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QRator at the Museum of Brands

By Sarah Davenport, on 25 February 2013

QRator has now been rolled out to the Museum  of Brands, offering an interactive experience for visitors via the QRator iPads and the website.  Further details can be found on the QRator website.

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

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.

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.

QRator is Wired

By Claire L H Warwick, on 3 March 2011

Well actually it works on wireless. But we are feeling very chuffed indeed that UCLDH’s and CASA’s QRator project is featured in Wired UK today in a report on the opening of the new Grant Museum at UCL. There is also a beautiful photo gallery which includes a picture of the iPad itself in situ in photo 5. QRator will go live at the launch of the new Grant on 17th March and will allow visitors to join in a conversation about museum objects, by scanning QR codes attached to cases in the museum. These then link them to the CASA Tales of Things website where they can record their views. Or visitors can use an interactive label in the form of an iPad on which they can leave a comment and see those that others have left.

This changes fundamentally the way that we interact with museum objects. At the moment the only label we see in a museum is provided by curators. As a result of this world leading work visitors will now be able to see what curators say, but also join in a dialogue with them and with others about the object and the questions that they feel it raises. We’re very excited to be taking part in this work with CASA and UCL Museums, and can only say thank you again for the vision of Claire Ross, UCLDH PhD student, who had the idea in the first place.

Look out for a Digital Excursion to the Grant in May at which you’ll be able to hear all about QRator and play with all the lovely kit.

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

QRator: join the conversation… Pets or wildlife: which do you prefer?

By Claire S Ross, on 8 February 2011

The Grant Museum of Zoology is one of the oldest natural history collections in England, dating back to 1827. The collection comprises over 68,000 skeletal, taxidermy and wet specimens, covering the whole of the animal kingdom. Many of the species are now endangered or extinct including the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine, the quagga and the dodo.  Whilst maintaining the intriguing atmosphere of a densely-packed Victorian collection the new Grant Museum space offers the opportunity to showcase the historic collections, but to treat them in entirely different ways and to position the Museum as a place of experimentation, dialogue and debate. UCL is taking the opportunity to rethink what a university museum can be; a place not simply for a passive experience but for conversation – a cultural laboratory for the meeting of minds.

Through the QRator project the Grant will be experimenting with ways of using a natural history collection as a starting point for questions about science. Alongside displays of stuffed chimpanzees and extinct dodos, iPads will be scattered, asking provocative questions about the ways museums operate, and the role of science in society.

The Grant Museum doesn’t open until the 15th March, in the mean time we want people to join the conversation and ask engage in some Current Questions.  The first of these investigates the relationships and conflicts between pets and wildlife. It will be really interesting to interrogate what it means to be interested in animals. The Grant wants to get discussions going on how people relate pets to wild animals represented in Natural history museums.

If you would like to join the conversation you can over on the QRator site. (NB. this is a temporary site, until QRator is fully launched in March)

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)