institution: J. Paul Getty Museum
category: Exhibition Media or Experience
Getty Villa Digital Labels
Gems and Magic: An Ultra High Resolution Virtual Display Case For The Getty Villa Reinstallation
In January 2017, the Getty Museum began a reinstallation of the Getty Villa to emphasize the chronology and culture of its artwork, prompting a new digital experience opportunity. The Museum has an extensive collection of small ancient objects (rings, gemstones, coins, etc) spanning the Etruscan, Greek, and Roman cultures from the Bronze Age through the Late Roman Empire (ca. 3,000 B.C.–A.D. 600). It also has one of the world’s most advanced imaging laboratories that recently captured object details at a level impossible to perceive behind a display case.
The Problem: Some showcases in the reinstalled Getty Villa were to be closely packed with small, hard to see objects, such as gems, jewelry, and coins, and it was undesirable to crowd the objects with interpretive text. The Proposal: A digital addition to the cases that would allow guests to view digital magnifications of the objects and provide a location to display label and interpretive text outside of the showcases.
To showcase these objects and enhance traditional glass display cases, the Getty partnered with Guidekick to reimagine and launch a digital label for each case. Each case has an embedded iPad Pro (12.9”) allowing visitors to intuitively zoom in on objects, revealing details previously hidden to the naked eye.
The product was developed with the game engine Unity. Unity excels at handling visual assets and building native experiences cross-platform. One of the most complex tasks of development was creating the deep zoom tiling solution. Many of the images are huge, around 7K x 7K in resolution, and needed to be managed to run performantly on devices with limited memory. One “shell” app was created that can pull in different asset bundles and case layouts over the air. This allows us to iterate on case layouts and update it as objects are rotated. The kiosk software is highly scalable, simple to deploy and update, and is maintained over the cloud.
The project had a very high attention to detail in UI / UX. A detailed and functional click through mock-up went through user testing and about 10 revisions before engineering work started.
Sample analytics for the first digital labels deployed revealed the average user interacts with 50% of the objects (there are 10 to 40 objects per label). Further evaluation of the labels is being planned. The digital labels are continuing to be installed in the Villa galleries, with the reinstallation completing and launching in April 2018.
You can view a demo of the digital label system here: