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Beyond the Label

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This project was a rapid sprint development of a digital intervention for the refurbished Gallery 3, the Fitzwilliam Museum’s flagship gallery. We had been given the task by the gallery’s curator, Jane Munro, to find a method to give visitors the chance to find out further information on the objects using digital means. This project was given the name “Beyond the Label” and was created with my colleagues from my department (George Doji and Rosie Forrest) and the curatorial team and a guest writer.

Beyond the Label: Scan, tap, type

A new digital intervention in the Fitzwilliam Museum has been released as part of the celebrated refurbishment of Gallery 3. Within this glorious space, the museum’s Digital and Curatorial teams have collaborated to create a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) experience, which enables the visitor to access enhanced information about key objects displayed within this gallery and one object found in the Courtauld.

Enhanced information is accessed through the visitor’s smart phone using 3 methods of interaction – QR codes, Near Field Communication chips (NFC) or by typing in a short URL – which has been compiled on a simple website accessible on and off the museum estate. Combining the methods on one label ensures that as many visitors as possible are able to experience the enhanced content in-gallery.

These pages enable the visitor to discover assets from the Museum’s digital archives, from newly commissioned photography and collaboratively written essays with colleagues from the University. To build on the public’s sense-of-wonder at the physical objects, they can use several of their senses to engage on a virtual level with masterpieces from Keats, Poussin, Gainsborough, van Dyck and Mytens.

This project is very much an experimental, but reproducible digital project which was developed in just 2 weeks, with the only cost being the NFC enabled stickers, which are found behind the labels – a grand total of £2.75 – and uses open source code to create a website that other museums could reuse and adapt. The technology is not that innovative, having been used in many museums and cultural settings around the world, but is steadily becoming more ubiquitous. This work builds upon recently funded AHRC research projects that the museum has been pursuing and brings elements of the technologies explored by our post-doctoral researchers to bear within the galleries of the museum.

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