Over nine days at the end of March, I was honoured to be invited over to Denmark to work on two projects connected to my research and teaching.
Monumental statues by Thomas Kadziola on Lolland island
The first was the HistBattles project, being developed at the wonderful Lolland-Falster museum in Nykøbing Falster (on one of the two southern-most islands of Denmark). Erik Kristiansen, who I had worked with on the Transforming Thresholds project, is leading a project to create twelve alternate reality games (ARGs) to teach the local history of the islands to 13-18 year olds.
A rune stone at a church on Lolland island; one of the sites for the game.
Each ARG will cover a period of Danish history, and will be connected to one of the sites covered by the museum across the two islands. I was there to help scope out a framework for the game, and to help local staff start to design the puzzles and meta game. No further spoilers, but I’ll post more details as the project develops. The aim is to launch the first game in the Summer.
The second project was a guest teaching role at Aarhus University, firstly for the Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media (CUDiM) – where I talked about online learning and curriculum design for the digital age; and then as a guest speaker for the House of Game//Play and Game Design Masters course, I ran a talk/workshop around Alternate reality and pervasive games. Both days were really interesting, with engaged students and staff entering into some deep discussions around both areas. The organisers, Rikke Toft Nørgård and Claus Toft-Nielsen, then introduced me to their Coding Pirate workshops, where younger students (9-16) were creating their own computer games, and building mazes for robots and LEGO models. My thanks to Rikke, Claus and all the students and staff at the Centre for such an interesting and welcoming two days.
Students playing my ARG-cards game.
All of this playful activity was the perfect precursor to Counterplay 2017, which I’ll be reporting on in a following post.
For some time now I’ve been thinking about visitor interaction with museum objects, and the possibilities this offers for sparking reflection and conversation around a certain object and space (though any span of time).
This interest was fuelled by a (faltering) project to use QR codes within a local museum, and by my experience with museum objects as clues within Alternative Reality Games; this was juxtaposed against the plain, traditional object labels I was seeing in museums up and down the country during conference season.
The final spark was a conversation on Twitter with a couple of museum-friends from the British Museum about museum audiences and dumbing down/maintaining academic standards.
So, on the eve of Museums and the Web 2009, I present my first thoughts on an object label for the Web 2 generation. Notes follow the diagram. (0) is obviously the name of the object.
- Key facts (location, age, cultural link etc.) – standard on contemporary labels in most, but not all, cases
- Clear image of the item: helps to give visitors a sense of the whole item when the object itself is very small or very large. Also good for take-away options (see below)
- This section of the key facts is numerical, and standard across all objects. It serves a dual purpose as a top trumps-style game for children (see below)
- Timeline. This shows roughly where the object sits in relation to key events, to give a broad frame of reference.
- Quick information in large type: designed for young visitors, those with poor sight, those in a hurry, those with only passing interest, etc. Pictures accompany where useful.
- More information: expands on the Quick information, for those who want a little more detail.
- Further information: the full catalogue entry (or a reduced section of it) for those wanting a detailed description or who have an academic interest.
- More Info: the QR code and short web address both provide access to the main catalogue page on the museum’s web site. This could be augmented with audio visual or discussion options (see 9).
- Discuss: this is for visitors to provide their own comments or opinions on the object. They have the option to send an SMS message, send a message or start a realtime discussion via Twitter, or mention it on blogs, Facebook or other web2 platforms which support tags (the #bm_snake text). These comments/messages would be aggregated in real time to the info page (8) to allow other visitors past, present and future to read and comment on them.
- Braille title for the object, at low level and always in the bottom right corner.
This hypothetical label is clearly a little over the top, and packs a lot of ideas in. However, it’s not particlarly unclear, and with work and testing could form the basis of a very workable method of labelling objects for a wide audience, and encouraging engagement in contemporary ways (but largely new to museums).
As an additional option, copies of the labels could be provided as cards for visitors to take away – allowing them to look in detail, access the Info/Discuss options when they have a web connection at home, school or work, and use them in a trading/swapping game (see 3). Copies might be in stock next to popular/major items, but available to print on demand within the museum’s shop or at the exit to galleries (a small charge for the cards/printing would help offset the relabelling costs too).
Thanks for the above ideas go to:
- The Cambridge Museums group, for inspiration on the top trumps-style game coming from their excellent collectable cards series.
- Terhi Nurmikko, British Museum, for the idea of physical cards, and for feedback on the prototype.
- The British Museum, for the excellent information available on the Turquoise serpent used in the example (note that some incorrect information has been added to the core record: see here for the full version).