Mélissa Mathieu

PRISM / CNRS, Université Aix-Marseille, France; mathieu@prism.cnrs.fr


In a context of “cultural democratization”, French museums have been innovating for many years in the field of mediation in favor of enlarged audiences (diverse and impeded). The “museology of emotions” proposes new ways to access knowledge through the senses and active participation. At the crossroads of new technologies and multimodality, scenarized and immersive devices emerge in which sound design has an important place. As a new auditorium, the museum environment takes on the possibilities of the medium and proposes new spaces, places and moments of listening: what do we listen to in the museum? To what extent does it change the way we experience collections? What listening situations can the museum offer? In the form of narration, ambiance or soundscape, between in situ sound recordings, fiction and archive extracts, sonography seems particularly adapted to the development of sensitive environments where emotions become the keys to a more intuitive understanding of the collections. The success of the museum experience depends on the harmony created between scientific discourse and sound accompaniment. The immersive tendency in a reconstituted environment will depend on the coherence of the choices made in terms of composition and writing (in situ sound recording, fiction mixed with archive extracts, acting, and so on), production and diffusion (dynamic binaural sound, headphones listening and so forth). However, despite everything, we can legitimately question the effectiveness of these systems in transmitting knowledge. Indeed, carried out by service providers responding to calls for tender by museums, these devices are often part of an empirical knowledge inspired by expertise in cultural marketing and design. These disciplines encourage the development of technologies that are both close to the habits of cultural consumption (networks, interfaces, etc.) and lead to innovations (new generations of headsets and audio guides, etc.) and new paradigms (multiverse, NFTs, etc.). The improvement (performance, ergonomics, aesthetics, etc.) of immersive technologies associated with a miniaturization of tools, the optimal integration of interfaces in the exhibition scenography as well as the reorganization of sound spaces is thus intended to respond to the stakes of maximizing the visitor’s experience in a progressive logic. However, as Lortat-Jacob reminds us, the experience of listening in the museum is a human science above all before being an exact science (acoustics), and “[…] every man selects what he wants to hear-or what his culture has taught him to hear”. Through a node properly “visio-phonic”, the meeting between visual information and aesthetically and formally coherent sound environments allows to reinforce the narrative to which the experience adds in subjectivity. Thus, the trivialization of the media proposals in the museum called “immersive” or “interactive” is proportional to the conceptual vagueness surrounding these same terminologies. During these conferences, we will present an experimental protocol developed for the new Musée National de la Marine (Paris) whose objective is to determine the effectiveness of the immersive sound device created by Unendliche Studio for the young public.

Keywords: Museum Experience; Immersion; Listen.


Mélissa Mathieu holds a degree in Art History and Archaeology (Bac+3) as well as in Musicology (Bac+5) at the University of Aix-Marseille. During her studies, she did two internships, the first in an art gallery, the second in the Locus Sonus sound art research unit (ESSAix). In 2020, she is an exhibition design assistant at the Musée des Transmissions (Cesson-Sévigné) as part of an Army-Youth contract. She worked on the sound project of the new permanent exhibition. After obtaining a “President” contract for interdisciplinarity at the University of Aix-Marseille, she began a thesis on the subject of sonography for museums. In addition, she leads actions within her laboratory as a representative of the doctoral students: creation of a podcast, organization of a study day for the European Days of Archaeology 2023. In parallel to her university studies, she is studying classical music at the conservatory of Aix-en-Provence (accordion, singing).