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MW2011: L. Ciolfi + M. McLoughlin, Physical Keys to Digital Memories ...

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This paper will discuss the role that tangible artefacts in the context of an interactive multi-device installation have as mediators between the physical visitor experience of an open-air museum and the layer of digital information that is available to them about the site. We will refer to the case study of an installation -"Reminisce"- that we have designed for an Irish open-air museum, Bunratty Folk Park, where participants could follow trails around the site on the footsteps of characters from Ireland's past. At different historic houses, visitors could collect "tokens" related to the characters both in digital and physical form: audio recordings of personal memories downloaded to a smart phone application, and physical tokens representing aspects of the characters' lives (such as traditional recipes, chunks of turf, hanks of wool, etc). The physical tokens had a double purpose: that of providing visitors with a physical "anchoring" to the houses and a tangible representation of their progress along the trail; and that of acting as "keys" to unlocking further digital content at a specific site. Concealed RFID tags were included in the tokens to enable this functionality. In the paper we will describe the installation in more detail and, by means of examples from the body of data documenting the visitors' experience of "Reminisce", we will discuss in detail the role that the tangible artefacts had in bridging the "digital" and "physical" spaces of the installation, as well as extracting some recommendations for designing installations in the setting of living history sites.

A presentation from Museums and the Web 2011 (MW2011).

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MW2011: L. Ciolfi + M. McLoughlin, Physical Keys to Digital Memories ...

  1. 1. Physical
Keys
to
Digital
Memories:
Reflec6ng
on
the
Role
of
Tangible
 Artefacts
in
“Reminisce” Luigina
Ciolfi
&
Marc
McLoughlin
 Interac4on
Design
Centre University
of
Limerick
(Ireland)
  2. 2. Bunra@y
Folk
Park
  3. 3. 
“Reminisce”a)
access
portal;
b)
smart
phone
app;
c)
tangible
tokens;
d)
schoolhouse
archive;
e)
website
  4. 4. The
tangible
tokens:‐“Souvenirs”
of
small
domes4c
objects,
different
for
each
house,
connec4on
with
ac4vi4es
taking
place
there‐Provide
a
clue
about
where
to
go
next
to
keep
following
the
character’s
story‐
Provide
access
to
the
Schoolhouse
Archive,
where
recordings
made
by
other
visitors
can
be
heard
  5. 5. Threefold
Role
of
the
tangible
tokens:‐To
provide
par4cipants
with
a
memento
of
their
visit
‐To
guide
par4cipants
to
other
memories
available
to
them
‐To
allow
par4cipants
access
to
the
memories
that
other
people
leP
at
the
site‐
Added
value
for
BunraRy
Folk
Park:
design
focus
on
the
lived
nature
of
the
place
‐
The
tangible
tokens
presented
material,
cultural
and
social
connec4ons
with
the
environment,
from
the
content
they
provided,
to
the
shape
and
material
quality
they
took,
to
the
ability
to
encourage
social
interac4on
and
sharing
on
the
nature
of
the
Folk
Park.
‐
The
tangible
tokens
are
elements
for
piecing
together
the
overall
ac4vity
around
Reminisce
to
bring
the
houses
in
the
Folk
Park
to
life

  6. 6. The
tangible
tokens
trigger
the
display
of
new
contentAll
visitors
had
no
problem
grasping
the
func4onality
of
the
interac4ve
desk,
and
all
were
able
to
understand
the
connec4on
between
the
content
and
the
sites
on
the
trail.
The
interac4on
with
the
desk
was
also
something
that
onlookers
no4ced
with
curiosity
and
interest

  7. 7. The
tangible
tokens
acted
as
connectorsConnectors
from
one
house
to
another
through
the
clues
they
providedThey
provided
visitors
with
a
physical
‘anchoring’
to
the
houses.
The
artefacts
are
on
site,
closely
connected
with
what
visitors
are
experiencing
in
the
house,
and
a
tangible
representa4on
of
progress
along
the
trail:
the
more
tokens
you
have,
the
more
memories
you
have
collected
and
shared.

  8. 8. The
tangible
clues
provide
a
link
to
ac6vi6es
aGer
the
visit:Provide
par4cipants
with
ways
of
linking
their
visit
to
BunraRy
with
ac4vi4es
to
be
undertaken
at
home
(e.g.
baking)The
tangible
tokens
provide
a
memento
of
the
visit
as
well
as
an
opportunity
for
a
new
ac4vity
when
a
visitor
returns
home.
The
pack
containing
a
small
piece
of
turf
was
one
that
par4cipants
from
abroad
commented
on
the
most,
and
that
they
decided
to
bring
back
home


  9. 9. The
tangible
tokens
as
links
to
other
par6cipantsThe
tangible
artefacts
worked
as
a
trigger
for
social
interac4on,
par4cularly
in
the
schoolhouseThe
content
triggered
by
the
tokens
sparked
discussion
between
visitors,
but
also
made
them
somehow
connect
with
other
visitors
across
4me
and
space

  10. 10. Lessons
learnedMixing
high‐tech
and
low‐tech
works
well
but
only
when
both
fit
into
the
overall
storylineThe
design
of
tangible
artefacts
needs
to
be
place‐sensi4ve:
physical
objects
easily
connected
to
the
place,
not
too
much
focus
on
the
high‐tech
componentsSimple
and
cheap
but
of
value
when
perceived
in
the
context
of
the
ac4vityThey
had
a
high‐tech
component
that
made
them
valuable
within
the
overall
“Reminisce”
experience:
they
were
keys
to
addi4onal
content,
part
of
the
technical
infrastructure,
and
not
just
as
quaint
trinkets.
Keep
it
simple
and
easy,
don’t
turn
them
into
gimmicks
  11. 11. Thanks• Acknowledgments:
Failte
Ireland,
University
of
Limerick
 Seed
Funding
2008‐10,
Shannon
Heritage,
management
 and
staff
at
BunraRy
Folk
Park• More
informa4on:
luigina.ciolfi@ul.ie
• 

































marc.mcloughlin@ul.ie
 www.idc.ul.ie;
www.reminisce.ie @techmuseums2011

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