Inventing Futures for Cultural Heritage at MediaLab-Prado Madrid

How would you like to augment a cultural heritage object with digital technology? What kind of additional information would you like to be available? How does this augmented dimension enhance your experience with the object? These were some of the questions the meSch team at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) proposed at a workshop for heritage professionals at MediaLab-Prado where tangible interfaces were used to enable tactile and sensorial experiences with digital information.

The workshop combined the sensorial and tactile experience with digital information. The objective was to shed light on the role of users as designers of digitally-augmented systems to enable tangible interactive experiences in museums. In this post we report on the design, setup and dynamics of the workshop.

Workshop design and setup

Our objective was to have attendants tell their stories about how they would like to augment cultural objects. We wanted participants to physically interact with reproductions of these objects and we wanted to digitally record each story to enable social interactions around them.

The room was distributed in three different areas: (1) the Cultural Decoys, (2) the Creativity Space and, (3) the Social Display.

Structure of the workshop working spaces

Workshop dynamics

In the Cultural Decoys space (1), attendants could choose an object from the set of proposed cultural objects: a book from the Spanish dramatist Ramón del Valle-Inclán, a Russian military headgear, a reproduction of the Lady of Elx, a reproduction of a meditating Minerva from the Acropolis Museum of Athens or a copy of an etching from Guesdon.

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Engaging users with physical objects

In the Creativity Space (2) the attendant could create stories around the object either by recording a short video with the camera of a laptop (we provided a dedicated laptop for this task), or using a portable device (we provided a tablet but participants could also use their own device), or by creating a stopmotion animation.

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Different ways of creating digital stories

Once the attendant, or a group of them, was finished creating the story, they could upload it in order to share it with the others, in the area of Social Display (3). When the attendant physically places an object behind a transparent touch window display, all the stories associated with the content are shown on the screen. The attendant could then start interacting with the digital content, by viewing and listening to other users’ stories and also commenting on them, both with a textual or a audiovisual message. In this way it is possible to create a thread of conversations around specific topics of an object, generated by the attendant.

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Exploring and sharing digital stories on tangible objects

Workshop attendance

The one-day workshop attracted 35 participants, which we divided in three sessions, one in the morning and two in the afternoon. Their profiles spanned from alumni of the Master of Arts in Cultural Resources Management at UC3M, cultural mediators, museum curators and members of the Institute of Culture and Technology of the UC3M.

Participants were very proactive and generated many stories envisioning digital interaction with cultural resources and also explaining what kind of information they want to receive from their perspective. The workshop setup, thus, proved to be highly effective in encouraging the creation and social sharing of digital content for cultural objects.

We’d like to thank all the participants and specially the MediaLab Prado team for their hospitality.

Video about the workshop

More about workshops organized by UC3M

This workshop was organised by Andrea Bellucci, Paloma Díaz, Ignacio Aedo and Jaime Cubas from the meSch team at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid on September 23, 2013 at MediaLab-Prado in Madrid. Medialab-Prado is a program part of the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism of the Madrid City Council. It is conceived as a citizen laboratory for the production, research and dissemination of cultural projects that explore collaborative forms of experimentation and learning that have emerged from digital networks.

The meSch team at the University Carlos III Madrid (UC3M) has organised another workshop with cultural heritage managers and students, curators and visitors of exhibitions. In this blog post UC3M reports on an earlier workshop at the Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M), the centre for contemporary art in Madrid.