Following on from my blog post about Tales of Things; Ive been thinking a lot about QR codes, partly because the QR code for my mug of tea sits in front of me and I stare at it all the time. The codes themselves are actually quite hypnotic.
So who’s doing what with QR codes currently in museums and cultural heritage sites?
It is a brilliant opportunity to extend display space, provide more object information, link to online catalogue data, and to empower the visitor to interact with the object. I firmly believe the more interaction you have with an object, whether that be handling it, discussing it or viewing it online, the more you learn. QR codes also have an element of curiosity about them, as I said above they are hypnotic and eye catching, seeing one makes you go ‘oooooh whats that’ (well it makes me do that). What I really like about the possibilities of QR codes is that it connects the physical with the digital in real time. However, I have an iphone with a QR reader app. I am very aware that not everyone has access to the technology to do this. Perhaps spending time on QR codes and cultural heriatge is just simply reinforcing the digital divide and the idea of cultural capital: those that have, can, those that dont, cant. A sociological, digital, cultural dsicussion for another time perhaps?
Below are a few examples that I have found of places that are currently using codes in some way.
- University of Bath Library is adding QR codes to the details you see in the results of a catalogue search. It is an interesting example, a constructivist approach to learning, enabling students to become more involved in the process.
- Manchester Art Gallery has trailed QR codes in its Remembering Slavery: Revealing History display using codes to invite visitors to submit comments on the exhibition, and listen to and read poems and comments on some of the objects.
- The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney have also used QR codes. In their case they have trailed the codes beside exhibits to take the visitor to the online catalogue entry. Seb Chan explains the technical aspects in the here and here. Powerhouse have also used QR codes to give access to a free entry voucher. crafty. They have now moved on to the idea of shortened URL’s as an alternative to QR codes.
- I like the sound of is this example from the Fenimore Art Museum, where exhibition object labels with attached QR codes directs users to their blog, where there are comments associated with that particularly object. Encouraging onsite visitors to use the codes to link to the comments section and leave their own thoughts about the objects and the exhibition. Allowing onsite visitors to participate in online conversations is brilliant; its normally the other way round trying to get the online to broaden the reach of the physical site/object.
I really like the idea of being able to leave comments about a particularly object, particularly when in this situated way, rather than visiting the website at a later date or writing a feedback card after the visit. It feels very empowering to me, instant feedback, instant achievement. It also offers the ability for multiple perspectives to be displayed simultaneously, different layers of the story behind the object to be revealed and displayed.
What I would also like to see QR codes used for is in a large outdoor heritage site like Geevor, or up on the Roman Wall (you can get 3G signal up there I checked) – giving visitors an opportunity to find out more information and leave comments in areas where it isn’t easy to provide mounted information. Didn’t English Heritage try something like this with text messaging up at Maiden Castle a few years ago? Hmm. I wonder if that was successful. Does anybody know?