When it opened in 1981, it was the Telephone Museum. 26 years later it metamorphosed into the Telecommunication Museum. Now, 13 years after the Rio de Janeiro institution set the impact of mobile and telecommunications in curated stone, it’s looking forward again. Musehum of Communications and Humanities, as it’s now called, utilizes modern technologies including VR and IoT to offer an interactive journey into the past, present and future of communication.

The museum, redesigned by Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary studio Cactus for Brazilian telecommunications company Oi, has, for its third life, been positioned as a place for connectivity and engagement – a wise move for the survival of such an institution that depends on an industry that’s so rapidly changing. To execute the redesign, the team at Cactus studied Narratives for the Museum Future, a 2019 survey conducted by Oi and Consumoteca. The survey found that the majority of museum visitors prefer technological tools to enhance and personalize their visit and that that 50 per cent of respondents only visit a museum once.

Ever-changing interpersonal installations developed by Cactus are a direct response to these findings. One – the Cabinet of Curiosities – showcases the 400-item-plus reserve collection of the museum. A visual display of the evolution of communication, visitors can study candlestick phones to early cell phones, walking through the ‘cabinet’, learning more through interactive touch screens. Another feature is Folds of Time, a VR experience that invites guests to virtually work a switchboard and listen in on historical stories. The Wheel, a mirror-and-light room, visualizes the importance of human connection, and a selfie station makes guests a part of the museum by digitally rendering participant images on the walls.

‘The public is an active collaborator in the museum,’ explains Roberto Guimarães, Oi Futuro's executive culture manager, ‘Because communication truly is the exchange of affections, knowledge and information, and people are the protagonists of these processes. It is the human that gives meaning to technology,’