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Mobile Access to
Cultural Information
Executive Summary
To facilitate access to exhibits and visitors' experiences and learning, cultural and scientific
heritage institutions traditionally offer complex on-site information via labelled exhibits
and docent-led tours, together with a variety of printed documents.When used, digital
technologies are typically represented by multimedia kiosks and portable, pre-recorded
audio guides.
Publishing background information and collections of digitised images on the Internet
gives visitors an opportunity to prepare for their visits, or to gain further knowledge after
a visit.
New mobile access technologies will be a powerful tool for making information
resources available during visits to cultural institutions.These applications currently come
in two primary types: the first is influenced by positioning ability, indoor or outdoor; the
second supports the process of obtaining information on specific items at specific times,
which can be considered a natural progression from standard, conventional audio guides.
Technologies likely to have a strong influence on future institutional strategies include
increasingly powerful, portable and affordable devices such as PDAs and cellular phones,
and new wireless communication protocols such as Bluetooth, WAP (Wireless Application
Protocol) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service).
In contrast to the use of audio guides or other specialised devices which typically
required to be maintained by the cultural heritage institutions and were borrowed by
the visitors, new mobile devices are often owned by the visitors themselves.This may
bring a radical change in the way heritage institutions think about formulating and
financing their technology strategies.What is becoming increasingly necessary is the
ability to provide wireless connection to the right information and to suitable content,
with guaranteed compatibility across platforms and protocols.
Visitors therefore benefit from guides that can offer an unprecedented level of person-
alisation and self-direction.They now have the opportunity to follow the most suitable
learning content that matches their interests most closely, and to combine information
on the collection with Web content in a convenient and intuitive manner.
Early mobile access devices have already been introduced in a variety of institutions,
and are commonly found in museums and open-air exhibits.This field is expected to
undergo rapid changes over the coming years. A major concern at present is the
understanding of the difference between the wired and wireless network approaches.
Wireless applications require further development of new information architectures,
and imply specific human/device interaction challenges.The costs of operating wire-
lessly are still much higher than wired alternatives, but these costs are steadily decreas-
ing.The basic benefits that they promise are those of radically improved personalisation
and connectivity.
heGlasgowStory and Glasgow City Council (Libr
aries, Information and Lear
131 The Wi-FiTM endorsement, awarded to wireless products that have passed rigorous interoperability requirements,
can help with this. For background information, see the Wi-Fi Alliance at
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