Interactive Media Mobile

Hacking iPods for museum use

The Walker Art Center has a fantastic post on hacking the firmware and interface of the iPod to make them more usable in a museum setting.

Lending iPods out to patrons is much more involved than just the simple question of how you clean them, or avoiding theft (those items of business are handled by our Visitors Services department). In the New Media world, we care more about answering the question, “how do we make them easy to use?”

Ease of use really comes in two forms. One for the user of the device, and the other for those of us having to update the content on the device itself. When there are budgetary constraints, you’re always looking for the best bang for the buck, while not overly hindering the experience because of it. So what do we do?

2 replies on “Hacking iPods for museum use”

iPods are already being used successfully in overseas museums and art galleries, I believe that they are a useful resource for interpretation in the museum context. Budget constraints for content production is not a great excuse either… It costs next to nothing with a home computer/laptop these days. All you need is some professional historians with a bit of multimedia knowledge and hoorah, we have a fresh and fascinating new media with which to interpret history, whilst making it relevant to the current generation.

Hi Megan

The Walker Art Center (whose article I was quoting) has made good steps towards making iPods more usable in the gallery context – simplfying menus, removing options etc – the idea they and others have had is that iPods offer ‘too much’ flexibility in a gallery context and need to be modified to be able to be used by all patrons. Their article was discussing the technical methods for hacking iPods for this sort of use.

Content devlopment can be cheap but developing high quality content always takes time – which is the major stumbling block for most public museums. You may be aware that the Powerhouse Museum has trialled a number of downloadable tours and podcasts – and those that have been created from scratch (that is, those that are not recordings of lectures etc) have required considerable time in script writing, edit, even if the actual tools of recording are nowadays much simpler and more widely available.

Comments are closed.