Web Lab – bridging the divide between the online and in museum experience

Paper
Dave Patten, UK

Published paper: Web Lab – bridging the divide between the online and in-museum experience

Museums are increasingly looking at ways to join up the in museum experience with the online experience, taking the museum experience beyond the boundaries of the physical building and allowing online visitors into the museum.

Web Lab is, we believe, the first complete exhibition that does this. A series of five physical installations (experiments) are located in Web Lab at the Science Museum. Visitors in the museum an online can interact together with these physical installations. Online visitors like museum visitors interact and control real physical exhibits at the Science Museum. Once the museum closes its doors the whole experience is turned over to the online visitors, creating a true 24 hour museum experience. As well as controlling the exhibits online visitors can see what is happening via Web Lab’s many webcams.

Every visitor to the exhibition, online and in the museum, is represented by a “Lab Tag”: a visual code that can be scanned at each experiment to let users keep track of their activity. Visitors can collect the artifacts that they make at each experiment and view them, again using the “Lab Tag”, when they get home.

Developed by Google and friends from the Science Museum London, Tellart, B-Reel, Fraser Randall, UDS and Bibliothèque. Web Lab is a new kind of museum experience. Open to visitors from around the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether in the Museum or online the experiments are controlled through a browser. Everything in Web Lab is written in HTML5 and pushes current web technologies about as far as they will go.

The team faced many challenges bringing Web lab to life. This paper will look at the development and installation of Web Lab and how visitors both at the Science Museum and online have responded to this ground breaking exhibition.