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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

Digital Humanities, QRator on The Global Lab Podcast

By Claire S Ross, on 27 October 2011

The latest episode of the Global Lab podcast features an interview with me, Claire Ross, talking about museums, digital technology and what it means to be a digital humanist.  You can donwload it via RSS, iTunes or download the .mp3.  We discuss the QRator project which is a collaboration between CASA and UCLDH.

The Global Lab podcast is about cities, spatial analysis, global connectivity and the impact of technology on society produced by  Steve and Martin from CASA.  Each episode features the latest news and perspectives from urban analysis, social complexity and innovation, as well as interviews with cutting-edge researchers from UCL-CASA and guests from further afield.  The entire series is well worth a listen.

NESTA R&D Project with IWM, CASA and KI

By Claire S Ross, on 3 October 2011

We are pleased to announce that UCLDH will be working with The Imperial War Museum (IWM) together with Knowledge Integration and UCL CASA on a R&D project to explore digital innovation in the cultural sector.  It was announced last week that we are one of eight projects that have been selected to receive funding from the Digital Research and Development Fund for Arts and Culture.

Run by NESTA, Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the R&D fund aims to support cultural organisations to work with digital experts to understand the potential offered by new technologies.  It was a really tough process with 495 projects applying in total, 18 shortlisted and we feel very lucky to be one of the chosen 8 projects.

During this project, we will explore how social media models can be applied to museum collections, offering new frameworks for engagement and social interpretation.  We will be focusing on applying successful social media intellectual and technical models, in order to develop a platform that will enable the interpretation, discussion, collection and sharing of cultural experiences with, and between, audiences.  We are hoping to create a system which encourages people to respond to the themes and collections in IWM’s exhibition spaces through several forms of digital interaction and participation both in the gallery, via mobile and online.

We’re looking forward to getting started.  The project runs for 1 year from October 2011.  For more information about this and the other projects funded under the scheme, see The NESTA press release here and big congratulations to the other successful organisations below:

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.