Enhancing the Authentic Object: Mineral landscapes and the Enlightened Eye.

Jason Cleverly, Falmouth University, UK

There is a growing interest amongst artists, curators and designers in devising new multimedia assemblies to enhance engagement with museum objects and collections. Objects can be designed, enriched or re-assessed through networked digital technologies, enabling interaction, participation and collaboration. Combining objects and digital connectivity presents design challenges and opportunities for innovative responses that allow users to create and curate their own experiences.
Despite this multivalent discourse over object meanings, museums themselves are concerned with signalling an authenticity in objects. The use of online databases and digital simulacra, allow the object to be extricated from the museum context to lead multiple existences. However far from depleting the auratic embodiment of the object, this distribution enhances authenticity, increasing virtuality creates a demand for a counterpoint in and from the material object. (Witcomb 1997)
The Enlightened Eye is a museum interactive built and designed by the author to enhance visitor experience of mineral specimens. Mineral samples can be closely examined by a digital microscope, a touch-screen interface, allows visitors to annotate and select, creating unique drawn responses that can be reviewed and shared online.The styling is an evocation of the camera obscura and the orrery. The digital/tangible assembly conforms to a programme of aesthetic affordance, to support memorable interactions, by inviting virtual and material responses, the Enlightened Eye enhances both the material authenticity of objects under scrutiny and expands visitor experience.
This paper considers comparative initiatives, evaluates the performance of the Enlightened Eye, reports on located visitor behavior, analysis and implications. Close evaluation reveals the situated design is well navigated, however visits to the online gallery of responsive drawings appear less so, revealing a continued interest in the authentic object.

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