I had been a volunteer with the museum when it was formerly known as Singapore History Museum, so I thought I could act smart a bit and do a little tour-guiding which I haven't done for so long. But the museum has moved on with technology so much so that tour guides are becoming replaceable.
Now visitors at the Singapore History Gallery are issued a digital gadget known as the Companion. Put on the earphones and punch in the number as you bump into code numbers in the gallery. Want to know the story behind the artefacts? Punch in the code number that is shown next to them, and you will see text explanation on the LCD screen. Lost your way in the gallery? Just press the map button and it will even show your current location.
What I don't like about the device is its weight. If you are like constantly holding it up to read the descriptions, your arms will ache at the end of the tour. The number keys don't seem to be ergonomically placed, and there's just too much punching to be done if you really want to learn about every single story inside the gallery. Could they have made use of barcode scanner or even RFID technology?
It sure seems like a trend that museums are harnessing new technology to explain old stuff. While I am impressed with the use of technology, but I do feel a lack of human touch. You can have LCD screens showing pre-recorded smiling faces, but it's just not the same as a real tour guide bringing visitors around and making fun of William Farquhar's name. In fact you are not going to survive the Gallery without the Companion cos there's no printed descriptions for the exhibits, just code numbers.
Singapore will be celebrating International Museum Day 2009 from 23 May till 31 May.