Mobile barcode usage in museums is just now starting to take shape. I’ve put together a sampling of some uses ranging from audio tours to augmented reality. There have been some miscues along the way, like laminating the QR code or putting it behind glass so that when the light hits it at the right angle, it’s impossible to scan correctly. Oops! But there have also been many successful implementations. QR codes are a great way to enhance the visitor’s experience. They can bring life to exhibits, allow communication between visitors and educate at all levels.
Let’s start with Richmond and Indianapolis. Indianapolis has used QR codes to do the simple task of redirecting the smartphone user to a Wiki page with more information about what the exhibit is trying to teach the kids. Richmond is taking their education of the children to a whole new level. Focusing on their four main exhibits, they have added QR codes for the parents to scan. Once scanned, they are redirected to a video that they staff has produced that explains the lesson they want the children to learn. These ideas can be carried out at the museum or extended to the home.
Why QR and mobile? Why not video kiosk at the exhibit? They tried that. The environment is about high-energy and interaction. The video monitors were disruptive to the learning process and too hard to hear. Above is a sample of one of the videos that is available via the QR code.
Speaking of audio, the Cleveland Museum of Art and Bologna’s Museum of Archeology are using QR codes to do audio tours of their collections. The tour is for the new galleries: ancient Near East, Greek, Roman, Egyptian art; Byzantine and medieval art; African art; and prints and drawings. Once the code has been scanned, the user is taken to an online version of the audio tour.
The poster-sized art ads are in 11 different kiosk locations throughout Cleveland, including Little Italy and Tremont and smaller posters were placed thorough libraries and other public areas. The QR code takes art enthusiasts right to the museum’s webpage, driving web traffic and allowing tours to be heard right off your smartphone, promoting the new galleries.
This new service from Italy’s public museums, realized in collaboration with Loquendo, transforms visitors’ mobile devices into modern audio and video guides, an exciting way for people to access and enjoy their cultural heritage. The QR codes have been launched in Bologna’s Museum of Archeology, Collezioni Comunali d’Arte (City Art Collections) and Museo Civico del Risorgimento (Museum of the Italian Resurgence). In the coming months the service will be extended to other public museums of Bologna, including historic buildings, churches and monuments, all tagged with QR codes that can link together to create special themed walks around the city (e.g. the City of Music, medieval Bologna, etc.).
By launching the reader and photographing the QR code, the information stored within it will be read aloud by the mobile device using Loquendo Text-to-Speech. That information can include additional data about the collection or exhibits, as well as images, documents, sound, and video, and is made available to the visitor, free of charge and in a flexible and user-friendly way.
Smithsonian Natural History Museum used QR codes as part of an exhibit on Neanderthals. The “MEanderthals” campaign’s QR codes sent users to a site where that can upload a photo, see what they would have looked like 30,000 years ago, and share via Facebook and email.
For the 100th anniversary of Scouting, the Smithsonian created a scavenger hunt for the hoards of Boy Scouts coming through their Resource Center. They placed them throughout the museum giving them clues to the next code. The quest could include an activity for them to do, making a simple ring-and-pin game, and help them learn about traditional Native American games. The utilization of connecting the Boy Scouts to the Native cultures was brilliant giving them insight that they could relate to thus strengthening the respect for Native Americans.
Some museums, like the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology and Fenimore Art Museum, have tied a more social aspect to the QR Code experience. At Fenimore, each artifact in the exhibition is accompanied by an original blog post, original comments associated with that post, and the QR code that directs users to the post itself. Visitors are encouraged to use the codes to link to the comments section and leave their own thoughts about the artifacts and the exhibition.
The Petrie is one of London’s smallest museum but holds a collection of fascinating ancient Egyptian artifacts. Once you’ve scanned the QR code, a visitor can read more about the artifact and leave a message about it. There is a mounted iPad, like the Grant Museum of Zoology, that allows visitors without smartphones to do the same. You can go back and look at other comments via the Tales of Things app.
Similarly, the National Museum of Scotland uses Tales of Things too. Around 80 objects in the Scotland: A Changing Nation gallery have been ‘tagged’ with QR codes. The visitor is taken straight to a website page with further detail about the item, from video and audio clips to images and fun facts
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in coordination with the Martin Agency, launched a brilliant campaign bringing together QR and AR (augmented reality). Augmented reality is technical voodoo that allows you to view virtual objects in real space. They have set up areas in multiple cities across the East Coast and in 33 Richmond Starbucks to act as virtual museums. Places like vacant lots or the streets of SoHo, have been transformed into art galleries using QR codes that launch the AR app (using Layar) that “places” the art “on the wall” of your smartphone. Now people in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. get to enjoy this exhibition as they walk down the streets of their city.
To further the QR cause, the print and out-of-home elements used a portrait of Picasso made entirely of QR codes. When a phone scans the QR image, it is re-directed to a landing page featuring Picasso’s work and an invitation to buy tickets to the exhibition. The innovation of this campaign that blends together the technologies of QR and AR is a fitting bit of genius for the innovative genius that is Picasso.
Although we’re still getting used to QR codes, museums are finding some fascinating and innovative ways to use them. A project at a UK museum showed that the use of mobile phones by kids at museums increases their length of stay 4.5 times the average. It’s a new, novel and engaging way to teach whether it be fashion, art, science or history. We are at the beginning of what is possible with the technologies that are developing every day.
What do you plan to do to upgrade your next experience? How can you use mobile to enhance your museum or business?