Usually, we think of museums as an experience within walls. But with the rise of mobile technology, the external possibilities, and for pre- and post- museum experiences increase. Three more presenters, Paul Golding, Andy Ramsden, and Mike Ellis were invited to discuss different aspects of this.
The first, Paul Golding's address, was rather technical, yet accessible, dealing with devices, applications and issues that you might be able to use in bringing the situated web into the museum. Possibilities and trends suggest the possibilities for museums in a world of augmented reality, geo-tagging and locational content. With people using virtual worlds and three dimensional computer generated realities, then the possibilities for museums become both wider and stranger.
Andy Ramsden spoke about QR codes, which we are actually using at the conference! Coming from a teaching and learning perspective, he discusses the applicability of QR codes to the museum and questions if they are simply a fad. Given the information about the technologies provided above, I am dubious if this will be the future. However, they do have applications - physical spaces can be simply connected to electronic information and allows readers and users to comment and augment the provided information. RSS delivery becomes much simpler and accessible from mobile devices using QR codes which aggregate all the information. Physical and virtual learning materials can be connected. For museums, the possibilities arise for guided tours with accessible informational and discussions which are simply and cheaply changed. This is useful - but it depends on people having the technology. While this may be true for many people, I do wonder whether those without the money to use such technologies, or without the training, however few these may be, will lose out.
Mike Ellis, with great humour, addresses the above with a question. 'Yes, but, what about the real world?' in a general philosophical exploration of what the technological developments mean. the potential, he says, is limited only to the imagination of everyone. How does content and meaning flow between the virtual and real space? In the realm, he says, of the 'virtreal'...
The potential, Mike Ellis feels (and I tend to agree), lies mainly in the layering of objects and information. This can become so much richer and deeper and people have the access to much more varied levels of information with far more ease than they ever had before. THIS is what we can use technology for - to integrate at a more intimate level with the real world than we ever thought we could. But it depends on a willingness and the resources to engage with, invest money in, and embed the concepts within our minds and lives so that they become natural and invisible...
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.