Planning Digital Interpretation – Challenges and Opportunities
The Speaking Clock gallery at the BHI Museum, which I have already written about on this blog, is getting new interpretation panels very soon.
Although these will make the gallery more accessible, written interpretation is not the most interactive or stimulating method. It also doesn’t cater to everyone’s access needs and abilities.
Therefore, I have spent the last couple of weeks devising some digital interpretation to accompany the panels. The plan is to install a tablet computer in the gallery, with an inbuilt app containing different kinds of information relating to the Speaking Clock.
As someone who has never even contemplated designing an app, or installing a tablet in a gallery, this work has had its challenges. Here are some of the things I’ve learned and have had to consider in planning the digital interpretation.
Big museums might be able to spend thousands of pounds on lavish digital interpretation for every room. Not us. On a relatively small budget, we have had to think about the cost of everything. This included which brand of tablet to buy and which content to include on the app.
We discovered early on that a film by British Pathé, about the Speaking Clock, was going to cost well over half the budget. Therefore, we reluctantly decided not to acquire it, despite it being highly relevant to the subject matter.
We decided that the most important factors for our tablet were size and memory. I shopped around for a reasonably priced larger screen tablet with at least 16GB storage.
Practicality and Security
Once we had chosen which tablet to buy, we realised that we needed a stand or mount in which to install it into the gallery. Something that would also prevent visitors from lifting it up or pressing any buttons on it. This type of equipment can be very expensive, with bespoke mounts costing hundreds of pounds.
It was important that a tablet would fit in the mount and that the mount be suited to the gallery. The BHI Museum is located in a listed building and it was not possible to screw things to the walls.
Eventually, after a lot of online searching, I was able to find a mount that would fit the chosen tablet. This could be attached to a flat surface, such as a desk within the gallery.
Copyright and Licensing
Finding content that we could gain access to for the app was a challenge because of how expensive it can be to gain permissions to display copyrighted images and videos. I found images that could be bought fairly cheaply, however, the British Pathé video was too expensive.
In the end, we opted for a few videos which are currently held by BT Archives. To acquire them, I contacted the archives, where I filled out a form requesting permission to display the videos. The permissions were granted and so we are now able to display these videos in our app!
Hopefully, this new interpretation will benefit visitors by making the gallery more:
The app will contain voice recordings of the top 10 facts about the Speaking Clock. The information in these will be a condensed version of the written information on the panels, catering for those with visual impairments.
The videos we have chosen are on different themes: one deals with the subject of how the telephone works (the telephone being integral to the Speaking Clock), another is a 1930s advert for the Speaking Clock which provides an interesting glimpse into 1930s culture and one is a recording of all the voices of the Speaking Clock.
Visitors will be able to swipe through an image gallery and select which facts and videos they want to watch or listen to. I also hope to be able to include some kind of game in the app, such as a true or false quiz, so that visitors can test their Speaking Clock knowledge, although this might be added later.
By Emma Raymond, Resilience Syndicate Intern at the BHI Museum