Tag Archives: Heritage interpretation

Knight Foundation makes a digital heritage dream possible

I’ve worked the past 13 years as an advocate for strategic digital initiatives at cultural institutions. Much of that time has been spent building  buy-in,  seeking resources, and working to keep the tech functioning. Oh yes … and building in time to see “what’s next,” then repeating the process. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to take a moment in gratitude when an idea takes root.  Thanks to Knight Foundation, this is one of those moments.

This past week, Knight awarded a $100,000 Museums and Technology grant to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, where I am contracted as digital strategist. The grant will enhance the visitor experience by using 3D documentation modeling and printing to allow visitors to explore spaces of this National Historic Landmark that are not accessible to the public. Those spaces include Vizcaya’s Barge (seen above), a partly submerged breakwater decorated with mythical sculptures by Alexander Calder, and the swimming pool grotto  which has a ceiling depicting an elaborate undersea scene designed by Robert Winthrop Chanler.

Vizcaya's Chanler Ceiling 3D Documentation Knight Foundation Grant
Chanler ceiling at Vizcaya

The project combines many of the interests I and many of my Vizcaya colleagues share–historic preservation/conservation, technology, and helping audiences internalize the interpretation of heritage resources. That extends to Vizcaya’s leadership team, which has been incredibly supportive of this holistic approach to 3D documentation.

We’ve got a very talented partner team on the project as well. The University of Florida Historic Preservation Program captures our 3D documentation, including both photogrammetry and laser scanning. Our technology partner will unlock ways to adapt UF’s point clouds into kiosk-based and virtual reality products. Additionally, Florida International University’s Miami Beach Urban Studios will be strategizing the development of 3D prints based UF’s laser scanning/photogrammetry.

It’s an exciting time to work in this field. Five years ago, the tech was not mature enough to attempt this concept. Now, we’re confident that we’ll create a model that can other cultural sites can replicate. We’ll be documenting our progress in a GitHub site. While this concept was always an intention, the Knight Foundation’s entry into the museums and technology space advances our efforts by years.

If you’re interested in learning more about 3D documentation, here is a primer to get you started.

Cathy Byrd of Fresh Art International recently interviewed my colleagues about digital initiatives at Vizcaya. Hear what they had to say at the SoundCloud embed below:

 

Where Technology Meets Interpretation Workshop Resources

This past week, I had the privilege of co-leading a interpretation workshop focused on technology with Stacey Kutish, digital interpretive strategist at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. There were about 30 attendees from gardens and related cultural sites. I’m sharing the slide deck with speaker notes, which includes the following topics we covered:

  • Audience Research
  • Setting Strategy
  • Tools and Techniques
  • What Makes Good Digital Content

Thanks to everyone who came out to this introductory workshop. Related material:

A more in-depth explanation of the strategic planning process can be found in the post Strategy Kit: Goals, Objectives and Tactics for #DigitalHeritage Outreach Planning.

Interpretation Workshop Symposium

A 3D Documentation primer for cultural and historic sites

In the last decade, 3D documentation has emerged as the pre-eminent technology to support heritage preservation around the world.

Organizations like UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund and Smithsonian actively participate in programs for 3D documentation of historic objects and sites.

More recently, the technology has evolved to impact digital interpretation as well. Advances in preservation technologies are aligning with those in interpretive tech, so bridging the two to create virtual experiences and kiosks is finally beginning to be possible. This post will describe two common 3D documentation approaches and related resources for institutions considering leveraging this technology.

What is Laser Scanning?

Laser scanning enables a large quantity of three-dimensional measurements to be collected quickly. Laser scanners are devices that can be placed on land or on aircraft such as planes and drones. The scanners measures distance by systematically illuminating a target with a laser light, and recording that data. The point cloud is the raw product of a survey. It contains a large number of coordinates that detail every aspect of a surface, measured in microns. There are 25,400 microns in one inch. These points form the skeleton over which a skin can be rendered to create a recognizable 3D model. 

Laser data is collected into proprietary systems, so the data will require messaging before it can be exported in a useful and shareable product. It can also be affected by environmental factors like humidity. Attention must also be paid to how the scans are registered. Though individual scans may be really accurate,  the finished model can have a lot of error due to the registration process. Be sure to evaluate the implications of these factors, as well as the scale of your project when examining the appropriateness of this technology.

What is Photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry works by taking many images of a scene from different locations using standard digital cameras (there are even smartphone apps) and then processing them through programs to determine the exact location from which these photos were taken. When the positions of the camera are known, specialty software looks for common points in two or more photos to determine where objects exists in 3D space. It can still produce a very detailed virtual model. The technology is useful on a small scale, to document objects or fragments of architectural detail on buildings. It can be used for more frequent visual detection of deterioration for at-risk heritage resources, at lower costs than laser scanning.

In terms of accuracy, photogrammetry can give repeatable measurable results well in the sub-mm range, with reports of repeatable measurements in the 5 100ths of a mm. Photogrammetry has an advantage over laser scanning in terms of archiving because archiving image sets is well understood.

As with laser scanning, the quality of a product of photogrammetry is determined by how correctly it was shot and processed. A good looking model can still have a lot of error.

What questions can 3D documentation answer?

Laser scanning, supported with photogrammetry, can provide critical insight into a site’s built heritage that cannot be accomplished as efficiently by any other means. These include the following:

  • How quickly a feature is changing. Laser scanning can contribute to a detailed record where a feature, structure or site might be lost or changed forever. Is the architectural detail on the barge measurably fading at a faster rate than that of the main house or the garden mound? Laser scanning can help predict the rate of deterioration, and inform conservation priorities.
  • How one feature in the landscape relates to another. What is the proportion of an institution’s grounds to its built structures? Based on the contour of the landscape, how will sea level rise affect the estate over time? Laser scanning can help inform study of the overall cultural landscape–how it was fashioned and how it compares to the surrounding landscape. It can also uncover previously unnoticed archaeological features in a landscape covered in vegetation or woodland.
  • The size of a structure. Laser scanning provides pinpoint accuracy regarding dimensions of objects and structures. This can be useful in planning for preservation projects by contributing to a record before renovation of a structure or landscape.
  • Improve accessibility. For tall structures, a frieze, tiling, or other architectural detail may not be entirely visible from ground level. For others, environmental barriers may block access. Often, objects in museums are blocked from close inspection and certainly from touching. A 3D scan can replicate the proportions and form on an object for access on digital platforms.
  • Aid expert understanding. Because of the detail it is able to capture, elements of an object or structure can be enlarged and examined on a virtually unlimited scale.
  • Improve engagement with the general public. Models produced as a result of scanning can be incorporated into interpretive kiosks and digital tour apps for mobile devices, allowing the public to manipulate, enlarge and examine objects from all sides. This can further enrich their connection to the site/objects and allow them to share their experiences through the web.
  • Replication. An accurate model is useful for producing a replica for display, or as a replacement in a restoration scheme. This could be useful in milling replacement replicas of the peacocks for the marine garden or sculpture on the barge that is at risk due to climate. Models can also be used by educational departments to 3D print objects as part of a handling collection.

Universities with 3D Documentation Programs

University Partners are highly aware of the grant landscape for laser scanning projects and are willing to collaborate on funding proposals. They also have excellent reputations for understanding how this technology can be applied to the entire range of cultural heritage documentation, preservation and interpretation.

In turn, universities benefit from a partnership with your institution because their students will have access to a living laboratory of historic structures, objects and landscapes to capture and evaluate. Here are a few universities that are capable of 3D documentation projects:

Ball State University Hybrid Design Technologies, Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts They have performed interesting projects on sculpture related to museum interpretation.

The University of Arkansas Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies describes its approach as “strongly multi-disciplinary and global in scope with current active research efforts throughout North America, South America, the Middle and Near East, and Europe.”  The program is funded through grant projects.

UA CAST research strengths
The University of Arkansas CAST program has a wide variety of research strengths including capture, analysis, preservation and education.

Oregon State University Pacific Slope Archaeological Laboratory focuses on archaeological assets. Their site lists rates for services and provides interesting online video about the applications of their work.

The University of Michigan 3D Lab provides 3D capture and printing as part of its processes. They can assist with all phases of projects including planning, design and development.

 

In 2012, the University of Florida Historic Preservation Program launched the Envision Heritage initiative with the mission of exploring how new and emerging technologies can be utilized to document, conserve, and interpret historic sites.

The University of South Florida Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies (AIST) is a Research and Education Support Unit in the School of Geosciences, College of Arts and Sciences, at the University of South Florida. Its research interest is “preserving and protecting the world’s cultural and natural heritage through education and global engagement.”

Related Questions

Q: How will I be able to access and use the file?

A: You could use Autodesk Recap (subscription; $300/yr – Smithsonian uses this) to access the actual point cloud and MeshLab (open source) for solid models, or Rhino3D ($1,000 for a license). The partnering institutions are willing to work out a plan to offer training to staff on the use of these technologies as well. This will empower the organization to make better use of the data and learn to capture small-scale scans for predictive conservation modeling.

  1. How large might the file(s) be?

A: File sizes vary by the scale of the object and resolution. Estimates regarding the point cloud for the are about 15 GB. A solid model would be more than 100 GB depending upon the level of detail. Video animations can be 1GB or more depending on length. These are large, but still manageable sizes to store and access.

Q: How often would scanning need to be done to track preservation/conservation issues?       

A: This will take time to determine. Laser scanning and photogrammetry could be used to focus on specific, collectively decided target areas and not record the entire structure each time. That would decrease time in field, processing, and cost. Of course, time intervals would depend on what we are monitoring for, and would be informed through a regular visual analysis by the conservation team, including observed rate of deterioration due to cyclical tides, storm events, etc.  

Q: Can we use the resulting animated graphic in  360 photo tours?   

A: The partner institution can provide the point cloud or solid surface file in a number  of different formats. 360 tour vendors could integrate a 3D model so that it can be opened within the tour as a web-poi. For an off-line version (kiosk version) it may be possible to have a normal poi (point of interest) featuring still angles of the 3D barge that could be scrolled through giving the appearance of it rotating 360 degrees. Regal 360 could also just come out and photograph on top of the barge, but that still leaves the water side undocumented.

Q: Who owns the product(s)?

A: The point cloud, solid model and video animations should be specified as the sole property of your institution. A partnership should be structured so that the documentation partner would seek permission if they sought to publish anything regarding the work they did at your site.

Strategic Directions

To fully realize its value, a 3D documentation project should inform a broader systematic program of capture.

Learning Experiences

Universities that teach 3D documentation skills and execute related projects internationally can be valuable partners. This expertise can be leveraged for knowledge among staff, and provide learning experiences for university students and the general public.

Staff Workshop: A partner institution could provide an on-site workshop for relevant staff on photogrammetry. Staff would be instructed in the significance of 3D documentation, how to perform it, and how to use it to inform their work. This would include targeted documentation training that would allow staff to see differences between the images they capture, and those resulting from an initial high-resolution scan.

Community Day: Your institution could hold a community event to introduce local audiences (including students) to the technology and how the institution is using it. The event would showcase commitment to preservation while enabling the public to see heritage resources in ways (both micro and macro) that were previously impossible. This event could include the following:

  • a presentation by the site and its partner institution to present preliminary data
  • A demonstration of the documentation technologies.
  • 3D printing of objects based laser scans that the public can touch and examine.

University Classes: University partners participating in 3D documentation could involve their students in the project. With an ongoing program of 3D digital scanning, a historic site could become a living laboratory for these students, providing a diverse array of architectural and environmental elements to round out their experience.

Grant Opportunities

A university partner is particularly useful in identifying and acquiring grants for 3D documentation projects. The following granting agencies have expressed past interest in funding such projects:

Additional Platforms

3D objects can be rendered in formats suitable to a wide variety of digital platforms, including the following:  

Mobile Apps: For institutions investigating app development for enhancing the visitor experience. 3D models could be judiciously integrated into such an app, giving visitors the opportunity to manipulate select objects as part of a larger virtual tour. Additionally, USF AIST has student developers within its program that could potentially create a custom experience centered around 3D objects.

Sketchfab: Many institutions worldwide publish the renderings from their project portfolios to Sketchfab. Sketchfab is a leading online repository for publishing 3D and virtual reality content. It integrates with all major 3D creation tools and publishing platforms. Files can be uploaded in almost any 3D format, directly on sketchfab.com or using an exporter. Once models are on Sketchfab, descriptive text can be added and the resulting image can be embedded on any web page and are sharable on social media.

SCENE Webshare Cloud: SCENE WebShare Cloud is a cloud-based hosting solution from FARO that allows easy and secure sharing of scan data worldwide. It offers the ability to can see the renderings of structures or objects on an interactive map. It offers a the ability to include very detailed information, including measured distances, GPS coordinates, project descriptions. Though engaging for a general audience, it is most useful in working with contractors or managing entities. The degree to which it can zoom from estate map to details on architectural features also makes it a powerful computer-based solution to understand and analyze complex on-site conditions, including conservation issues. The base package for SCENE Webshare Cloud is $990, which includes 50GB storage.

YouTube: 3D documentation efforts can be rendered as video products that can be published to its YouTube Channel. These videos can be simple “virtual tours” of objects. They could also be stories about the process of documentation. Some of the University of Florida’s renderings can be viewed on the Envision Heritage YouTube Channel.

3D Documentation Specialists

Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to advancing the state of the art of digital capture and documentation of the world’s cultural, historic, and artistic treasures. One of its goals is to create robust, low-cost imaging tools to document cultural heritage. It is noted for unique approaches to 3D documentation, its commitment to training people in these technologies, and its willingness to use social media as an outreach tool.

CyArk was founded in 2003 to ensure heritage sites are available to future generations, while making them uniquely accessible today. CyArk operates internationally as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission of using new technologies to create a free, 3D online library of the world’s cultural heritage sites before they are lost to natural disasters, destroyed by human aggression or ravaged by the passage of time. CyArk tends to focus on high-profile projects, supported by large grants.

3D Data Exchange

The ASTM E57 Committee on 3D Imaging Systems Sub-committee on Data Interoperability (E57.04) has developed an open standard for 3D imaging system data exchange. Working with partners to follow this standard is important to make maximum use of 3D products. The standard’s goals include the following:

  • Cross-platform
  • Open source
  • Easy to use API, designed for common use cases

The E57 File Format for 3D Imaging Data Exchange is capable of storing point cloud data from laser scanners and other 3D imaging systems, as well as associated 2D imagery and core metadata.

Supporting Documentation

The following documents will be helpful for partners assisting with 3D documentation projects

  • Strategic Plan
  • Historic Structures Reports
  • Blueprints
  • Cultural Landscape Plan
  • Related Archival Images

HABS/HAER/HALS Documentation

Participation in National Park Service Heritage Documentation Programs (HDP) would complement, inform and strengthen a built heritage site’s own 3D documentation efforts. In particular,  a documentation project as part of the the Historic American Building Survey (HABS), or Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) are options for documenting in this way. Much of the work of HABS is done by student teams during the summer, or as part of college-credit classwork. An institution could sponsor a student team in partnership with a university with an architecture program.

The measured drawings, photographs and reports produced from these programs are archived by the Library of Congress and made accessible through their online database.  Efforts are being made now to connect HABS documentation to 3D documentation point clouds.

Related Research

Bennett, Michael J. “Evaluating the Creation and Preservation Challenges of Photogrammetry-based 3D Models.” http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1057&context=libr_pubs

Kronkright, Dale. “Applications for Digital Photogrammetric Methods of Preservation Documentation of Historic Homes.” https://ncptt.nps.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012-11.pdf

Related Linkset

 

Mobile tour platforms for museums and cultural sites

Increasingly, museums are seeking to move beyond the one-way communication common for most of their existence. The tool being used for this purpose are app or mobile-optimized websites that allow visitors to create their own experiences while gaining deeper knowledge of collections-based subject matter. Museums increasingly seek to evolve their interpretation into multimedia experiences that engage visitors more deeply, and provide them with a “keepsake” of the experience which they may continue to explore after their visit. Additionally, these apps provide the organization with useful information about the visitor experience. But will these experience provide a deeper level of understanding sufficient to offset the additional complications of technology support and content production required? What the options for service providers, and what is the cost involved? This post details the features, costs and considerations regarding some of the major content delivery systems.  

Platform: Cuseum

Features:

  • Content management
  • Beacon support
  • Indoor wayfinding
  • Social sharing
  • Multimedia support
  • Data analytics
  • Recommendation Engine

Cost:

  • Subscription $1,000/month  (includes mobile-optimized website); $30/beacon initial cost (10 recommended, plus $100 installation fee).
  • Can assist content development with à la carte pricing

Clients:

  • MIT List Visual Arts Center
  • Boston Atheneum
  • MASS MoCA
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Lyman Allyn Art Museum
  • Art Gallery New South Wales
  • Asian Art Museum
  • BAM/PFA
  • Bellarmine Museum of Art
  • Milwaukee Art Museum
  • Finnish National Gallery
  • Davis Museum
  • Empire State Plaza Art Collection
  • National Museum of Wildlife Art
  • Dallas Contemporary
  • Denver Art Museum
  • Contemporary Art Museum Houston

Analysis:

Cuseum is a platform that works using a CMS from which a mobile-optimized website and downloadable native app can be created. Its visitor-facing experience is cleaner and more sophisticated than many of its peers in this field. Typically, it features a unique interaction bar at the bottom of the screen that allows users to like, comment on and share content. Additionally, it allows users to view a map that shows them where points of interest are near them, and can recommend options for exploration based on their actions. 

Platform: OnCell/Toursphere

Features:

  • Content Management System
  • Data analytics
  • Social sharing (on personal devices)
  • Multilingual support (manual input; does not translate languages)
  • Ability to create downloadable app for iOS, Android
  • Test flight capability

Cost:

$399/month for a one-tour web app (mobile-optimized web site). No contractual commitment.

$10,000+ for custom web app design in tour builder

Clients:

  • MOMA: Murder at the Met*
  • Texas Historical Commission
  • National Park Service: Saratoga National Historic Park
  • Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
  • Denver Botanic Gardens

Analysis:

Oncell recently acquired Toursphere to create one of the largest providers of guided tour experiences in this format. The basic subscription includes a dedicated template website with a limited number of color schemes. It is functional and well supported. Tours are built using a collection of widgets (i.e. buttons, text, audio and video) that can be dragged and dropped into the desired location on a page. Custom apps can be created from the tour content, though the price goes up considerably to build such an experience and the result looks very close to the web-based templates offered by Oncell/Toursphere.

Platform: Guidekick

Features:

  • 3D map of institutional space as a tour interface
  • Content Management System
  • Wayfinding with beacons and indoor positioning technologies
  • Analytics (with heatmapping)
  • Social media sharing

Cost:

Subscription fee: $1,000+

 

Development for iOS and Android platforms: $50,000+

Clients:

  • Hearst Castle*
  • de Young Museum

Analysis:

Guidekick provides a custom-built option that includes three-dimensional models of the museum and gardens. Of the platforms examined, Guidekick functioned most smoothly and exhibited the most “wow” factor with its 3D aerial interface. Other than the 3D map, Guidekick’s unique selling point is that it offers a custom-built experience around its CMS, which allows the institution to achieve a product that reflects its needs for connecting to audiences. The costs are higher than those of other apps mentioned here, but they are drastically reduced from the typical costs of custom-built apps.

Platform: GuideOne

Features:

  • CMS “G1-Curator” designed “specifically around the needs of Museums”
  • Wayfinding with beacon technology
  • Multilanguage support
  • Accessibility features
  • Ability to integrate 2-D maps (e.g. in Longwood Gardens)

Cost:

$200,000 (Development)

Clients

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach
  • National Park Service Kids App – Independence
  • Longwood Gardens
  • The Barnes Foundation

Analysis:

GuideOne is an established mobile app developer based in Brooklyn. It develops custom applications much like Guidekick. The Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach organization launched an app with GuideOne in September 2015. Key points about the experience were related by the organization’s executive director, Sharon Horowitz:

The purpose of an app is to provide more depth about the memorial, and the history it represents, to visitors. Visitors often left with many of their questions unanswered because there are no interpretive staff on site. Representatives of the Jewish Federation went to the Museums and the Web conference in Boston and interviewed several tour app vendors. GuideOne stood out because they had produced several successful products with historical organizations.

Memorial staff contracted GuideOne for approximately $200,000 to work on development of an app and an accompanying micro website. They dedicated another $200,000 to content development, working with subject matter experts in Los Angeles. Three people from the Jewish Federation also assisted. GuideOne helped locate experts to translate the tour into multiple languages. The process took about one year of dedicated effort to launch. The site was prepared with increased Wi-Fi capability and beacon technology to trigger points of interest on devices. The Memorial’s visitor center has information about the tour, and has iOS devices available for users to borrow. They are currently finding that people prefer to use their own devices. Staff strongly encourage visitors to download the app, and will help them do so. Visitors are often reluctant to wait for a download of the app as they are anxious to get to the Memorial site, but they report that the app greatly enhances their experiences afterward.

A primary market for the Memorial is school groups. The app and microsite are offered to classes that are planning visits and sometimes staff will make presentations on the content and its online availability beforehand. The site even includes lesson plans to prepare these groups to make the most of their visits.

Since launching in September 2015, the app has been downloaded about 2,000 times. The microsite has experience a great deal of traffic from school groups and others who are researching Holocaust subject matter.

Platform: Acoustiguide

Features:

  • Custom app development
  • Social sharing
  • Interactive maps
  • Multimedia capability
  • Beacon wayfinding

Cost:

Variable. They work with the highest profile clients of the firms documented here, indicating a higher price point.

Clients:

  • 9/11 Memorial
  • The Art Gallery of Ontario
  • National Gallery of Art
  • Musée du Louvre
  • Guggenheim
  • Kimbell Art Museum
  • The Barnes Foundation
  • Smithsonian Institution

Analysis: Acoustiguide is a Canadian company that traditionally has produced audio guides for museums. It is a prolific developer, with dozens of tour apps available on the iOS app store. Most of these are moderately sized cultural institutions whose tours are based on the same template. Higher-profile clients like the Guggenheim and the 9/11 Memorial have custom swipeable interfaces. The 9/11 memorial has an element in which users can post a tribute. They can also pinch and zoom a field of circles to view tributes by others. There is also an interactive 3D map (simplified) where points of interest can be selected and then maximized and scrolled through gestures like pinch, zoom and swipe. The costs for using Acoustiguide are highly variable depending on whether the organization opts for the templated approach or the more customized experience.

Platform: TourBuddy

Features:

  • Multi-Guide Starter (User chooses from multiple guides to download within the app)
  • Social Sharing
  • AppBuilder CMS
  • Geolocation triggers (audio automatically plays at predetermined GPS points
  • Multiple language tours
  • Embed capability for video and web links

Cost:

  • Annual fee: $2,000/year
  • iOS Set-up fee + Android: $4,000

Clients:

  • The Ringling Museum, Sarasota, FL
  • City of Savannah, GA

Analysis:

This platform seems to be used more for walking city tours than museums. The Ringling Museum is the most prominent museum-specific app by TourBuddy that is currently active. Its interface is primarily text and images, with embedded maps for points of interest. One interesting feature of this app in particular is its robust settings menu, which allows the visitor to configure GPS trigger settings and media play settings. Otherwise it is an unremarkable platform based on available app experiences.

Platform: TAP

Features (authoring tools):

  • TAP CMS (for managing content)
  • TAP iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch)
  • TAP iPad app
  • TAP Web app

Cost:

Free to reuse code via GitHub. Would require development assistance for custom configuration.

Clients/Users:

  • Indianapolis Museum of Art: 100 acres
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
  • National Air and Space Museum: Co-Pilot
  • National Museum of the American Indian

Analysis:

TAP is a collection of free and open-source tools (developed through an IMLS grant) that support the creation and delivery of mobile tours. The tools also serve as examples of producing and consuming tour content using the TourML specification. Currently TAP consists of authoring tools built on top of the content management system Drupal, a native iOS mobile application, and a web-based mobile application built upon the jQuery Mobile library.

A number of museums adopted TAP at one time or another, though considerably fewer still have active applications that can be reviewed. The interface for those that can accessed tends to be less refined than other tour experiences. The institution retains full freedom to customize and retain control of all aspects of content development and delivery.

Publishing the resulting product requires an iOS developer account to publish on the app store. The code is sporadically updated, which means it may not be fully compatible with the latest operating system versions.

Platform: TourMate

Features:

Cost:

  • Application Development, Hosting and Support Fee * (using Tour‐Mate App Template)
    $2, 500.00/ year; $3,500.00/ year (per App)
  • Tour Content Setup and Assembly + $2,750.00 (one time fee)
  • Online Access to OSS+ Content Management System
    and Usage Analytics $2,500.00/yr (optional)
  • Custom App Development $135 per hour

Clients:

  • Bata Shoe Museum
  • Spadina Museum Historic House and Gardens
  • John Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore
  • The Biltmore Estate
  • The Alamo

Analysis: The TourMate platform offers similar capabilities to other systems reviewed here, but has a higher price point. Its customer service is extremely responsive and its costs for development are high, but realistic. However, based on currently available applications, its user-facing interface is dated and mostly skewed to the Android platform. It does offer numerous products on which to play tours without requiring a web connection, though its focus seems to be heavily on audio tours.

Platform: Google Cultural Institute

Features:

  • Ability to easily curate app tours from Google Cultural Institute account.
  • Integrates user-friendly Google tools like YouTube and Streetview
  • Content sharing capabilities

Cost:

There is no cost to use the platform or develop an app based on content you own

Clients:

  • MAO Museo d’Arte Orientale
  • Emergence Festival
  • Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
  • Palazzo Madama Torino

Analysis: This platform has the option to publish an app free for organizations who are members of the Google Cultural Institute and have content there. It has a clean and easy-to-navigate interface, with options for multimedia integration, and easy sharing of content. However, it is for the Android platform, using only Google tools such as YouTube and Google Street View. It is not available for download on iOS devices, which is the platform many organizations have invested in to this point. 

Considerations for adoption

Location Positioning Technology

The most challenging aspect of any mobile tour will be making the application aware of a visitor’s position in relation to points of interest (POIs). Wi-Fi signals can help triangulate position, but this depends on Wi-Fi signals that are strong and varied. Even in defined galleries, it is very difficult to maintain a consistent Wi-Fi signal across a large area. All museums struggle with this issue–even those housed in newer, compact facilities with fewer thick walls. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are more accurate and have a high industry uptake. Of the museum app developers offering location-aware products, BLE is the default technology due to its relatively low cost and more refined positioning capability.

The vendor chosen to facilitate a mobile app will have to work closely with the institution regarding beacon placement. While beacons respond to proximity, they can’t necessarily extrapolate which direction they are coming from, which could cause some confusion in wayfinding. An interactive map can mitigate this confusion.  

3-Dimensional scans and artwork

The Guidekick 3-D animation of the museum and ground is a desirable model interface for a tour system. It also factors greatly into the additional cost of that platform. The Guidekick-produced 3D map would draw upon references such as CAD data, floor plans, GIS data, and a detailed maps of the grounds / gardens. From here, software tools process the references and 3D-artists work on details such as props, embellishments, texturing, and lighting.

Content Allowance

The applications considered in this document are very focused in the amount and type of information they provide. This is primarily to prevent “app bloat” in which the app becomes too large to accommodate a reasonable download time. Apps downloaded in reasonable time initially. Upon launch, however, most required a content update of 100MB-plus before the app could be accessed at all. These updates took between 1-5 minutes to download on standard Wi-Fi. It is often desirable for a mobile-optimized website be developed concurrently with the app so that visitors can point their phones to a web link if they wish to begin the tour immediately using their cell connection without downloading content. For devices that an institution would loan out, the pre-loaded native app will provide a better quality experience, but options for sharing the content on social are limited since users cannot log into their accounts on those devices.

Content Development License

For the purposes of search, and for content ownership, the institution should procure its own developer accounts for the iOS and Android app stores. This will cost $25 (one time) for the Android license and $99/year for the Apple license. Both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store take 30 percent of revenues from any paid app.

References

Cisco Whitepaper on Artlens: http://internetofeverything.cisco.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/Cleveland_Museum_Art_Jurisdiction_Profile_final.pdf

MW2015 Talk on Triangulation and NFC: http://mw2015.museumsandtheweb.com/paper/location-location-location-the-proliferation-of-indoor-positioning-and-what-it-means-and-doesnt-mean-for-museums/

Google Cultural Institute Free Apps

http://venturebeat.com/2014/12/10/google-cultural-institute-opens-up-as-a-platform-for-museums-to-build-their-own-mobile-apps/

The Manual of Museum Learning: “Wayfinding the in the Digital Age”

https://books.google.com/books?id=grxnCgAAQBAJ&lpg=PA227&ots=SI-S2cMKAl&dq=museum%20app%20case%20study&pg=PA227#v=onepage&q=museum%20app%20case%20study&f=false

APPS v WEB and other digital grudge matches

http://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/digital-media/museumnext2014-apps-v-web

Tour a Museum from Anywhere (New York Times)

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/business/apps-offer-virtual-tours-of-museums-and-more.html?_r=0

Best Apps for Visiting Museums (WSJ)

http://www.wsj.com/articles/best-apps-for-visiting-museums-1438358127

Museum tour apps for <$25k at Museums & Mobile conference

http://www.idea.org/blog/2011/10/27/museum-tour-apps-at-3rd-museums-mobile-conference/

Mobile experiences in museums

http://dmlcentral.net/archive/mobile-experiences-in-art-museums/

Lessons Cooper Hewitt learned in the making of “The Pen”

Note: Having experienced the complexity of developing a small museum interactive product, the concept of Cooper Hewitt’s Pen blew my mind. Cooper Hewitt’s presentation at Museums and the Web 2015 was THE must-see on my list. This is a bulleted recap of the lessons the tream recounted.

Cooper Hewitt reopened at the end of 2014 with a transformed museum in a renovated heritage building. New galleries, a rapidly digitizing collection a new brand and a desire for new audiences drove the museum to rethink and reposition its role as a design museum. At the core of the new museum is a digital platform built in-house that connects collections and patron management systems.  This talk explored the processes, the decisions and resulting trade-offs during each stage.

  1. Why a pen for the digital touchpoint between visitor and museum? Pen was integral to institutional historical narrative.
  2. Project was successful at great cost and time: “There is so much we could have done differently.”
  3. Curators for the first time had to design all floors with no extra staff. Historic building was being restored.
  4. Pen was supposed to be near-future tech, but was “not there” for the intended timeline.
  5. Collections website was built quickly, as was API.
  6. “We could see the shape of what we were doing, and had brought the technology in house.”
  7. The museum was opened without the pen (the tech could function without it).
  8. The pen is there so you don’t have to take a picture of the label text (which never worked well for anyone).
  9. Affordances in descriptions: what was made possible by the object?
  10. Pen touches every single part of the museum. Didn’t realize how much work it would be—goes beyond design thinking.
  11. Pen’s biggest possible is that it pointed to recall—promise to help help people remember their visit.
  12. Pen’s form has resonance with their particular brand.
  13. “Slide of disillusionment.” It was a tedious process
  14. There were three iterations of pens.
  15. Available technologies were too expensive.
  16. The cost of failure
  17. Less cost allows more experiments with failure. Start with something like Raspberry Pi—computer that’s $35. 
  18. Original pen was so expensive that outsourcing would not have worked— needed an in-house team.
  19. Moved from ideas of active to passive pen.
  20. Realized not all of the building rooms had power or networking. Worries about fire around works related to enclosure (and liability issues).
  21. Most useful line: To build institutional momentum—built the dumbest, dirtiest prototypes ever
  22. In DFM modifications, every single change affects manufacture—molding of plastics, internal mechanics, etc. 
  23. Metal is the enemy of radio frequencies.
  24. Had to write an Android app to talk to the API.
  25. This is not just a tech project—it affects everything the museum does.
  26. Process difficulties—pen registration and transfer stations.
  27. Ten manufacturers contribution to the making of the device.
  28. Audience change at Cooper Hewitt has been vast.
  29. Gave out 14,000 pens in four weeks.
  30. 30% return rate on people coming back to their exhibit on the web. Ticket urls don’t expire. Data hosted in Amazon. Pay for use, as capacity grows
  31. Concierge model for visitors. “Keep your ticket—we’d love to have you back.”
  32. Pens cleaned nightly. Batteries were going through first round of changes during the time of this presentation.
  33. Value is in users having a good experience and wanting to remember it. Long game is making recall better through touch and creation.
  34. Another good point: Before this we had nothing; now we have something and we’ll figure the rest out later.
  35. Pen could have been much more. Pen has NFC and is a stylus—everything else is done in software.
  36. Website allows urls for sharing on social media. Don’t integrate social too much because platforms change so quickly.
  37. Don’t overdesign for the present.
  38. Made a commitment to not make one-offs for web awards.
  39. Focus on the right stuff, build capacity, hire people, sustain sector, share as much code as you can.

To learn more about the concept and making of this tool, read Cooper Hewitt’s post, Designing the Pen.

Museum Interactive: Alchemical Quest Rare Books Exhibit Case Study

I managed development of a museum interactive for an exhibit called The Alchemical Quest, which featured rare books. The books originated during the golden age of alchemy, from the 16th and 17th centuries and were drawn from the collections of the Othmer Library of Chemical History. The report below documents the project team’s efforts to make these texts accessible and alive to visitors via a touch projection technology museum interactive.

Project Goals:

  • Reinforce the depth and complexity presented in the exhibition content
  • Implicitly reiterate the exhibition narratives while allowing for visitors to enjoy the imagery of the books through the interactive experience
  • Provide visitors with alternate means of experiencing the books in the exhibition
  • Foster curiosity and encourage deeper exploration of images and text
  • Demonstrate an example of an alchemical process in its entirety
  • Reflect the fantastical and practical balance found within the books

 

Case Study: Museum Interactive for The Alchemical Quest Exhibit by jkguin

 

Check out other downloadable case studies on Voices of the Past.

Fostering community understanding amid inconvenient archaeology

When my hometown’s historic bricked main street was unearthed to perform archaeology in preparation for repair, the community was understandably concerned about the implied delays.  I wrote this article about “Beneath the Bricks,” an ad-hoc committee  that sought to educate the community about the project’s importance despite the many logistical inconveniences it caused to the public’s daily routines. They held public informational events and used the web and local media to share information about the excavation. It’s a great case study in how heritage professionals and enthusiasts can be proactive in engaging communities before, during and after heritage projects to foster support for activities that may be inconvenient for a time. This was featured in “Past Horizons: The Journal of Volunteer Archaeology,” published out of Scotland. The article begins on page 30.

Past Horizons May 2009 Issue 8 (Read in Full Screen Mode) by David Connolly on Scribd