March 15 and then at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis from April to September.


Podcasts can serve as valuable marketing and educational tools for museums, connecting the museum to audiences around the world, advancing their missions, and giving them name recognition for potential tourists.


Check out other Non-Interactive Museum Media

Face-to-Face podcast series, National Portrait Gallery

The Brain Scoop Youtube channel, The Field Museum

Handi-Hour Crafting Youtube series, Smithsonian American Art Museum


6 thoughts on “Non-Interactive Media

  1. Great advocacy for non-interactive media. Taking my students to the museums, I have to constantly remind them that the screens they are watching are not interactive and “swiping” or poking the screen isn’t going to change anything. Personally, I feel that more needs to be done to broadcast the podcast, if you will. They are such powerful learning tools that I feel aren’t being used enough.


  2. Totally agree with the comment above. A lot of kids have grown up with exposure to interactive media and not so much with the forms you discussed in the post. Just as an example, I was often assigned podcasts as homework for an undergraduate science class. While these specific ones were produced by NPR and not museums, I thought it was a really great way to expose us to the more current implications and practicality of a somewhat isolated topic, like genetics. They were interesting, upbeat, and hugely educational about the modern events of science! (I realize that might sound boring, but I swear they were cool!)


  3. I completely agree; museums need to do a better job of getting the word out about their podcasts and videos, especially the ones that do it well. I subscribe to the Voices on Antisemitism podcast, but for most museums, these resources are hard to find.

    Another problem that I came across was that many museums produce podcasts that are (in my opinion) too long. How long are you willing to listen to a podcast? The Field Museum used to publish a podcast series called “What the Fish?” which featured a panel of their scientists discussing the research they do at the Field Museum. The topics were always interesting and the panelists were clearly very engaged and excited about their work, but the episodes were all just under an hour long.

    Many museums also post videos on Youtube of visiting lecturers, which is a great way to increase their audience for special events and speakers. The problem I found is that many times, the speech was so long that the video has to be posted in multiple parts and museums are not always good at creating playlists of their videos for people to easily see what types of videos they are looking for. American Art does an excellent job of categorizing their videos, but they seem to be the exception to the rule.


  4. I thought this was a great post. Having looked at museum apps and specifically for interactiveness, this is great support for the other side of that. I also wanted to note that the British Museum is amazing with their online presence. I love the instagram posts that they do. Each post takes you through an exhibit bit by bit -they are slowly working through the whole museum! I was lucky enough to have the posts follow with my 7th grader’s curriculum, so I was often able to share a museum object from the British Museum that related to what they were learning that day. Great way to expose kids to museums!


  5. Erin, great topic! As someone who wasn’t really on board with the whole podcast thing until Serial (I’ve become addicted to it), I’m interested to see if there will be an increase in the audiences for podcasts. I’ve heard a lot about how people are saying that podcasts may be the appropriate forum for long-form, investigative journalism in today’s era of Twitter journalism. Perhaps Serial’s hyper-compelling, episodic format is something that museums can look to when presenting complex topics to their audiences. Something to think about, for sure.


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