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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.

Creating a mobile app ecosystem - the Genera project for iOS


At the start of 2011, Australia’s Museum Victoria (MV), published a Field Guide for Victorian Animals for iOS devices: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app currently contains information for approximately 650 Victorian animal species, including birds, mammals, snakes, lizards and frogs, as well as butterflies, snails, spiders and other invertebrates. Released for free, the app was downloaded over 20,000 times in its first 7 months.
In August 2011, Museum Victoria (MV) released the source code for the app under an open source license. Organisations and individuals have used the code to produce field guides for something specific as the frogs within a river catchment area, to the fauna of Papua New Guinea.
The field guide data structure and code is built for displaying information about fauna, however the presentation structure of the app is suitable for displaying information about a wide range of fields. This lead to the development of the Genera project for iOS, which, rather than requiring the data about an object to be supplied in a specific structure to fit the database, adjusts the the database based on the structure of the data supplied. This project can be used to create guides for flora, fauna, minerals or any type of object. The subject of the guide does not have to be a homogenous class of objects, but through the use of templates and identifiers can accommodate heterogenous classes (e.g. fauna and flora).
This paper discusses how the work done by other organisations and the experience of developing the field guide has lead to the development of the Genera project for iOS. Key to the project is the separation of the data, platform and presentation layers. A description of how other organisations can use the Genera platform for their own apps, and suggestions on issues to consider when developing natives app for reuse by other institutions are presented.


Paper - in formal session


thesherrin's picture
Simon Sherrin been working with the web since the mid-nineties. He has been working with museums and cultural institutions for the last four years, and is currently Technical Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library, Australia (
Ely.Wallis's picture
I manage the Collections Online projects at Museum Victoria, both within our own website and through data feeds or contributions to external sites. My background is in Sciences (Zoology) and through those interests, I maintain an active involvement in the Atlas of Living Australia project as the...