The Lens

ACMI, Australia’s national museum of screen culture, opened its doors this year following a $40 million AUD redevelopment. The ambitious multiplatform museum delivers all-new spaces and galleries supported by world-leading technologies. Central to this new tech is The Lens: a free handheld device inspired by the Viewmaster reels of our childhoods. Visitors use it in the building to tap and collect objects throughout the museum’s permanent exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image. Visitors end their visit by placing their Lens on The Constellation, a large-scale interactive screen that brings the objects visitors collected to life. The Constellation shows a human curated digital map, revealing unexpected connections branching off every object that visitors have collected on their Lens. Like “six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” each object visitors collect connects with up to 10 additional artworks, videogames and films, most of which are not on display in our galleries but exist online. These connections draw out short narratives from our expert staff explaining why each item is connected to the next, in often surprising ways. Visitors can then take their Lens home with them enter a unique code into that reveals further content about each of the objects and media they tapped on during their visit and allows them to revisit their personalised Constellations.

The Lens was designed by ACMI and Second Story (2018–2020). Production and design for sustainability was done by Swinburne University’s Centre for Design Innovation (2019-2021). The Lens interacts with hardware developed by ACMI and Second Story, produced and installed by Lumicom (2020–2021). Very early concepts and prototypes for the Lens were developed by ACMI with Tellart (2015) and Art of Fact (2016); and ACMI’s Lost Map Of Wonderland which prototyped the idea of a take-home physical interactive device was developed by Sandpit (2018).

The post-visit web experience was developed by ACMI & Liquorice (2020-2021), with content developed by ACMI’s curatorial, interpretation and collection teams.