Improving The Visitor Experience At Our Museum

The deadline for the Heritage Council grant application passed last Friday and this year we are applying for something a little bit innovative. The cost of the project is only 870 Euro, if we get the go ahead visitors to the museum will have something special to look forward to next year.

Project Overview
This project has several strands but essentially in a technical sense it is very simple. We are going to create a wireless network across our museum that will allow access to certain websites. At the moment we envisage the websites that we will allow access to will include: (currently coming to the end of a 3 year long reconstruction), YouTube and Wikipedia

Use By Visitors To The Museum
This wireless network can be accessed by any visitor to the museum with a smart phone (23 percent market share of the mobile phone market by 2013. Source: Juniper Research, Hampshire, Britain), laptop or net book. When we create a new exhibition we will now create an exhibition page on our website. This page will contain links to additional information associated with the exhibition. At the entrance to the exhibition you will be given a web address that you can put into your mobile phone or computer to access further information.

We can for instance:
  • Link to additional photos that we do not have space for in an exhibition. Eg We are doing an exhibition on 'Country Houses' we will probably have only space for 1 or 2 photos of 'Comeragh House'. By clicking on you can view an additional 20 or so images. We currently have close on 5000 images on-line so for most exhibitions we will have surplus images that are not on display for one reason or another.
  • Link to biographies of people or additional information on our museum web site. Again we don't have room to put up all of the information we have gathered on a subject but we do have a facility to publish 100's of pages on-line on our web site. Now visitors that want to explore a subject further will be able to look up additional information.
  • Look up additional information on artefacts. We have 4000 odd artefacts catalogued at present. We have another 1000 artefacts to catalogue before the catalogue is brought up to date. This catalogue is going to be plugged into our new web site. A visitor to the museum or the website will be able to search through all of the artefacts we have in store relating to let's say 'Power's Brewery'. They can get further information on the artefact in front of them in the case or discover related articles that we may not have included in the museum.
  • Display educational or historically interesting videos. Certain videos are available on-line and it would be useful if they could be viewed in the context of an exhibition. eg Pathe News: Noone Can Insult Our Flag

Use By Museum Staff With Visiting Groups (Particularly School Groups)
It will also be used by museum staff to access the Internet when giving talks to groups of children visiting the museum. We have put considerable effort in recent years to encourage schools across Waterford to visit the museum. We have had a lot of success in this and now we are a regular destination for the majority of National Schools in West Waterford. Our staff give talks on the replica arms and armour we have in the museum. By having a simple tablet computer in their hands they could have a portable TV screen that could: 
These are just some examples of the videos we could show visiting groups. All videos would be vetted prior to their being shown.

Assist Visitor Comprehension
Lastly we would hope that the network could be used to access Wikipedia so that visitors could source definitions of terms that may appear in exhibitions. e.g. Fenian. I appreciate that Wikipedia is imperfect but nonetheless it is a useful resource to explain terms to visitors that may not be au fait with Irish history or certain scientific terms.

About The Museum
For an overview of the work of our museum please see our corporate video.