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National Museum of Natural History Digital Signage

Page history last edited by kmenach1@johnshopkins.edu 11 years, 7 months ago

Project Title:  National Museum of Natural History Wayfinding and Information Digital Signage


Museum/ Institution: National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) - Washington, D.C.


Program Created: September 2008   


Program URL:  




Project Image(s):




Media Source(s)/Credit(s):

All images from the DSE (Digital Signage Expo) Case Study on the Project. Taken on 3/3/11 from http://www.digitalsignageexpo.net/DNNArticleMaster/DNNArticleView/tabid/78/ArticleId/1258/CASE-STUDY-Interactive-Digital-Signage-Alleviates-a-National-Museum-s-Massive-Communications-Problem.aspx


Program Description:

The National Museum of Natural History was designed in 1915 to serve 500,000 visitors annually, it now serves over 8 million annually. Those kinds of numbers along with constantly changing event and program information meant a massive communications problem with their visitors. So the museum decided to upgrade to digital signage. The new content-rich digital signage, which was designed to blend in with the museum's existing architecture, stands along with the museums older static signage. The main goals of the new signage are to communicate the most up-to-date museum program and event information to visitors and help them navigate the museum. This is done with multiple LCD screen displays on the walls as well as free-standing kiosks. In locations without electricity a non-digital version of the kiosk has been installed. A custom Content Management System (CMS) was designed for the museum so that updates can be made by museum staff immediately when needed.


Secondary review/critique:

I was unable to visit the NMNH firsthand, but found a very thorough case study through the Digital Signage Expo website - http://www.digitalsignageexpo.net/DNNArticleMaster/DNNArticleView/tabid/78/ArticleId/1258/CASE-STUDY-Interactive-Digital-Signage-Alleviates-a-National-Museum-s-Massive-Communications-Problem.aspx


The photos they provide of the signage do tell a lot of the story. They seem thoughtfully designed and integrate well with their surroundings. Research and evaluations were done on traffic patterns and the most commonly asked questions in order to determine what the signage needed to make clear and where it would be best located. They also took the time to find other "areas of interest" in the museum that the signs could highlight. The color choices and graphics appear eye-catching and user friendly. The fact that they placed screens behind information desks (so you can still talk to someone) and then repeated the look in the free-standing kiosk makes sense and seems like a good way to appeal to a range of visitors very quickly. I was amused by the mention of several "static" kiosks that had to be created when they couldn't get them wired for electricity because of their location - I suspect those displays aren't updated quite as regularly!


The fact that the NMNH worked with not one, but four outside firms makes me wish I knew more about the inner workings of this project (especially this week as we discuss project media management.) It sounds like each company had a clear specialty, but it still must have been an organizational nightmare. However, considering the project won a MUSE Award, it seems like a success.  


Technologies incorporated:

LCD displays, servers, Content Management System (CMS) designed for the museum to be able to update the signs, custom animation.


Internally or externally produced:

Internally produced content with four outside contributors:  OpenEye, Launch Dynamic Media, 3M Digital Signage and FITCH. 


Entry Contributor and Date: 

Krista Menacher :: 3/3/11 


Related projects: 


Comments (1)

kmenach1@johnshopkins.edu said

at 6:46 pm on Mar 4, 2011

OH NO! I just realized this was reviewed weeks ago by Emma! I saw Smithsonian in the title not National Museum of Natural History!!!

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