Category Archives: onprojectspage

Trying out a scratchcard

The Reading Abbey Gateway has just been restored. It raises questions of restoration versus conservation – given the Gateway, first erected in medieval times, was in a terrible state by the 1800s (even though Jane Austen had been to school there) and more or less completely fell down in the mid 1800s.

It was rebuilt to a design by Gilbert Scott and has just been restored as part of Reading’s Abbey revealed project.

Here’s an experiment with a ‘scratchcard’ (use finger or mouse depending on your device) on the theme – what is it we are restoring/are we conserving anything?

(Thanks to HQS Wellington and infopoint for the seminar where imuse picked up the idea of using a scratchcard)

First experiment with augmented reality

Can AR help visitors’ enjoyment and learning in museums? We are just beginning to play to see whether we can create fun activities without spending a lot of money. We would like them to be usable in two ways

  • on a user’s own phone/tablet
  • on a tablet loaned to them by the venue without necessarily needing to be online [heritage sites are sometimes characterised by having thick walls and are wifi-challenged].

We have neither the expertise nor the desire to implement native apps, both because of the costs of maintaining apps across multiple platforms and because of visitors’ resistance to loading apps. We have also had a bad experience using someone else’s app which was removed without warning [Everytrail] so we are looking at implementing webapps. Our first experiment is with an iPad running IOS11, Jerome Etienne’s ar.js tracking suite on top of ARToolkit and a couple of models downloaded from Sketchfab. Here they are in the Museum of English Rural Life (Reading, UK).

Visiting the ladies in the chook run
visiting the ladies in the chook runCockerel model CC attribution The Ice Wolves (

So what is cow reality?
so what is cow reality
White-brown cow model CC attribution Josue Boisvert ‘Real’ black-white cow model by MERL.

There are some problems with using iPad.

  • IOS now (version 11) does support WebRTC on Safari but putting the website from Safari to the home page does not work
  • it is not supported on other browsers (e.g. Chrome)
  • also does not work in the Kiosk Pro app.
  • IOS does not allow audio to be played without some user interaction which means the user doesn’t hear the cock crow once he comes into view
  • Safari requires the user to accept whether the camera can be used or not which adds another hurdle to ease of use

Such problems don’t exist on a 6 year old laptop running Windows 7 for example so it was disappointing to find that the iPad felt less usable.

All this may mean we have to abandon thoughts of using the iPad for anything other than visitors bringing their own and in sites with good wifi, unless we can tie things down using guided access. In other experiments, the Kiosk Pro app has enabled us to load all the code into the iPad, lock it down sufficiently so that the visitor cannot ‘break out’ into another activity, and safely allow them to use the activity without supervision/having to constantly check that nothing has stopped working. [See for example the Ladybird book which formed part of an exhibition some years ago and needed no supervision]

We hope that Apple will lift these restrictions. We will now experiment with Android devices.

Christmas 2017 splat game

A webapp first created for the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology was adapted to form a Christmas-themed online game. Amongst the Christmas-related objects were tree decorations illustrating some of Reading’s iconic spaces such as the Abbey gateway, with extra penalties imposed for mistakenly ‘splatting [tapping or clicking]’ them.

Low cost IT at the historic Turbine House

In September 2017, the All of a Twist exhibition explored aspects of the science and art of twisty-turny stuff in, on, beside and above Reading’s rivers. Mini-webapps shown on iPads illustrated the workings of Reading Abbey’s watermill, showed videos of local Thames turbines and presented audios of a child reading her river-eddies poem and a ‘twisting’ song. An artist’s piece ‘FLOW’, installed with the help of Reading’s local Internet of Things community, was controlled by a micro-computer driving LEDs illustrating the height of the Thames, alongside a tablet display encased in a wooden box lasercut at RLab (Reading’s Makerspace).

Helping Abbey on Wheels

In IT terms iMuse’s input is very lightweight. We help the Reading Abbey on Wheels project by attending events with the tricycle in ‘Abbey livery’ and provide an art activity based on painting tiles. Tiles are photographed and an on-line gallery Tweeted. The main aim of the activity is to encourage participants to look closely at (and handle) original 900 year old tiles and other artefacts from the Abbey and then to try out the Museum’s Virtual Reality ‘tour’ of the ruins. The mixture of activities means there is something to appeal to all ages.

Internet of Things connected tricycle

Inspired by the locally-manufactured tricycle in Reading Museum, we ran an information tricycle supporting Reading 2016 Year of Culture. The tricycle was connected to the fledgling Things Network being setup by the local ‘geeks’ community with a GPS tracking device. The aim was to create interest in this new venture, providing a ‘way in’ to discuss the Year of Culture with passers by who perhaps had a more technical rather than heritage bent. 60 venues/events were attended, including ‘Cleaning for the Queen’ and as part of ‘Light up Reading’.

Where’s Reading heading?

This project was run by Reading Museum as a Happy Museum project (Paul Hamlyn Foundation). iMuse/iOpener was able to support it with a contribution to accessibility with captioning being added to the film by Ginger & Pickles Production Company, getting visitors’ views on Reading through the iOpener days in March 2015 and introducing visitors to the film in the RG spaces tent at the East Reading Festival, June 2015.

Town Hall and greek pot

National Heritage Open Days 2014 – How Reading got its pots

or “From Apullia to Reading”. iMuse worked with the Ure Museum and Reading Museum to create a webapp explaining how Reading got such a rich collection of Greek pots and how the two museums collaborate over their display. The webapp includes video interviews with curators and reuses stop-motion animations and other material created by secondary school children for previous iMuse projects.

Sophie the owl

Ure Move

Project dates: November 2013 – June 2014

This project was the third in the series led by the Ure Museum of Classical Archaeology, Reading. Working with three local schools, iMuse created simple webapps using material created by 16 year old pupils led by a student panel.

  • Videos made by the schools Ure Move Launch posterKendrick, Maiden Erlegh and Addington school students made stop-motion videos showing their interpretation of the figures on some Ure Museum Greek pots.
  • Ure Move app Ure Move cabinet doorsHere’s a short video demo-ing the webapp iMuse created from material produced by participants in the Ure Move project, Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, University of Reading, 2014. Some pot photographs are (c) Reading Borough Council (Museum of Reading)
  • Ure Move Launch 14 June 2014 Ure Move Launch posterIt is with great pleasure that the curators and student panel of the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology invite you to attend the Grand Opening of Ure Move, an exciting project and exhibition we have developed with the charity Access-Ability Communication Technology (AACT) as part of Universities Week 2014. We take this opportunity to celebrate the ...

A mini-app for an artist’s exhibition

Project dates: April – June 2013

Working with artist Jenny Halstead, iMuse is hoping to demonstrate that a low-cost simple web-app can enhance the visitor’s experience, particularly those with sight, learning or reading difficulties.

  • Volunteers in the Garden volunteers in the gardenYou can hear the artist talking about volunteering in the Harris Garden here.
  • Another artist’s text-free mini-app planned Jenny HalsteadiMuse is working with artist, Jenny Halstead, to produce a low-cost mini-app for an in-exhibition iPad. Jenny recently spent a year as Artist in Residence in the Harris Garden at the University of Reading, painting and drawing as the seasons changed. Her exhibition in the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading, runs from 24 May to ...