Case Studies: We have lift-off
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the saying goes. If that’s the case, then the case studies are a meSch meal of many courses, serving the fine cuisine cooked up by the various meSch work packages. Now most of the building blocks of the meSch system have reached prototype phase and beyond, it is time to test these new tools in a heritage environment. What is expected of the case studies and how are we planning to achieve this? A short overview of our plans for the coming months.
A two-phased process
The meSch project is divided into 8 work packages, each responsible for a specific part of the work. Work package 6, ‘Case Studies’, can be divided in two parts: The first part consists of a series of pre-case studies and case studies, testing meSch concepts at the three heritage insitutions that are part of the consortium. The second part will focus on the usability of the authoring tool, with a number of Authoring Feasts as its main public-facing activity. The focus for all the work in this workpackage lies on the following three elements:
- Authoring of an exhibition as a measure of success of the whole meSch technology platform.
- Possibility of re-using, re-configuring and adapting smart objects for different exhibitions.
- Consolidation of the experience in a blueprint for other museums.
From now (August 2014) until January 2015, we will focus our efforts on three smaller pre-case studies, in which we test some basic elements of the system and develop a clear co-creative workflow. For these pre-case studies we will further explore some of the prototypes that were developed in the first year and a half. The Loupe will be tested in the Allard Pierson Museum, where curators will be involved in the content creation process. For this, they will focus on an existing display case which contains various objects depicting Greek gods. Usability and visitor appreciation of the Loupe as tool will be evaluated in collaboration with work package 7 – ‘Evaluation’, which is responsible for coordinating all evaluation efforts in the meSch project.
A second iteration of the meSch Cases will be tested at a community centre in The Hague, using Museon’s collections. This alternative location outside of the museum was chosen since most museums do not have many visitors who visit on a weekly or daily basis. The community centre of The Hague has a reasonable number of frequently returning visitors. This means people can follow and influence the popularity of objects over a longer period of time. Museon is keen to find out how people will react to the change of objects in the display cases.
In Italy, the Companion Novel, and a similar tool in the shape of an interactive belt, will be tested in the trenches of Nagià Grom. The target audience for this test consists of young people of a secondary school age, who are visiting the trenches as part of an educational trip. The content that will be offered through the tools is identical to the regular educational material that is provided by the Museo della Guerra. It will be interesting to see what the effects of using another medium (digital and sound, as opposed to paper-based text and images) will be on pupils’ response to the content.
After the start of the third year of the meSch project, from February 2015, the activities in work package 6 will focus on a series of fully rounded case studies, designed around existing needs of the three meSch heritage partners. Some of these case studies will be smaller and take into account a specific meSch requirement, like porting existing content from one smart object to another. Other case studies will be bigger and will explore the integration of the meSch tools in an entire exhibition. All three heritage sites will be given the opportunity to further develop their plans and needs for the meSch tools. So far, the case studies planned for Museon will focus on an upcoming ‘Atlantikwall’ exhibition and the need for supporting families with small children with regards to information and navigation during their visit. The Allard Pierson Museum aims to integrate the meSch system into an exhibition about the depiction of movement in Greek art and artefacts. And Museo della Guerra is hoping to use the meSch system to augement their outdoor visitor experience of the World War I site Forte Pozzacchio, which lies on, and partly in, a rather steep mountain. All in all three very different case studies to undertake that together shall help to build and finalize the meSch technology platform.
The meSch technology platform will also have an authoring environment, where heritage professionals can compose and create narratives and adaptvie smart objects for their interactive exhibitions. Therefore, focal point of the second phase of work package 6 will be authoring feasts. These will be organised by meSch partner Waag Society, in various locations in Europe, potentially hosted by heritage partners. At these authoring feasts, external cultural heritage professionals will be invited to use the meSch authoring tool to create smart objects. Objectives for these authoring feasts are:
- To develop service blueprints.
- To provide a testbed and summative evaluation of the meSch authoring development environment, of the embedded multi-sensor digital system platform, the associated manuals and video training.
- To provide technical work packages with the final design recommendations for the final online release of the meSch technology.
Needless to say we are very excited this phase of the project has now officially started and we are looking forward to keeping you informed of our progress and experiences via the meSch blog.
Material Encounters with digital Cultural Heritage