Are digital technologies creating engaging visitor experiences?

By Claire S Ross, on 25 February 2011



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital technologies are beginning to play a vital role in the work of museums and galleries, whether on websites and handheld devices or in gallery displays and many are using digital technology in innovative ways to support visitor experiences. They are becoming more embedded, and networked, and are changing the experience of visiting museums be providing more flexible and personalised information and to encourage interaction and discussion between visitors.  The distinctions between real and virtual, are already blurred, creating a new set of relationships between objects, visitors and digital technology, in which museums are, above all, places of exploration and discovery.

In particular the development of mobile technology has become very important to museums and many are in exploring how digital and communication technologies can be developed to offer visitors a more interactive, personalised museum experience.  This growing emphasis on the interactional and informal nature of museum experience provides the perfect opportunity to showcase digital interactive technologies as important resources for engaging visitors in exhibits and more generally in museums as a whole. In general, however, despite the growing interest in deploying digital technology as interpretation devices in museums and galleries, there are relatively few studies that examine how visitors, both alone and with others, use new technologies when exploring museum content.

At UCL we are trying to change that.  It is not enough to claim that digital technology can enhance visitor museum experiences, it needs to be demonstrated.   UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, Centre for Digital Humanities (aka us) and Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis are working with UCL Museums and Collections to develop research projects which look specifically at digital technology in museums.   The Petrie Museum is currently host to 4 digital projects.

QRator – an iPad-based interactive live object label. This allows everyone to have a say in how an museum object is interpreted. Unique in the UCL technology is the ability to ‘write’ back to the museum interpretation panel.  QRator allows member of the pubic to type in their thoughts and interpretation of the object and click send.  These comments become part of the objects history and ultimately the display itself.

Talesof Things – connect to object information via QR codes and add your own tale. Throughout the Petrie galleries are a series of QR code tagged objects which can be read by iPhone and Android phones.  Once a code has been scanned it connects the visitor to the Tales of Things site which contains text, video, and audio information about the object.  Visitors can then add their own tale about that object on the site.

iCurator– curate your own exhibition in a 3D environment and collaborate remotely. ICurator is a computer based design tool which holds a library of 3D rendered objects, display cases and museum spaces which users can combine to create their own displays.

3D Encounters – 3D scanning technologies creating digital models of ancient artefacts.  3D Encounters is an experimental digital exhibition entitled Crossing Over, where visitors can see 3D digital models of artefacts from the Petrie collection.  The models can be rotated from angles and perspectives not possible in the real displays.

Last week saw the Digital Think Drink at the Petrie Museum; it gave us a chance to trial and receive some user feedback on the four digital projects which aim to change the way people engage with material heritage.  The Petrie Museum was acting as a lab where real world applications for new technologies can be developed and tested.   It was great to see people using the technology in gallery and to be able to hear people’s opinions on the research that we are doing.  The digital think drink was an experiment, we hope everyone enjoyed it.  It prompted a lot of questions which we will be trying to answer as we move forward with the development and research of whether or not digital technology can increase access and engagement with museum collections.

Image by UCL, Petrie Museum / Matt Clayton

More digital thinking at the Petrie Museum: evaluation sessions

By Claire S Ross, on 7 February 2011

Following on from the excitement about the Digital Think Drink at the Petrie Museum, which is now sold out, there will also be some one on one evaluation sessions for those who have missed out on the Digital Think Drink. We would like to hear your views on new digital technology that aims to support research and enhance the visitor museum experience.

If you wish to come along and in and share your opinions it would be very much appreciated.  The evaluation days are as follows and your involvement will take no longer than 30 minutes:

  • Thursday 17th February (10am – 4pm)
  • Thursday 24th February (10am – 4pm)
  • Thursday 3rd March (10am – 4pm)
  • Thursday 10th March (10am – 4pm)

If you would like to take part in the evaluation or would like further information, please contact our evaluator Naomi Haywood directly and tell her what day and what time you are able to come and also your contact number.

All feedback received will help shape the development of four exciting new technologies aimed at increasing access and engagement with museum collections.

Digital Think Drink at the Petrie Museum

By Claire S Ross, on 1 February 2011

As Part of the QRator project, UCLDH has been working with UCL Museums and Collections on a range of digital projects which aim to change the way we engage with material heritage.  The Petrie Museum has become a living laboratory where real world applications for new technologies can be developed and tested.   We have orgainsed a evening of testing, talking, playing and giving feedback on the digital media available in the museum. A Digital  Think Drink, or a Mini Digital Excursion, if you will.

The Petrie Museum, in conjunction with UCLDH, UCL’s Department of Computer Engineering and Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, invite you to:

An Evening of Digital Technology at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology!

On Wednesday February 16 from 18.30-20.30 the Petrie Museum is showcasing 4 new digital technologies that will revolutionise the way we interact with museum collections:

  • QRator – an iPad-based interactive live object label. Who is ‘the Man from Mitanni’?  Work it out with a glass of wine and find out why you shouldn’t trust museum databases on our iPad label.
  • Tales of Things – connect to object information via QR codes and add your own tale. Or Follow the QR code museum trail.
  • iCurator – curate your own exhibition in a 3D environment and collaborate remotely.
  • 3D Encounters – 3D scanning technologies creating digital models of ancient artefacts.

If you wish to come along and in and help shape the development of four exciting new technologies aimed at increasing access and engagement with museum collections, then book here! (it’s free to attend and will be accompanied by a glass of wine or two)

Digital Excursion #1 Petrie Museum

By Claire S Ross, on 10 March 2010

Last night saw the first of the UCLDH digital excursions, at the  Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology .

UCLDH’s digital excursions are an opportunity to visit UCL departments that have specialist equipment and expertise of use to the field of digital humanities giving people a chance to look over interesting bits of kit and discuss the possibilities the gadgetry and skills presented provide to the field of digital humanities. So, last night we looked at the Petrie Museums use of 3D scanning in the museum environment..

The Petrie looks amazing, and it is stuffed full with artefacts dating back 5,000 years. Every available space is filled with a multitude of objects, so much that you cant take it all in, in one go. It’s overwhelming just how many artefacts there are in such a small space! over 80,000 objects in fact.

This hidden museum holds one of the world’s greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology, ranging over 7000 years from prehistory through Pharaonic to Islamic times.  The Petrie is committed toward public accessibility for its collection, particularly via online access; the entire collection of 80,000 objects is now online with images, which has led to several projects to digitise Egyptian collections in small UK museums  The museum also has a Digital Egypt teaching resource. Now they are working in partnership on 3D Encounters, with the Ireland-based multimedia company IET (Íomhánna Éigipteach Teoranta) to develop high-end 3D scanning, modelling and presentational resources. Its a really interesting project and the webiste is quite fun.

The project has only just started, but the kit is pretty cool.  The aim is to digitally record themed selections of objects and make them more accessible by telling their ‘stories’. The project will also digitally recreate some of the more rare & fragile artefacts, replicated for public handling and as a means of monitoring decay. There is something really compelling about being able to manipulate digital objects and being able to learn more about them in such a tactile (albeit virtual) way, so I cant wait to see the end product.

A good night out. Couldn’t make the Petrie?  Don’t worry, the next Digital Excursion is scheduled for April and will be hosted by The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at the Wellcome Collection.  More details soon.