Category Archives: onprojectspage

Low cost digital activities for heritage sites

Over the last few years, the iMuse programme has tried-out lightweight (in cost and technology terms) ways of creating digitally-enabled activities with the aim of encouraging visitors to look more closely at, or learn more about, an aspect of their heritage.

These activities tend to be ephemeral. For example, the ‘Splat Medusa’ game was created as a way of honouring our promise to a group of 16 year olds from a special school that we would use all their artwork in a webapp which was to be the final outcome of a project in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology. The students chose objects which represented Medusa, heard the tale and created their own representations. Presented with a couple of dozen portraits of the head of Medusa, we used them as the objects to be ‘splatted’ as they moved through the ‘cave’ on a screen. This proved popular, and became more used as the main teacher involved reused it to engage new students with the museum objects the next year. By chance the webapp had been set up so it could be downloaded to an iPad and remain there even when offline.

However, IT that is not ‘looked after’ on an ongoing basis tends to ‘die’. Not only does the underlying technology change but also the memory of how to use an application, who owns it, where it is stored, disappears as personnel change. For example, in the same museum, equipment set up to run this webapp within the gallery now lies idle.

Does this matter? In the circumstances under which iMuse operates (it’s merely an umbrella name for a set of lowcost experiments in IT for heritage visitors) the answer is mainly ‘No’. Voluntary effort has had fun along with visitors (and occasionally learned something more long-lasting on the way). On the other hand, it seems a bit wasteful that the techniques employed, and maybe some of the visitor experiences, are not recorded so that other (particularly small and cash-strapped heritage sites) might see if some are useful to them.

Here a list of some of the techniques that have been tried by iMuse, each with a practical example.

Activities for you to try out

  • post_title
    excerpt
    Alternate Reality (not to be confused with Augmented Reality, qv) can be summarised as ‘a fictional narrative instigating and supporting exploration of a physical space’. It is a technique that iMuse has been introduced to at several museum-computer conferences in the US and UK, but has not as yet participated in in real life apart … Continue reading Alternate reality
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    Augmented Reality (AR) is a technique in which a user views the real scene in which they are standing through their mobile device (tablet/smartphone) which overlays 2/3D virtual figures/objects. It is a technique heralded as being of particular interest to heritage sites where for example parts of a building are missing. iMuse has tried this … Continue reading Augmented reality
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    This game was tried out in the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading, just as iPads with cameras had hit the market. They were very new and their use in museums was not really known. Whether the game would have the same appeal now that everyone owns their own tablet/smartphone we don’t know, but at … Continue reading Detective trail
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) are often used to hold small, short animations. They can also be used to show short ‘slideshows’ as a lightweight way of adding interest to a website or to include instead of a still image on social media. RG Spaces used this technique to respond to a university student’s call for … Continue reading GIFs
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    This is a game inspired by the popular ‘Candy Crush’ which in turn was inspired by ‘Bejeweled’. A player moves objects on the screen to make a match of three or more, eliminating those from the board and replacing them with new ones, which could potentially create further matches. We used photos of the objects … Continue reading Heritage Crush
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    A seminar on techniques for leveraging users’ own mobiles in heritage sites (on HQS Wellington, moored on the Embankment in London UK, together with Info-Point in February 2018), inspired iMuse to look into creating online jigsaws. Visitors can take a photo of some aspect of the site (or, of course, a selfie) and create a … Continue reading Jigsaw
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    16 year olds from a special school working on a project in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology produced a set of animated cartoons (gifs) showing classical figures they had been studying based on image on museum objects. These were used as the faces of cards for a game of pairs (pelmanism). The backs of … Continue reading Pairs
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    QR codes are those square ‘barcodes’ in which you can encode either a URL or other things, for example, text. Although it has been rumoured that these codes are not used much by visitors, in fact (as at 2018 at least) smartphone camera apps increasingly autmatically recognise these codes so there is low friction to … Continue reading QR codes
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    We are working on a simple way to set up a quiz which allows both multi choice and ‘click on…’ image questions.The first published quiz was created to accompany the Equaliteas run by RG Spaces at the Holy Brook Gallery, Central Library, Reading, UK June 2018 as a fun way of raising awareness of the … Continue reading Quiz
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    Inspired by a seminar on visitors using their own mobiles within a heritage site (February 2018, HQS Wellington with Info-Point), iMuse has experimented with creating a scratchcard of the Reading Abbey Gateway. This was timed for its opening after extensive HLF-funded refurbishment in Spring 2018 and was aimed at illustrating how ‘heritage’ can be interpreted … Continue reading Scratchcard
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    The user splats objects moving up the screen to gain points. This activity was used to accomodate two dozen portraits of Medusa produced by school children during a project on re-interpreting Greek pots in a Greek archaeology museum.
    Try itMore info
  • post_title
    excerpt
    Over the 2012 Olympics and in the following couple of years, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology held ACE grants which enabled it to work with 16 year olds from 3 schools (grammar, comprehensive, special), a panel of undergraduates and a professional animator, interpreting Greek pots. The participants were introduced to objects in the Museum … Continue reading Stop motion video
    Try itMore info

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?

http://imuse.org.uk/scratchcard/scaffolding-down/

(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 (https://sketchfab.com/sarath.irn) 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. http://youtu.be/yifqxoiD1SI 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 ...