The history of museums is in large one of collecting, conserving and presenting our shared heritage within the walls of a physical space. The idea behind Time Trails is to reverse some of that process and in essence and return items of our historical material culture back into their original context. This idea of adapting the process of collection and presentation from outside in to inside out has become a major part of museums digital strategies over the past few years. A couple of key examples have provided some welcome inspiration for our own Time Trails project.
The Museum of London Street Museum app has collated hundreds of the museums images, and pinpointed them in their original context on a mobile map of the city in order to showcase both everyday and momentous occasions in the capitals history. By utilising imagery, contextual information, the physical environment and mobile capability, this product provides an educational and immersive experience which augments reality by merging the world which surrounds the users with a window into the past.
In the spirit of exploring history outside the museum environment, the wonderfully titled More than a Mapp allows a person to locate, experience and interact with African American History through an interactive map. Similar to the London Street Museum, this app provides information about historical locations, items and images located in the user’s immediate vicinity.
What make this app so dynamic is that unlike the Street museum, which delivers information from the museum to the public, More than a Mapp allows its users to contribute information, images and links relevant to African American History. This process is removed from the traditional didactic practice of museum presentation and creates an interactive framework which fosters an organic and two way process of information and knowledge exchange between museum professionals and their community.
With Time Trails it is our aim to further the personalised nature of these experiences, by allowing users to create, store and potentially share their own explicit trails or tours, thus providing people with the power to not only be their own curator but to also create a myriad of journeys or possibly treasure hunts around the city of Exeter. This multiple linearity approach offers users of the app and visitors to the museum, the opportunity to follow trajectories of time and experience by selecting objects related to their own interests and purposes and to discover the extraordinary time depth of the City of Exeter through a digitally relocated representation of the museum collections.
These applications are indicative of many projects being produced in order to mobilise the heritage experience. In an age where mobile phone devices have and will continue to become more sophisticated and ubiquitous, it is important for museums to harness their potential in order to make their work relevant to an increasingly digitised society. At work and in our leisure time we expect not only to be able to access information at the click of a button, but also to be involved in the process of exchanging and recording historical information and content. Projects such as Street Museum, More than a Mapp and Time Trails, are facilitating this desire by allowing the user an increased level of free choice and interaction whilst learning about and engaging with history and heritage.
Museum of London Street Museum: (http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk)
More than a Mapp: (http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/more-than-a-month/app.html)