Museums through the lens

Lawrence Chiles, UK , Lucinda Blaser, UK

Cameras are now ever with us and form a part of many of the devices which we carry with us on a daily basis. Our audience whether they are 8 or 80 know what to do with them and what their purpose is. At the same time museums are offering further information around collections and exhibits through QR codes, short URLs on labels or mobile aps.

The National Maritime Museum has linked this familiarity of cameras and the wish to access further information through the development of 2 self-led learning activities. Visual search technologies form the basis of these activities where the user can lead their own discovery, investigating things that they find interesting and not what the Museum says they should. The audiences these two activities have been developed for are very different but both use the familiar technology to develop their own learning.

The Museum has chosen to run these activities on Museum provided devices rather than, as many others do, publish it on an app store. Why has the Museum chosen to do it this way and what have we learnt from it? Is it changing the way we are thinking about digital led learning?

This paper will look at how optical search can provide interesting and magical in gallery learning experience in both formal and informal situations as well as how the Museum has built upon its experience of using camera based activities to move towards making the system available for open app development.