MeSch User Research Planning

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Interviews with cultural heritage professionals

Post-Interview Analysis

Which of the processes do they feel have control / not in control of? What processes are curators specifically in control of ? What processes are exhibition designers specifically in control of ?

Authorship - Who is the main author in the planning and design of the exhibition?

How are the multi-level processes of curation currently conceived?

What technologies are curators familiar with?What environments are curators familiar with? What are the underlying issues of access, participation, creativity and control with regard to technology for curators? What are the motives, goals, power relationships and structures in integrating technology into exhibitions?

In the current age, what are the major challenges and concerns facing curators in designing exhibitions?

What are the constructive solutions and innovations that curators would like to see in the future?


Update 12.8.2013 Questions

Introductory questions and main partners in exhibition planning

▪ Can you start by telling me your name, what institution do / did you work for and what is/was your official job title?

▪ How long have you been curating / working for museums?

▪ I would like to focus on a specific exhibition that you have curated in the past. Could you describe to me the most recent exhibition project that you have worked on?

▪ When did the planning of this exhibition commence? From what date was the exhibition open to the public?

▪ Did you design the exhibition from scratch? If not, how did you adapt the content for the exhibition? Did you find this an easy task?

▪ Could you tell me what were the initial aims of this exhibition and who was the target audience?

▪ Who would you say have been the key partners involved in the planning of this exhibition?

▪ What were their individual roles and level of involvement in the planning of the exhibition?

Your involvement in the exhibition planning

▪ What has been your role in the project? For example could you describe the main processes that you personally would have undergone in planning the exhibition?

▪ Who would have been the main key people who you would have collaborated with in planning the exhibition? How would you have collaborated with them? For example if you worked with an exhibition designer on the exhibition, could you describe to me your typical working relationship with this designer?

▪ Could you describe to me the content of the exhibition?

▪ How did you choose the physical objects to be exhibited?

▪ Did you access digital or physical archival material when planning the exhibition? How was it accessed and presented?

▪ Did you combine digital and physical material for the purpose of creating the exhibition? Did you find this easy?

▪ How would you feel about having visitors involved in the planning of the exhibition?

▪ How did you choose the space to host to exhibition?

▪ In curating the exhibition, how did you plan the narrative sequence? For example, chronologically? thematically? Would you say that the narrative is linear or non-linear?

▪ What relevant training do / did you receive in relation to setting up exhibitions?

Technology related

▪ What forms of technologies did you use as part of that particular exhibition design, if any?

▪ What was your level of experience with museum technologies? How confident would you say you are with technology? For example when it comes to interactive exhibits, authoring tools, social media, 3D modelling?

▪ Did you communicate with other institutions when planning the exhibition?

▪ Tell us about any online presence that the exhibition may have had. How was the online information connected to the exhibition on-site?

Outcomes

▪ Were there any adaptations made to the exhibition since it first was opened? Why were these adaptations made? Was the content easy to adapt?

▪ If you could have improved or enhanced an aspect of the exhibition, what would you have done?

▪ If you could envisage new interactive exhibits, what might they be?

▪ Was there any particular section of the exhibition that proved to be very popular? Why to you think this was the case?

▪ Would you have liked to have seen technology play a larger role in the exhibition?

▪ Would you have liked to have used more physical / digital content in the exhibition?

▪ What do you think was the greatest challenge within this project? How was it overcome?

▪ What do you think were the key successes? Why do you think they are successful?

▪ Does the museum have any significant plans for the future?


Feedback from Lui with regards to the Interview 19.7.2013

The interview should question deeper the interviewee's personal take on the exhibition.

It should aim to seek out their expectations and challenges as well as the good and bad experiences. For example, what challenges did they face, what aspects of the exhibition did they need to reconsider?

It should find out more specific detail concerning exactly how tasks were executed.

Update 9.7.2013

This interview is designed for museum professionals (curators / exhibition designers) who have worked on the planning of specific exhibitions.

Overall objectives of the interviews with museum professionals

- to gain an understanding of the working methods of museum professionals (how they design exhibitions and use technology)

- to find out what their level of technical knowledge is and establish how comfortable they are in using technology

- to establish what their key values are in designing exhibitions

Interview Process

Introduction

Thank you, Who I am and why I am here conducting interviews

Information on the meSch project

The focus of the interview

Consent form

Questions

Introductory questions and main partners in exhibition planning

▪ Can you start by telling me your name, what institution do / did you work for and what is/was your official job title?

▪ How long have you been curating / working for museums?

▪ Could you describe to me the most recent exhibition project that you have worked on?

▪ When did the planning of this exhibition commence?

▪ Could you tell me what were the initial aims of this exhibition and who was the target audience?

▪ Who would you say have been the key partners involved in the planning of this exhibition?

▪ What were their individual roles and level of involvement in the planning of the exhibition?

Your involvement in the exhibition planning

▪ What has been your role in the project?

▪ How were you involved, for example what processes and activities did you take part in while setting up the exhibition?

▪ Were there any reasons why you didn’t get involved in certain processes or activities?

▪ Did you design the exhibition from scratch? If not, how did you adapt the content for the exhibition? Did you find this an easy task?

▪ How did you choose the physical objects to be exhibited?

▪ Did you access digital or physical archival material when planning the exhibition? How was it accessed and presented?

▪ Did you mix digital and physical material for the purpose of creating the exhibition? Did you find this easy?

▪ How would you feel about having visitors involved in the planning of the exhibition?

▪ How did you choose the space to host to exhibition?

▪ What relevant training do / did you receive in relation to setting up exhibitions?

Technology related

▪ What forms of technologies did you use as part of that particular exhibition design, if any?

▪ What was your level of experience with these technologies? Were you comfortable using them?

▪ Did you communicate with other institutions when planning the exhibition?

▪ Tell us about any online presence that the exhibition may have had. How was the online information connected to the exhibition on-site?

Outcomes and Evaluation

▪ If you could have improved or enhanced an aspect of the exhibition, what would you have done?

▪ If you could envisage new interactive exhibits, what might they be?

▪ Was there any particular section of the exhibition that proved to be very popular? Why to you think this was the case?

▪ Would you have liked to have seen technology play a larger role in the exhibition?

▪ Would you have liked to have used more physical / digital content in the exhibition?

▪ What do you think was the biggest challenge within this project? How was it overcome?

▪ What do you think were the key successes? Why do you think they are successful?


Whenever possible, ask people to prepare in advance in some way, this can be through completing a very short survey to get them thinking, or by sending them some general information about the purpose or scope of the evaluation.

Below I have included some information on the project and purpose of the interviews. The Material EncounterS with digital Cultural Heritage (meSch) http://mesch-project.eu/ has the goal of combining the digital aspects of cultural heritage with the physical aspects. A wealth of digital cultural heritage content is currently available in on-line repositories and archives, it is however accessed only in a limited way and utilised through rather static modes of delivery. meSch aims to provide cultural heritage professionals with the tools to merge this digital information with corresponding physical artefacts in a simple, intuitive way.

As part of the project, researchers from the project partner, University of Limerick will be conducting interviews with cultural heritage professionals (curators / exhibition designers) who have worked on the planning of specific exhibitions. The overall objective of the interviews is to gain an understanding of the working methods of these professionals (how they design exhibitions and use technology) and to establish what their key values are in designing exhibitions.


Assure interviewees that their responses will be confidential: good practice is to ask the interviewee to sign a consent form. It is useful to start the interview with a general introduction, explaining to the interviewee why you want to talk to them (e.g. in order for them to give their opinion on the project they have been involved in) and the purpose of the evaluation (e.g. to explore stakeholders’ experiences and identify key lessons learnt from the project). Try to encourage participants to tell stories, i.e. 'Can you give me an example of what you mean by that?'


1.7.2013

* Considerations

Are we dealing with curators only or different types of cultural heritage professionals?

Are we dealing with a curator/cultural heritage professional who has planned one exhibition in the past or with someone who plans regular exhibitions?

Are we dealing with both temporary and permanent exhibitions?

Are we talking about the planning of exhibitions or about the realisation/production and assessment also?

Could we bring in ideas for the authoring tool, i.e. what would be the desired functionalities for the authoring tool?


* Questions

Introductory questions and main partners in exhibition planning

Can you start by describing the exhibition to me?

When did the planning of the exhibition commence?

What were the initial aims of the exhibition?

Who would you say have been the key partners involved in the planning of the exhibition?

What were their individual roles and level of involvement in the planning of the exhibition?

Your involvement in the exhibition planning

What has been your role in the project?

How were you involved, for example what processes and activities did you take part in while setting up the exhibition?

Were there any reasons why you didn’t get involved in certain processes or activities?

Did you design the exhibition from scratch?

If not, how did you adapt the content for the exhibition? Did you find this an easy task?

How did you choose the physical objects to be exhibited?

Did you deal with digital archival material? How was it accessed and presented?

Were you required to correlate digital and physical material for the purpose of creating a complete themed exhibition? Did you find this easy?

How did you choose the space to host to exhibition?

What relevant training do you receive in relation to setting up exhibitions?

Technology related

What forms of technologies did you use as part of the exhibition design, if any?

What was your level of experience with these technologies? Were you comfortable with using this type of technology?

What forms of communication did you undertake in relation to curating the exhibition?

Did you communicate with other institutions when planning the exhibition?

Tell us about any online presence that the exhibition may have had.

Outcomes and Evaluation

If you could have improved or enhanced an aspect of the exhibition, what would you have done?

Would you have liked to have seen technology play a larger role in the exhibition?

What kinds of connections with digital content could you envisage for the exhibition?

If you could have connected the information you have online with the exhibition on-site, how would you have connected it?

What do you think was the biggest challenge within this project? How was it overcome?

What do you think were the key successes? Why do you think they are successful?


Bodystorming exercise for Sheffield General Cemetery

Observation notes on the bodystorming exercise in Sheffield cemetery 19.7.2013 (FM)

Part 1 - Creation of tour

For the approximate hour while the curators were creating the tour, the narrators and visitors were idle.

The benefit of asking the curators to construct a tour as opposed to a pre-constructed tour isn't obvious. Could this be an opportunity to test and authoring tool?

Could the curators tour creation be done beforehand in order to save time?

Part 2 - Enactment of tour

The idea of the visitors holding a medical bag is never established.

The purpose of the feedback bags and stone motion isn't clear, the visitors are confused about the task in hand.

The narrators and visitors tended to move together at the beginning which rendered the visitor task of finding the graves irrelevant. At a later stage of the exercise, when the visitors and narrators separated, both parties were confused as to the true location of the graves marked in the map.

The visitors felt that the information communicated (i.e. the story as told by the narrator) was very effective and didn't allow for interactive. One visitor noted the problem that the audio narration only played once and that this one-directional communication lacked interactive behaviour, he had no control over the choice of the narratives or the level of information (general/specific) if he wanted to get deeper into a story. He would have preferred if the audio were to be an intelligent system, were by he as the visitor had some level of control over the content and could ask questions. He also suggested using different types of textual and visual media or as an alternative to the audio narration - to have a more atmospheric soundtrack as part of the audio.

Other suggestions as in how to improve the exercise and narrative included the linking of stories from grave to grave so as to build a cumulative story and to make the transition periods more interesting.

The visitors also expressed an interest to have a more intelligent map navigation system.

Laura noted that as the exercise initiator, the unfamiliarity of the site was a problem in ensuring the smooth running of the exercise.

Lui noted that the time taken and distance between the graves should be considered.


How many participants: 4 (1 group)

How many per group: Four people per group

  • 1 researcher (Researcher 1) (taking notes)
  • 1 other researcher (Researcher 2) (for working with props)
  • 1 visitor (or person acting as a visitor)
  • 1 curator (or person acting as a curator)

Please make reference to the roles section to see what roles each participant has.


Bodystorming exercise description: Aim: The aim of this exercise is to analyse how digital narratives can be linked with physical materials in an external and multi-locational environment effectively. The outcome will help us understand what methods work and do not work for portraying narratives and information in an external environment.

What will happen during the exercise? During the bodystorming exercise, we will run through a scenario of how the authoring and use of a mock up of the ‘What did I die of’ exhibit will run [1]. A template mock up will be created before the exercise begins. Within a group, the curator will provide instructions on how the exhibit will run. The exhibit will be set up manually by the curator in accordance to the instructions he/she provides by marking elements on the map, and placing paper red crosses on the chosen graves. The curator will also provide instructions to researcher 2 for where the narratives will be played.

The visitor will be provided with a mock up medical bag with a map. Using these materials, the visitor will try and find where each of the graves are located. Researcher 2 will be in charge of creating audio to attract the visitor to the chosen graves when he/she is in close proximity. Researcher 2 will also read out the narrative when the visitor reaches his/her destination.

Analysis after bodystorming exercise: When the bodystorming exercise is complete, we will analyse the data directly after the exercise and in situ. We hope to answer the following questions:

  • Is this method an effective way to portray a narrative?
  • What effect does the environment have on the effectiveness of the exhibit?
  • Is this kind of bodystorming exercise useful for conducting research in an external environment?
  • What worked and what did not work with the bodystorming exercise?

[1] The ‘what did I die of’ exhibition: The aim of this exhibition is to provide the visitor with a narrative of who died at a particular grave and what they died of from a medical perspective. The visitor will be provided with a map and a bag. There will be three destinations marked on the map; each destination points to a grave. The visitor will follow the map to find the each grave consecutively. When the visitor is in close proximity to the grave, he/she will hear an auditory noise. This noise will help guide visitors to the right destination. When the visitor reaches the grave, the narrative will be heard.

This process is repeated for the other graves on the map.

What needs to be prepared? A mock up of the exhibit needs to be prepared. The materials needed to create the mock up are:

  • A map of the Cemetery
  • A bag
  • Paper for creating the red crosses
  • Narratives on people who have been buried at the Cemetery

Materials such as pens and paper will need to be provided so the curator can effectively alter the template mock-up design.

Roles Researcher 1: The role of researcher 1 is to record the entire bodystorming exercise. This will include recording what actions the curator makes when authoring the mock up system and how the visitor reacts to the exhibit. The researcher will also observe how well the exhibit works in the environment.

Record taking can take the form of notes and/or audio recordings through a Dictaphone.

Researcher 2: Researcher 2 will be in charge of reading the narratives from the exhibit when a visitor is at a target grave and creating audio to notify the visitor when he/she is in close proximity to the target grave.

Researcher 2 will also ensure that all the materials needed for the exhibit are present for the curator to work with.

Curator: The role of the curator is to author the mock up exhibit. The following items will be provided to the curator:

  • A template map on a bag, with no areas marked
  • 3 paper red crosses
  • Pens
  • Sample narratives

The job of the curator is to choose what narratives to use, and mark them on the map. The curator will also place the red crosses on the grave, to prepare the exhibit for the visitor.

Visitor: The role of the visitor is to use the mock up exhibit. The visitor will identify the three graves on the map, and choose which one to visit first. The visitor will then try to find that grave based on the information provided on the map. When the visitor is in close proximity to a grave, he/she will hear an audio trigger for guidance. When the visitor reaches the grave, the narrative will be read out to him her.

These steps will be repeated for the other two graves.


Design Exercise - Personal Inquiry into Physical Objects at UL

Choose 5 objects and 3 keywords associated to each of the objects - what is interesting about the object?/ How does one connect with the object in the physical museum context / through the on-line archive?

Ask colleague to view the on-line archive entry of the same object - what 3 keywords would they associate with the object based on the entry?

Comparison of objects - What keywords do the objects have in common? What conclusions could be drawn from the physical / digital comparison of keywords?

What is significant in the physical object? What is lost in the digital? What are the layers of meaning / interpretation?

develop a matrix of objects.

authenticity of objects

Personal tools