I was lucky enough to get a chance to meet with David Waterhouse and talk about his ‘Wonder of Birds’ exhibition currently running at the Norwich Castle Museum.
I was interested to know why he had chosen the pieces he had and whether he had looked at more modern technology within this show, trying to gauge if my work would be suitable in this kind of environment.
It took him 4 years to curate the whole show and he wanted to use new technology and computers as an extra way of interacting and layering information, but constraints on time and budget meant he really needed to concentrate on the pieces first and foremost, and not having an extra pair of hands, or a new technologist to concentrate on that side of things, meant it didn’t happen for this project.
But, up in the rotunda with the regimental museum section, they have introduced touchscreens to explain more of the exhibits that you can see. David told me that at one time they used to have museum interpreters working in the different sections and they would act as guides for the pieces, and they hoped that these touchscreens would be used in a similar way.
I then went on to show David my AR binoculars, which he was fascinated with and we discussed which parts of my project could have real world use and these he felt the strongest element that could translate across into exhibitions.
He loved the fact that inside the shiny binoculars was just an old iPhone which meant that it was accessible to everyone with just the device in their own pockets. He could see them being used for looking inside animals, seeing the skeleton over the stuffed animal, or seeing what it once would have looked like over the bones.
He also agreed with me that the recognisable form factor – binoculars – meant that you instinctively knew what to do with them, which was my hope!
David had also looked at the art of labelling and had read some research about the distance between the article and it’s label, the further away from the object, actually contributes to disconnecting the information. This made sense, if it took you a long time to find the correlating text, you may well have lost interest or seen something else in the meantime!
I think this is where AR has a real bonus, you’re right there and so is the information…
After our interview I went up to visit the screens in the rotunda, they look great, there is a vast amount of information on them, beautifully presented, but when I sat to observe people interacting with the space, everyone enjoyed looking at the objects in the glass cases, and stood and looked at the screens, but apart from children (and me) nobody touched them, the girl I saw quickly swiped back and forth over the timeline, but was called away by her mum to look in the case… The screens are sat on a wall facing the objects, but of course you have to sit with your back to the objects to use them and then you’re sat right in front of a wall, with a great photo on it, blown up to cover the entire wall, but only the screen…
The information on them is also quite dry, wonderfully detailed in many different layers, but no-one to click on them… a shame… they have done exactly what David was referring too, disassociated the information from the objects, through physical distance.