Award for QRator and the Grant Museum

By Claire S Ross, on 17 May 2012

Last night a contingent from UCLDHCASA and Museums and Public Engagement, headed down to the 10th Anniversary Museums and Heritage Awards.

There were 11 awards in total UCL, were up for three: The move of the Grant Museum for Project on A Limited Budget, the Grant Museum’s QRator project for Innovations and Heritage Without Borders for The International Award.

We are proud to announce that we won the Museum and Heritage Award for Excellence, Innovations award for QRator: Visitor Participation Through Social Interpretation.

QRator is a collaborative project developed jointly by UCL Digital Humanities , Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis,  and UCL Museums, with funding from the UCL Public Engagement Unit , to develop new kinds of content, co-curated by the public, and museum staff, to enhance museum interpretation, public engagement and meaning making by establishing new connections to museum exhibit content.

There’s a long list of people who need thanking and who were instrumental in creation, development, implementation and the ongoing support of the QRator project.

From UCL Museums and Public Engagement: Mark Carnall who worked with me originally in trialling QR codes in the Grant Museum and who is the most forward thinking curator I have ever met. Jack Ashby who writes the content and designs the displays for QRator, and who has the patience of a saint.  Susannah Chan from UCL Museums and Public Engagement for inventing the mounts for the iPads. A big thank you to the UCL Public Engagement Unit for their funding and support of the project, Sally MacDonald Director of UCL Museums and Public Engagement who has been a huge driving force behind the project,  it is so refreshing to have Top Down support for digital innovation in the cultural sector.

From UCL CASA: Steve Gray who is an absolutely brilliant developer, and whose skills in usability and interface design are second to none. Andy Hudson Smith, and Ralph and Martin the original team behind Tales of Things from UCL Centre for Advance Spatial Analysis,

From UCLDH: Melissa Terras and Claire Warwick who have been the best support, PhD supervisors I could ever ask for.

Without all of them this project would literally be nothing.

Oh and, a big thank you to the Jar of Moles for being the most discussed specimen!

QRator in the Horizon Report: Museum Edition

By Claire S Ross, on 19 November 2011

The QRator project, a collaboration between UCLDH, CASA and UCL Museums, funded by the Beacon for Public Engagement, has been chosen for inclusion in the 2011 Museum edition of the Horizon report, produced by the New Media Consortium.

The Horizon Report is an international report about leading museum technologies.  The report’s main aim is to identify and describe emerging technologies which will have a large impact over the next five years.   The 2011 edition highlights six emerging technologies or practices that are going to have an impact on the sector and breaks them down into three distinct time frames or horizons.

Here are the Technologies to watch:

  • Near term Horizon (the next 12 months): Mobile Apps and Tablets.
  • Mid term Horizon (2-3 years): Augmented Reality and Electronic Publishing
  • Far term Horizon (4-5 years): Digital Preservation and Smart Objects.

QRator is included in the Far term Horizon under Smart Objects and is highlighted of for using QRcodes to allow users to share their own interpretations about museum collections.   It is a significant achievement for QRator to be included in the report, identifying our work as a future model for the rest of the museums sector.  We are looking forward to developing the QRator project further.

You can download the report from here

Animals and iPads: QRator in the Grant Museum

By Claire S Ross, on 16 March 2011

UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology / Matt Clayton

UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology reopened yesterday (15 March), it houses around 67,000 specimens, covering the whole Animal Kingdom alongside some of the rarest extinct animal specimens in the world to be displayed for the first time, including lost dodo bones, the remains of a quagga (an extinct species of half-striped zebra) and a giant Irish elk with antlers measuring nearly 3 metres across.  In contrast to the more traditional museum outlook, crammed full of specimens, the new Grant has integrated iPads, QRCodes and Twitter into the mix via a UCLDH and CASA project known as QRator. The aim of which is to stress the necessity of engaging visitors actively in the creation of their own interpretations of museum collections, and whether this can be done seamlessly through digital technology.

Through the QRator project the Grant Museum is experimenting with ways of using a natural history collection as a starting point for questions about science. Alongside displays of stuffed chimpanzees, and pickled animal parts, iPads are scattered, asking provocative questions about the ways museums operate, and the role of science in society.  QRator encourages visitors to tackle big questions in the life sciences and engage with the way museums work.  Questions include “Should human and animal remains be treated any differently?” And “every medicinal drug you have ever taken was tested on animals. Is this a necessary evil?”  Each iPad holds a current question which visitors can respond to on the iPad itself, via Twitter or the Tales of Things app on their smart phones. Visitors’ thoughts become part of the museum objects history and the display itself creating digital ‘living’ labels which subsequent visitors can read and respond to in real time.

QRator has been a very exciting project, and we are very proud of it.  It is picking up quite a bit of media attention:

Throughout the project we have tried to be as user centred as possible, undertaking user requirements gathering and user evaluation every step of the way. Now that the iPads have been installed into the Grant, visits to the museum will be observed to discover how visitors interact and engage with the content.  It is frequently voiced that visitors do not read labels; it will be interesting to observe if this is still the case when the visitors themselves are able to create and interact with the interpretive content.

We will be continuing to do user testing on QRator for the next few months to see what people really think.  So if you are interested in being involved, do let us know!  If you would like to take part in the evaluation or would like further information, please contact Claire Ross directly.  All feedback received will help shape the future development of QRator as it continues to explore increasing digital access and engagement with museum collections.