Thursday, 21 June 2012

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Hanging out in the MERL


At Half-term, June 2012, we are just hanging around in the Museum of English Rural Life with iPads, Berkshire Farmer Books and the iMuse trolley. Visitors are trying bits of the trail, with labels fastened with soft tape to objects, QR codes and (a selected few) Widgit symbols, videos showing stuff working, extracts of the story being read, photos from the archives.

Children are borrowing the iPads to draw and take photos (and transform them optically). We've tweeted some as an easy way to save them. Interesting that we got a drawing of a 'Tractor at Night' - good to see an understanding of modern farming techniques in an 8 year old, though the 'Farmer Pirates' treasure map was an interesting mix of themes!

A family watched the video from the Amners Farm Lambing Sunday - though some turned away during the actual birth, one raised the subject of stillbirth which showed an encouraging understanding of the sometimes grim reality.

We also showed the Olympics Trail - the animations [story lines from two Reading schools as part of the Cultural Olympiad] went down very well, and did lead to discussion on javelin throwing and Greek boxing. Young children knew more about the street dancing moves than iMuse. Also brief iMuse visit to the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, Reading, revealed that the animator has now published the full thing which is great news. See Ure View Animating Ancient Greece on Youtube

MERL has a very relaxed area with toys, a rug to play on and comfortable seats. It's a natural place to sit showing stuff on mobiles like the iPads with people dipping in to look at stuff or draw or talk. Not all museums have this though. iMuse will have to think about what/whether it could do in a more formal place.

Village Fete coming up 9 June. iMuse will report it here.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Olympic trail


We are working on a 5-stop (one for each day of the Ancient Olympics) trail in the Ure Museum of Classical Archaeology. Each stop will have one object associated with a particular day.

Material has been gathered from the Open University's excellent Openlearn Olympics information.

Some of the same problems as in the Berkshire Farmer trail have been encountered, plus the added wrinkle that Openlearn uses Flash for its animations so we are unable to show these on an iPad.

Our urge to try a more 'industry standards' compliant tablet is great, but we probably do not have the manpower to support another tablet, and the iPad accessibility options are otherwise good.

We have been able to use the animations from the Reading schools/animator/Ure cultural olympiad project in the iPad version being tried over half term in the Ure Museum. The animator and the Museum have granted permission to use elsewhere but we await permission from funders (?) as use on other mobile devices would require publishing.



Berkshire farmer trail


Labels with QR codes and Widgit symbols are now tied to various objects in the Museum of English Rural Life with (soft) tape supplied by the Museum Conservator. We've started to let visitors try it for themselves on our iPad-on-a-trolley.

Video, especially of the thresher, was popular yesterday, as was breaking out to draw corn and 'countryside' on the iPad and take transformed photos.

Maybe the trail should take the visitor straight to a video clip before offering other options?

Some visitors who are not iPad-users find the concept of 'tap' [the buttons] don't 'push' (as you would with an ordinary button) difficult. Not being able to play a video as soon as a QR code is scanned (for example) is nasty and seems to be an iPad 'quirk' which has no (believable-rational) explanation. The Kiosk Pro app has been useful to run demos of the trail where no wi-fi or wireless signal is available (especially good for Country Fayre in a marquee) but of course we need a signal when, say, a Youtube video forms part of the trail. If the iPad is online, the app is not 'allowed' (?) to use the camera.

Odd 'features' like this make it difficult to produce a really sound (ergonomically) 'webapp'. It may just be impossible to have a perfect solution for loaned-out iPads. The situation is different with the users' own devices of course - they will know how to tap/scroll etc and the museum will not have to worry about the visitors accessing other sites on the web - it will be up to the visitor.

We have two versions of the 'app'. One for each stop on the trail, intended for use by a visitor standing in front of an object, and with access to the QR code. The other which can be used 'standalone' with arrow keys to take you from one stop to the next.

Not just a Berkshire Farmer trail