Wonders of the Peak – Creating ‘Collections in the Landscape’ with Modes Data
Posted on Nov 30, 2017
Eighteen months after our first visit to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, we head back to the dramatic scenery of the Peak District to find out more about the new gallery space which opened earlier this year and the recently launched ‘Wonders of the Peak’ website and web app which integrates Modes data.
The beautifully refurbished Buxton Museum and Art Gallery re-opened earlier this year after a major eight-month programme of redevelopment - thanks to funding from HLF, the Wolfson Foundation, ACE, Derbyshire County Council, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies of British Art, The Bingham Trust, Friends of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and public donations. The collection currently includes items kindly lent for display by the National Trust, Trustees of the British Museum, The Manchester Museum and Derby Museums.
Picture: Refurbished area of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery (Photo courtesy of Andrew Eyley)
At the heart of the new, revitalised museum is ‘Wonders of the Peak – a journey through time and place’ with a new website and app www.wondersofthepeak.org.uk, commissioned as part of the Collections in the Landscape project. Visitors to the website can choose from three distinct modes:
- users can generate and download a tour to their mobile device
- use their mobile device to look up objects in the Wonders of the Peak exhibition or
- explore the entire online collection on the main website (non-mobile users are automatically directed to this option)
Creating the digital environment
Pictured: The app is tested out at Arbor Low, near Middleton-by-Youlgreave, Derbyshire.
The reimagined museum interior and the development of the website and app have taken time and considerable financial backing to come to fruition. An initial grant of £81,000 from HLF in 2013 laid the foundation for Collections in the Landscape. The aim of this project was to explore ways of linking collections to the landscape using mobile technology and to create a redesigned exhibition.
In the early stages, a simple web app www.buxtonmuseumapps.com was piloted with mobile tours tested out by volunteers and focus groups. This research confirmed the popularity of the concept and was also useful in highlighting the obstacles that had yet to be overcome such as the lack of mobile connectivity in some parts of the Peak District.
A further £869,000 from HLF, matched funding from Derbyshire County Council, plus additional resources from other supporters, ensured that the project resulted in a successful conclusion.
Connecting Digital to the Landscape
Visitors to www.wondersofthepeak.org.uk on a mobile or tablet can take advantage of the Pocket Wonders web app. Specially optimised for the mobile, this section of the site generates mobile tours of the landscape, downloadable in the user’s browser. It can also be used to look up further information about objects within the gallery as demonstrated in the four screenshots below:
You can see how this ingenious app is able to link objects or ‘Wonders’ within the museum to the outside landscape beyond.
The website links to a copy of the museum’s Modes records hosted on the Modes server.
Joe Perry from Buxton Museum talked us through the process behind this new innovation. “When we create new content for the site we can geotag it, so that it becomes part of a mobile tour…we can also tag in one or more objects – which reference our Modes data…If someone is reading one of our pages in the landscape, or from home, they will see a list of all the objects associated with that page and place. This acts in reverse in the gallery, so when people look up objects, they get a list of the geotagged webpages too. The aim is to remind landscape explorers and armchair archaeologists that the objects they are looking at are on display at the museum - so come see them next! Likewise, we want to remind our gallery visitors that many of the places the objects come from are out there and are accessible - so go explore!”
"We are putting Modes data at the heart of our digital strategy, so that all collections-related media and labelling comes out of Modes using a Create Once Publish Everywhere strategy COPE." (Joe Perry, Buxton Museum)
So, imagine you are exploring the Peak District – you have the opportunity to search for the ‘wonders’ by words, theme or location using this app. You can also choose the length and type of exploration you want:
Whether you are out and about in town or in the breath-taking Peak District landscape, the geotags, as illustrated below, will point out a place, or object of interest.
The app uses your location to place a range of interesting facts and historical snippets right at your fingertips.
The app aims to engage the user as fully as it can with the surrounding landscape. For instance, here the app invites you back in time on an audio journey as you walk.
The benefits of this useful app to schools, researchers and tourism seem obvious. It’s also an excellent way to add interest to a Sunday ramble! Now you can engage with the heritage of a place whilst out and about. Just download a route before you head off on your walk and you can access all the details even when you are out of range of Wi-Fi or a good phone signal.
You can register for the website for free. There is a guest mode on the app but registering is recommended as it allows you to save information and connect to social media. The web app will also remember what you have seen, so you can discover something new next time. The app is a really practical aid to planning your day out. Registered users can get access to a ‘My Wonders’ section on the website where they can look at things they have saved for later, and create customised walks and trips.
You can even add to the wealth of data on the site by taking part in one of the ‘Challenges’ on the website – currently users are invited to share stories of interesting objects that they have found whilst exploring the Peak District. The team at Buxton Museum use the responses to the ‘Challenges’ to improve or create new content – and even update Modes records if new information comes to light.
The Buxton team believe that collaboration is key to the success of the new app. They have been working with partners such as the National Trust, Peak District National park, Museums Sheffield, Buxton Civic Association as well as numerous artists, community groups and volunteers to build a community of authors to ensure the app stays relevant and diverse. All contributors can access the Modes data and tag in objects. The team hope that eventually, further development of the app will allow the data from other museum collections to be included. The museum are always looking to expand the authoring community, and are happy to hear from potential volunteers, or organisations with Peak District collections they wish to add.
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery’s £1.5m makeover has certainly been a success. Prior to the project annual footfall was around 37,000 per year. Early indications suggest the number of visitors will average around 42,000 following the launch.
Picture: Outside the newly refurbished Buxton Museum and Art Gallery (Photo curtesy of Andrew Eyley)
Visitors can experience the rejuvenated, brighter foyer which has new displays about Buxton, and a whopping 10% more objects on display than before the revamp. There are photographs, fine and decorative art displays, geology and archaeology of the Peak District as well as a host of other interesting exhibitions on display. Favourite pieces at the museum include:
Pictured: The Hopton Hand Axe, 350,000 years old
Pictured: A gold Aureus of Trajan found at Wormhill, Derbyshire
Pictured: Copy of Thomas Hobbes poem De Mirabilibus Pecci
And of course, we have to mention…
The Buxton Bear.
In addition to the new gallery space, there is a gift shop containing souvenirs inspired by the collections and access is now improved with a lift to the first floor. Soon the museum hope to offer mail order, print-on-demand shopping too, linked to www.wondersofthepeak.org.uk.
Buxton staff kept a blog during the collections in the Landscape project which provides a fascinating insight into the behind-the scenes activities. This can be accessed at collectionsinthelandscape.wordpress.com
Anyone with enquiries about the project can contact Ros Westwood or Joe Perry at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery:
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
Telephone: 01629 533540
Modes Users, do you have a digital project you would like to explore? Nick at Modes would love to hear from you:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 01332 742552