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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.

My Great North Run: Facilitating rich audience participation


Digital media can create rich interaction spaces providing diverse and reflexive opportunities for participation from audiences. This demonstration will highlight the possibilities and limits of user-contributed content in distributed and multimodal interactive museum installations to support such interaction. The demonstration will showcase aspects of the ‘My Great North Run’ interactive, a museum installation and connected website ( that archived stories, photographs and drawings from the last thirty years of the Great North Run; the largest half marathon in the world which takes place in the North East of England. The installation was deployed between July and October 2010 at the Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle upon Tyne, as part of an exhibition and associated events and attracted an estimated 100,000 users and 13,000 contributions.

The design of the interactive was developed to capture and share the diverse ways which people have taken part in this event over the last 30 years. Familiar technology was deployed in innovative ways to create different opportunities for participation. This included a thirteen touch-screen map installation of the run in the museum with pre-loaded stories from runners, combined with digital (Anoto) pens and pads so visitors to the exhibition could contribute their own stories and messages. At the same time a complementary website was launched to collect stories about the run from online users. The pre-loaded contributions from runners and the user contributed material from online and on-site visitors were combined and delivered both in the gallery and via the website allowing users to become aware of each others’ stories of the Run. By seeking to facilitate a ‘virtuous circle’ of participation, the design helped to connect visitors in the museum and online users around an international annual event: the Great North Run.

The demonstration will showcase a single screen presentation of the system with digital Anoto pens and pads. The website will also be demonstrated alongside a video and two graphic banners of the installation in use at the Great North Museum.

My Great North Run was developed by Tom Bartindale and John Shearer through the Digital Interaction research group, led by Peter Wright and Patrick Olivier, as part of the School of Computing Sciences, Culture Lab, Newcastle University. The project was part-funded by SiDE, the RCUK Digital Economy Research Hub on Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy in collaboration with the Great North Museum: Hancock, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and Bupa Great North Run Culture.


Demonstration - show your project


Rachel Clarke's picture
I'm a Research Associate at Culture Lab; an interdisciplinary research infrastructure in culture and digital technology at Newcastle University UK. My background is in participatory arts and digital media interpretation for heritage contexts. I am at the start of PhD research into family histories...
Areti Galani's picture
I am a lecturer in the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University, UK. My research is in the field of digital media in the museum and heritage sector with a particular emphasis on the study and understanding of users in these contexts. I am particularly...