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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Mobile devices for orientation and way finding: the case of the British Museum multimedia guide

Abstract

When the first handheld devices became commercially available, museums were particularly excited about the opportunities that these could offer particularly in terms of visitors' orientation and way finding. The presence of a touch screen, in fact, supports the use of interactive maps, which, alone or in combination with location aware technologies can help visitors understand where they are and decide where to go.

More than 10 years have now passed since the implementation of the first handheld guide and, unfortunately, many museums are still struggling to develop and implement effective way finding solutions on mobile platforms. Location aware technologies have proven to be expensive and problematic to install and maintain, while interactive maps, particularly of complex sites can be challenging for people to use and interpret on small screens.

Building on the experience of other institutions such as Tate, the Met and the Louvre, the British Museum has recently launched a multimedia guide in 11 languages that supports way finding and orientation without relying on location aware technology.

In this paper, we will present in details the various way finding solutions that were developed for the guide, as well as the results of research and evaluations that were carried out on these applications during and after the launch.  Through our experience, we hope to provide a reference for other medium and large size museums, which are grappling with similar issues.

Type: 

Paper - in formal session

Authors

silviaf's picture
Before joining the IMA as a manger for evaluation and technology-based engagement, Silvia worked for 10 years as a project manager and evaluator for a number of technology based projects in and for museums, including the British Museum, the J.P. Getty Museum, The Centre Pompidou, the Musee du...
matthewcock's picture
The web team is responsible for all public-facing digital media at the Museum, including the website and the multimedia guides. I am also Chair of the Jodi Mattes Trust, which gives the annual Jodi Awards (http://www.jodiawards.org.uk) for accessibility of digital content and services in the museum...
Sarah McDaid's picture
Sarah McDaid is a freelance Usability Consultant and Visiting Research Fellow at London South Bank University. Her current research interests include the development of a design and evaluation framework for human-computer interaction in a social context. Her professional experience includes...

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