Spending Easter by Limfjorden has given me a chance to check out the local Struer Museum and its use of digital media.
Having read about their ‘Byskriver’ (town writer) project online, a project which aims to engage the locals and museum visitors in writing the recent town history, I already knew that they were up to something, and was happy to find that the museum was indeed very focused on using digital technologyin novel ways as part of the museum communication. I was lucky to be able to have a good chat with a project manager who happened to be working, and who was happy to share information on the technology and concepts behind the project (Thank you, Sara!).
Basically, the recent town history is presented to museum visitors on a large touchscreen as well as on the very-soon-to-be-updated website. Its flash-based interface allows for visual browsing in a timeline design where years and images open as articles, and function as entry points to related topics and mediafiles. This visual approach invites exploration; what the system does not support, however, is word based searches, which means that you cannot use it as a reference tool to check out a certain topic of interest.
Knowing that the project encourages local participation, I had expected for it to make use of new social media technology. Interestingly, this is not the case. Instead, museum visitors are asked to leave comments on the articles as voice recorded messages via a phone hanging next to the touchscreen, or to speak to the ‘byskriver’ whose desk is right next to the display. Online visitors can send their comments in an e-mail. Rather than letting the public loose on its system, the ‘byskriver’ works as a moderator, filtering the inputs and integrating them into the system in writing or as MP3files. This work takes place, through the easy-to-manage Conent Management System, at the desk in the exhibition space. Unfortunately, the museum does not systematically monitor the user participation, so I could not really get any information on how (much) users are actually interacting with the system.
As a bonus to my visit, I was excited to find that Struer Museum also makes use of QR codes as a way of offering information in their art collection. At the reception desk, visitors can borrow a phone (a Nokia E51, highly recommended for the purpose by Sara) with the QR reader installed, and I was able to experience first hand how seamlessly the system worked. The photoshot didn’t have to be more precise than any other snapshot, and the information retrieved from a URL by the reader combined text, images and real-player videos. Very nice.
As I suspected, however, the experience so far shows that most visitors are not familiar with the technology. The museum is therefore working to inform visitors of this option – guiding them on how to download a reader to their own camera phone by simply sending and SMS – and hope for a greater uptake to develop.
Definitely worth a visit