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published: April, 2002

Archives & Museum Informatics, 2002.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License

speakers

Diving in at the Deep End - The British Galleries at the V&A
Nick Brod, The Victoria & Albert Museum, United Kingdom

Session: The Enhanced Gallery

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London is the world's largest museum of the decorative arts and is home to 145 galleries, including national collections of sculpture, furniture, fashion and photographs. In November 2001, the V&A opened the British Galleries, its largest gallery project in over 50 years.

Covering 15 rooms the galleries offer a chronological survey of the history of design in Britain from 1500 to 1900 covering British design and art from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Queen Victoria. Virtually every major name in the history of British design is included, including designers such as William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, manufacturers such as Wedgwood and Liberty's, and national treasures such as Henry VIII's writing desk, Queen Elizabeth I's virginals, and James II's wedding suit.

From the beginning of the 7 year project, the galleries were designed around the inclusion of multiple forms of interpretation aimed at the full range of visitors that the Museum plays host to. Amongst some 200 interactives are 18 individual web-based applications served to 40 kiosks, 20 short films, 3 cinema films, 21 spoken audio points and 8 music points.

So how does a Museum previously criticised for being "dull" and "dusty" turn around visitor perception and handle the complicated interaction of screen with art, both in a physical space and on-screen? How do you weave a cross- museum team exceeding 100 people, and multiple outside contractors to deliver a usable, coherent, and maintainable system? And how do you do it with a museum budget?

This session will look at the people, processes and the pitfalls that came together to deliver the largest art gallery interactive development in the UK in recent years: a development that has seen visitor figures rise by 300%, unprecedented compliments from visitors, a BAFTA nomination for best use of new media, and the basis for the future of interactive developments at the V&A.

In depth, we will follow the 18-month prototyping and testing phase that led to the development of the detailed functional specifications that allowed the system to be developed and delivered in the final 9 months of the project. In particular, we will focus on the challenges of kiosk usability and the role of user-trials in raising usability to the level of all our audiences, and the critical question of maintaining such a large-scale, high profile development.

Covering 15 rooms the galleries offer a chronological survey of the history of design in Britain from 1500 to 1900 covering British design and art from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Queen Victoria. Virtually every major name in the history of British design is included, including designers such as William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, manufacturers such as Wedgwood and Liberty's, and national treasures such as Henry VIII's writing desk, Queen Elizabeth I's virginals, and James II's wedding suit.

From the beginning of the 7 year project, the galleries were designed around the inclusion of multiple forms of interpretation aimed at the full range of visitors that the Museum plays host to. Amongst some 200 interactives are 18 individual web-based applications served to 40 kiosks, 20 short films, 3 cinema films, 21 spoken audio points and 8 music points.

So how does a Museum previously criticised for being "dull" and "dusty" turn around visitor perception and handle the complicated interaction of screen with art, both in a physical space and on-screen? How do you weave a cross- museum team exceeding 100 people, and multiple outside contractors to deliver a usable, coherent, and maintainable system? And how do you do it with a museum budget?

This session will look at the people, processes and the pitfalls that came together to deliver the largest art gallery interactive development in the UK in recent years, a development that has seen visitor figures rise by 300%, unprecedented compliments from visitors, a BAFTA nomination for best use of new media, and the basis for the future of interactive developments at the V&A.

In depth, we will follow the 18 month prototyping and testing phase that led to the development of the detailed functional specifications that allowed the system to be developed and delivered in the final 9 months of the project. In particular, we will focus on the challenges of kiosk usability and the role of user-trials in raising usability to the level of all our audiences, and the critical question of maintaining such a large-scale, high-profile development.