Pilot day in the Yorkshire Museum

Last Thursday we set up the Twitter trail in the Yorkshire Museum to see if the technology would excite visitors and the content inspire them.

After a frantic hour or so running around the museum trying to find elusive extension cables and sticking large floor stickers in the best locations we were ready for willing visitors to be the first to start tweeting the dead.

The pilot day was all about testing the content rather than the technology really. We have always made sure that the content being communicated remains at the heart of the project and not let the technology lead. This is why we write down the objectives for the project at the outset, so we can test any results against them. The technology is important but only as a draw or even a novelty to engage a new range of people in the content. Whilst people come to the the project with the thought of tweeting dead people as a novel and fun thing to do, we want them leaving the project thinking about the stories and questions that the Ivory Bangle Lady and the research raises.

Entrance to the gallery

Our copywriting team at Imagemakers took the raw facts and findings from the research from Dr Stephany Leach and her colleagues and created a script between the Ivory Bangle Lady and a modern version of her. The Ivory Bangle Lady would struggle to talk about science and modern day techniques used in archaeology so the modern lady would act as a juxtaposition against her. We filmed these scripts to create the pilot videos and these were the ones we showed in the pilot day.

The pilot was quite a raw affair compared to how we want the final trail to be installed but this type of rapid prototype would allow us to spot flaws or improvements that could be made before any investment in hardware was made. The videos of the Ivory Bangle Lady were only head and shoulders whereas we wish the final versions to be full body; only one on the locations in the museum was automatically triggered by Twitter due to budget; and no text messaging was set-up as a trigger at this point.

Paul showing the Twitter-triggered projection

Despite the rough and ready approach the results were fantastic. We had a good flow of visitors through the 3 hours the pilot ran and we got to speak directly to visitors as they walked around the trail. 

Some of the comments were:

I think this technology is incredibly innovative. It attempts to access younger people through the devices and means they use daily to communicate and learn.

The children loved the technology, it really engaged them. They would have improved the trail by making it longer!

I thought it was a really cool way to make an exhibit interesting and to get the major points across very clearly. Really enjoyed it!

In the questionnaire people filled out after completing the trail, we asked about how much they learned about the Ivory Bangle Lady, about the reasons for studying human remains and also about the science behind archaeology (our three main learning objectives). The results were very positive with above average learning results for all three. Even better than these direct questions was that in the free comments box people were commenting and even offering their own solutions to the questions posed such as why she was buried where she was. This is exactly the response we wanted, to get people interested enough that they leave the museum talking about the stories and questions surrounding her life. This does not happen currently in the museum so to hear people talking about her as a real person and speculating about her life was an amazing result. At one point Stephany overheard a couple comparing her to their own life and discussing what they would be buried with.

“When I die I want to be buried with my diamonds and my Sergeant Pepper album” – Visitor overheard in the Yorkshire Museum

Visitors watching the first location video

It wasn’t just the praise that was useful, people made some great observations that can be incorporated into future iterations of the project:

Making sure we use texts as well as Twitter in the final version;
Making the videos slightly shorter;
Getting free Wi-Fi in the museum so international visitors avoid roaming fees;
Avoid sound bleeding from nearby displays;
Work on what happens when large groups (e.g. school groups) take part and block others.

So lots of feedback for us to take on-board.