Museomix,medical galleries and Android Apps

Back in November I was lucky enough to attend the first  MuseomixUK.  A large group of people descended on  Iron Bridge museums in the heart of Shropshire and spent a weekend thinking about how to re-mix the exhibits. We thought about how to bring new life to existing interactives and  how to add interactivity to previously static exhibits.  Well I say "we thought" what I actually mean is "we did"  this wasn't a passive experience, it was talking, it was drawing, it was website making, it was film making  and it was hacking,  prototyping and making real exhibits that were demoed in the museum at the end of the Weekend. Go and have a look at the website and some longer blog posts about the full weekend.

One thing that all the people had in common at Museomix is that they are all have a strong connection with museums, either working,wanting to work or have worked or volunteered in museums or studying museums.

In December  I was notified that a Android App course on Coursera  that I had signed up to ages ago was going to start soon. The course has been going for four weeks now. Its covering very simple topics mainly focussing on the practicalities of developing an App for android rather than teaching the Java programming language.

Part of the first assignment was to research two computer scientists and display a photograph and some information on each one, swapping between the two when the phone or tablet is rotated.  It felt so much like something a Science museum would do.

The Coursera courses have a  the class Forum ,to discuss the course, the assignments, general chat  and other issues. At the start of  the course a few people introduced themselves as working in and being interested in museums and museum education using apps.  To carry on the discussion outside,after the course finishes  and to open it up to the wider community one of the participants has created a Google+ community  If you  are interested join up.

I did find it quite amusing that less that 24 hours after the group being created both Dave Patten, Head of New Media (My Boss)  at the Science Museum and Mar Dixon had joined. Mar is a audience development and social media specialist working with museums and galleries.  Anything that is cool,new and interesting happening in U.K musuems Mar will know about it and most probably be involved somewhere . Mar  is a lovely lady currently sporting  a hard to get hold of pair of Google Glass. Most importantly Mar is responsible for bringing Museomix to the U.K. You see its all connected.

Yesterday I was looking around the Wellcome Medical galleries at the Science Museum , the 4th floor 'Glimpses of Medical history'  is the last place in the museum that still has dioramas showing  recreated scenes of people taking part in activities, from smaller scale re-creation of a makeshift World War one operating theatre to life size Pharmacy, an early dentists room, a 1980's operating the detail in these is fantastic.  Modern technology can bring 3D screens the real 3D is hard to beat but these are static scenes.

One of the exhibits a lady having a chest x-ray really reminded me of my Museomix experience. At Museomix we created a prototype of an App to show inside a diving suit, actually using a photo of a x-ray of  Nasa Spacesuit to get the effect.  To add a interactive or new media element to  Medical gallery exhibit Physically into the exhibition would be really awkward to do and isn't planned anytime soon.

The x-ray exhibit  and the others are a  rich source of inspiration, I was walking around the gallery thinking, 'I could add sound effects there' or 'wouldn't it be cool to do some augmented reality there'.

Together Museomix, the Android course and our medical Gallery has given me the idea.  There are a lot of museums making Apps, some are guides for walking around the galleries, some are for outside the museum and others are hybrids.  But these are all museum projects, made inside the museum and given the museum stamp of approval.

There is nothing to stop anyone, museum professional or not from making museum apps.  Don't have to be big or Fancy or super polished. I would love to walk around a museum trying out people's app seeing photos they have taken themselves and reading Wikipedia excerpts or peoples own thoughts written  in their own style.

So if you are a coder or designer or learning  either and  looking for inspiration, if you love museums or just enjoy visiting your local museum  and want to share it.  I say make an App, hack it, prototype it , share it but do  make it.

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