The Loupe strikes again at the Hunt Museum in Ireland

The Hunt Museum explored further use of the meSch Loupe – an augmented reality tool that can be used intuitively by the visitor to further explore the collections. Its use was so popular amongst visitors, that the museum decided to reintroduce it for another exhibition.

The meSch Loupe was chosen as a tool for revealing stories surrounding the eclectic collection housed at The Hunt Museum, Limerick, Ireland. This museum is the fourth museum in Europe to explore its potential, having being available to the public during two events this year. It was first launched as part of the “Alternative Perspectives” exhibition held between 14-18 September and 21-25 September 2015. Due to popular demand, it was available to use again between 9 -15 November 2015 for Science Week. Museums, particularly small museums, are interested in exploring creative methods for supporting access, interaction, and interpretation with their collections. One museum in Ireland chose The Loupe as a tool to help address this challenge. The Interaction Design Centre at The University of Limerick, in collaboration with cultural heritage professionals at The Hunt Museum, repurposed The Loupe to support interactive, self guided tours of the collection. The already existing tours “History of Ireland in 10 Objects” and “Architecture in the Hunt Museum” offered by the museum to explore its eclectic collection (using a brochure or led by docent) were offered in a new form – assisted by The Loupe. The launch of The Loupe was supported by meSch and Irish Design 2015.  

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Visitors using The Loupe at The Hunt Museum, Ireiand

The Loupe: tackling interpretive challenges There are several interpretation challenges surrounding The Hunt Museum collection. With the majority of the collection’s 2,000 objects on display within a rather small space, it can be quite difficult for visitors to focus on objects and interpret their meanings effectively. Moreover, the layout of the museum’s objects was designed to mirror how the artefacts were arranged within the home of the original collectors: John and Gertrude Hunt. This layout has not been modified since the collection was located in The Palladian style Custom House in 1997. Within the gallery, there is rather little interpretive content on display. One of the primary, and most valued, ways for visitors to learn about the collection is through the docent-led tours. The docents are volunteer tour guides who are the experts on the museum’s collection. The docents are highly praised by both visitors and the museum alike. However, a question that arose from the museum is how to provide a meaningful interpretive experience for those visitors who desire to explore the objects without a docent-guided tour. One way to address this broad challenge is through facilitating visitors with a digitally enriched tool to exploration and discovery. The Hunt Museum collaborated with the meSch team at the University of Limerick to formulate this solution. Deciding from a number of meSch technologies (including the Way Detector, the Plinth, and the Loupe), the cultural heritage professionals chose the Loupe. The Loupe was attractive because it had the potential to be quiet; it did not interfere with the sensitive layout or structure of the museum; and it does not compromise another visitor’s experience.
The Loupe in a new case: the outside shape and appeal has been changed to better fit the museum.

The Loupe in a new case: the outside shape and appeal has been changed to better fit the museum.

A ‘Treasure Hunt-Like’ Experience Many visitors who used The Loupe described it as a great tool for discovery: one that provided additional layers of content in a fun, interactive manner whilst also guiding them to the additional objects. Some visitors described this as almost like a treasure hunt that may be especially popular amongst younger audiences. With each tour, The Loupe provided a snapshot of the large collection that the museum holds. Moreover, it left visitors desiring more; by the end of the tour, many visitors wanted to learn and see more by the end of the tour. Could The Loupe be a Tool for Discovery in the Long Term at the Museum? The Hunt Museum is interested in incorporating the meSch Loupe as a permanent tool for discovery at the museum. However, this integration is an on-going journey; following feedback from visitors, The Loupe and the tours provided on it are going to be redesigned to support its permanent place in the collection. Check out the meSch flickr page to see pictures from this exhibition.