The Medium is the Message

2017, Archaeology Centre, University of Toronto, Science, Temporary Exhibit
anthropology, archaeology, indigenous interest, new media, sustainability, technology, University of Toronto, virtual reality
About This Project

Date: May 15 – 26, 2017

Partner: The Archaeology Centre, University of Toronto

Venue: Archaeology Building, 19 Russel St. – map

Project Members: Curtis Frederick and Dana Murray


The Medium is the Message will accompany the Theoretical Archaeological Group-North America conference, exploring how representational and interactive media condition and shape all dimensions of human cognition and social organization. Visitors will explore the history of archaeological thought and discover that archaeological research is an inherently mediated enterprise.


Given the partnership of this exhibition, the intended audience is specialized, primarily consisting of academics, theorists, and archaeological professionals. The exhibition will also be of interest for museum professionals and those that wish to learn more about the use of innovative technology in archaeological research and education.


The exhibition is located at the University of Toronto’s Archaeology Centre. The location of the accompanying conference influenced the decision to hold it there. Boasting a designated exhibition gallery, the Archaeology Centre is fully equipped to house and accommodate this technological exhibition.


The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto contributed to this exhibition throughout its development, providing research assistance, technological guidance, archaeological data and media, as well as financial support. The Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto and the Theoretical Archaeological Group-North America have provided the venue as well as assistance through sourcing equipment and an advertising campaign. Finally, the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto has also contributed to this exhibition by means of grant funding and museological guidance.


Planning for the Medium is the Message began in September 2016. The planning and research process took eight months, including negotiations between all partners involved. At the beginning of March 2017 we began to acquire and test the technological equipment necessary for the interactive exhibits and finalized exhibition logistics towards the end of the month. Editing and printing of the texts took place over four weeks in April. Once system testing was completed, installation took one day over the weekend leading up to the opening. The exhibition opened May 15, 2017. It closed on May 26, 2017.


The Medium is the Message included two virtual reality experiences, the HTC Vive and VRKiX Virtual Reality Headset, a touch-based interactive, archaeological material, and six watercolour paintings. The VRKiX Virtual Reality Headset was accompanied by a looped video showing a pre-recorded experience of the virtual reality component. The footage for the VRKiX Headset included 360° videos of excavation techniques captured and compiled by the GRAPE staff for future teaching purposes. The VRKiX Virtual Reality Headset was presented as a demonstration at set times during the exhibition, with the pre-recorded video played when the demonstration was not happening. The touch-based interactive used a projector to project a 3D-scanned image of large artefacts onto a plexiglass panel. Once projected, the viewer to manipulate the image’s orientation and zoom into the image for a closer look.


Marketing for the exhibition was done by the planning committee of the Theoretical Archaeological Group-North America conference, as it was included in the conference program and conference material. During the course of the exhibition, we facilitated demonstrations of the VRKiX Virtual Reality experience at set times. During the conference itself, representatives of the CRANE and GRAPE projects were present in person to be able to provide further information about the project.


We would like to thank all of our sponsors, but particularly the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations for enabling us to realize this project, for without their support this project would not have been possible. Many thanks to all of our partners, the professionals who shared their time, expertise and resources for the exhibition, and the staff and volunteers who ensured that the Medium is the Message became a reality.