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How can the gallery or museum visit be personalised and augmented to make first impressions last?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 14:25

Fig.1. Miro - Barcelona

A lifelong love in art galleries yet I still feel unmoved (most of the time) by galleries and museums, possibly because I expect the gentle, guiding voice of my late mother at my shoulder (artist, art historian, Mum).

What could be a more personalised visit than to have someone who knows you so well point things out, guide you to things that will interest or irritate, then offer an insight - invariably linked to 'what do you do next?' i.e. look, learn then apply.

I take heart from the exceptions, only two visits I can think of though:

'In Flanders Fields' - you need a day to yourself to take this in. The most shocking moment entering a funnel like fixture, looking around then twisting your head up to see sets of photographs of mutilated combatants. It put your physically in a demanding postion to view them. Then the multi-media displays, not just actors giving accounts, but the ultimate before and after shots of places using satelitte images and old aerial photos.

'Alcatraz' - on many levels the visit irritated me, partly the Disneyfication and advance booking, then the many layers of the islands as bird sanctuary, prison and Native American conquest. What impressed though was the brilliant audio guide - BBC at its very best might be the way to describe it. Very carefully and sensitively juxtapositioning of interviews with former inmates, guards, and family members of guards/governor which between them created a sense or atmosphere of the place like some kind of hideous monastic retreat.

So how do we 'recreate' battlefields" We have the 750th of the Battle of Lewes here in East Sussex next year, as well as us all having five or more years of the run up to, the war and aftermath of 1914-1918.

The opportunity exists to use smart devices to give visitors and pilgrims an enhanced, personalised and lasting memory of these places - but how?

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Design Museum

Information Overload or Cognitive Overload which is the problem?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 07:59

Fig.1 Exhibit A. Vital to any museum. A place to crash, reflect, nod off ... then pick yourself up to do some more.

This is going to read like an excuse to visit yet more museums.

As I reach the end of my Open University learning journey my final task is to write an EMA in which I propose a piece of research on e-learning. My inclination, with 12 days to go, is to look at the use of mobile devices in museums and how the visit experience can be enhanced by personalising the physical journey. It appears the the two problems to deal with are information overload and cognitive overload. There is too much of everything. Whilst I will always applaud serendipity there needs to be a balance between the stuff that you want to stick and the stuff that can be ignored or discarded.

Too many museum visits earlier this week has me wishing I had electric wheels and a pair of Google Glass that could take it in and edit.

  • Museum of Contemporary Art - Barcelona
  • Picasso Museum - Barcelona
  • National Museum of Catalonia - Barcelona
  • Joan Miro Foundation - Barcelona

As I prepare this assignment I plant to queue to get into the Bowie at V&A and try Google WebLab at the Science Museum and possibly the RA and Design Museums too. At least I'm within an hour of London.

My interest is, as I take teenagers to these things, to wish I could get them to that artefact or story about the artifacts creations, or the artist/creative that it will so intrigue them that they are inspired to put some heart into their art or DT.

Two years ago my late mother took her granddaughters around the RA when the Van Gogh exhibition was on. My daughter was treated to my mother, gentle and informed, guiding her then 14 year old granddaughter from quite specific letters, paintings and sketches - pointing things out, talking about technique and the thinking behind it. This was as personalised and as intimate as it gets.

I can understand how Picasso, showing interest and talent, must have been guided by his father who taught art at undergraduate level.

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Design Museum

An impromptu three day trip to Barcelona has left my head in a spin.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 9 Jun 2013, 11:50

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Billed as a ‘Daddy Daughter’ trip we mixed art, architecture, shopping and food (with sunshine). My daughter is contemplating Fine Art at university. In just a few days we packed in hours, on foot, along streets, through galleries and museums and parks, into markets and up and down and through slick airconditioned Barcelona rapid transit system.

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We took in Picasso and Joan Miro museums, through the National Museum of Catalonia El Greco to Dali, on the streets we found Gaudy while the Contemporary Museum of Art gave me Lawrence Werner. Where unable to use a camera (the iPhone, I left my digital SLR at home to keep us down to hand luggage) I bought a postcard, guidebook or did a sketch.

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It left me hungry for more: the food from tapas bars, the architecture and history, the weather and the sea … it has left me full of ideas regarding learning, from seeing Picasso’s early efforts at drawing, through the work of Joan Miro from beginning to end. This 'pass' to six museums is one way to do it - I got around four of these and can return within three months in this ticket. With Gatwick up the road and travelling out of season I may get back later in June or in early July

As a visitor what more do we need than our eyes, feet and a sketch pad or notebook?

Does a digital camera make it too easy? Not permitted to use a camera at the Picasso or Miro what did we lose and the gallery gain? I bought books at the Picasso, Miro and Contemporary Art Museum, though not at the National Museum of Catalonia where I used my iPhone to grab images all the way around.

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Meeting a friend who lives in 'Barca' was revealing - he learnt Spanish in a month. He could. He can focus. Two weeks on the grammar with the right book on a beach, then two weeks intensive studying by day with an hour of conversational Spanish in the evening which he got in exchange for an hour of English conversation. Immeservive and concentrated effort.

To what degree does e-learning remove the need to make an effort and dilute any immersiveness to just one or two senses (to what you see and hear)?

I like to pick up a language in context, through association, trial and error. Signs in multiple languages, like the Rosetta Stone, appear to offer a way into the language … or is this also a short cut ? You won’t learn anything so long as you are offered the translation. I wonder if this can be reverse engineered? Instead of seeing the Spanish world translated through English eyes, how about seeing the English world through Spanish Eyes? To wear glasses that use augmented technology to offer me the day to day in Spanish? What is already being done?

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