The Memories of Carvalhal's Palace project
Memories of Carvalhal’s Palace is a project developed by a multidisciplinary team at the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute, in partnership with the Natural History Museum of Funchal. Its goal is to study the engagement of teenage audiences in museum contexts, as this generation is identified as an audience group that is often excluded from a museum’s curatorial strategies and appears to be generally disinterested in what museums might offer. While museums often provide guided tours for children and adults, very little is designed for the teenager generation, and so, it is challenging for a museum to remain interesting and relevant to a young tech-savvy audience.
Through initial qualitative analysis, our findings suggested that teenagers value gamification and storytelling when thinking about enjoyable museum tours. Based on on these findings, we designed two experiences targeted for teenagers to better understand their preferences and needs in museum contexts. These experiences are set in the same museum and based on the same content, although presented in distinct formats – one mainly game-driven (Haunted Encounters), while the other is story-driven (Turning Point).
The Museum and the Carvalhal family
Created by the Municipality of Funchal in 1929 and officially inaugurated in October 5th of 1933, the Natural History Museum of Funchal is currently the oldest active museum in the archipelago of Madeira. Its collection boasts over 41 thousand exemplars of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and plants that represent the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo as best as possible. It also includes an Aquarium with 15 exhibition tanks, as well as a Garden with over 500m² dedicated to Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. The Municipal Library and the Regional Archive were once part of the museum, although nowadays they are no longer located here.
The building that houses the museum used to be the Palace of the Carvalhal family, an illustrious wealthy family that resided in Madeira. The 1st Count of Carvalhal was a politician and businessman, that was once the biggest agriculltural landowner of the region. His influence extended to many parts of the Island, and can still be seen nowadays, with building and roads connected to his heritage. He died in 1837, leaving no descendants. The family went into decline in the following years, after his nephew took place as the 2nd Count of Carvalhal and spent most of the family’s fortune. The Palace was consequently used for many other purposes, such as a Hotel and a school, before finally becoming the museum that we know well today.