Open Data Has Many Forms (part 3): 3D Models

Image Turner Contemporary, installation view

Turner Contemporary, installation view

As previously discussed in part 1, digitised museum artefacts in the form of 3D models of museum artefacts can be  considered ‘open data’ when they are made available online through museum websites and downloadable apps.  Many world-renowned museums already make this possible, but smaller museums can similarly benefit from digitising their collections and presenting their interactive, 3D artefacts online.  In fact, when it comes to increasing smaller museums’ profiles, this type of open data is their best bet for allowing a global audience to become familiar with their purpose and access their collections.

While the process of creating 3D models of museum artefacts may seem daunting, advances in technology have paved the way for more attainable methods that do not require expensive equipment, extensive technical backgrounds, or months of labour.  Recently, the company Autodesk, known for their suite of 3D design software, developed 123D Catch, which allows users to create accurate 3D models from photographs .  Since it’s beta version, they have made great strides in updating their software to accommodate those with no prior background in 3D modelling, making it even easier to create 3D models quickly and accurately.  Just two short years ago when I was using 123D Catch to create 3D models of cultural heritage artefacts, I remember it took several attempts of capturing an artefact before arriving to a suitable 3D model.  It also required taking photos and testing the results in several environments, including indoors and outdoors.  However, in the past couple of months, a colleague used the same software to create 3D models of her sculptures.  She was able to create acceptable 3D models after only two tries, both indoors.  This is just an example of how software is constantly being modified to give the user an optimal experience.

Therefore, museum personnel can be confident that current staff can be utilised to assist with creating 3D models of their artefacts for use on websites and downloadable apps.  This is just one way museums can make their collections open and interactive to a global audience.

Read the previous post: Open Data Has Many Forms (part 1): Ownership of Data

Read the previous post: Open Data Has Many Forms (part 2): Positive Effects

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Open Data Has Many Forms (part 2): Positive Effects

Image Turner Contemporary

In the last post, I discussed how making cultural event data can lead to a sense of ownership, which is similar to how making 3D models of cultural heritage artefacts available online can lead to a feeling ownership.  While cultural events and cultural heritage artefacts are completely different from one another, they both can result in experiencing enjoyment and  emotions.  These are strong responses that have been linked to return museum visits and monetary donations, and they demonstrate that  a museum’s exhibitions and collections are successful.  Similarly, organisations need to know that their open data are being used effectively.

In digital terms, positive responses can result in return website visits, positive online reviews, online sponsorships, and increased attendance to similar events via website searches.  The organisations that hold the events will similarly respond by making future events’ data available online and even offering more events.  Open cultural event data allows information to be shared on many websites, yet each website curates relevant cultural event data for their own audience, perhaps only choosing to include a few events from the listings on different websites.  As a result, the owners of a website feel a sense of ownership over their evolving list as they try to cater to their readers.  They know who their audience is and the types of cultural events they would enjoy, and audiences will respond by revisiting the same websites to hear about events.

Another effect of allowing website owners to curate their cultural event data from the vast event listings online is that the audience feels valued.  A lot of time and effort goes into making data open and designing or editing a website to include open data; without this work, the audience would have to manually search many websites to find the event information they are seeking.  Important event information can also be overlooked when one does not know where to seek pertinent information.  Knowing that organisations value their audience enough to make it easier for them to track down potential cultural events also results in the audience valuing the organisations.  Open data and their positive effects are a two-way street that everyone can benefit from.

There already have been some success stories related to open data and the arts.  Specifically, Creative Commons ‘enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools’ and has a wide range of galleries and museums that have benefited from their efforts.  However, successful use of open cultural event data is just as important and needs more attention.

Read the previous post: Open Data Has Many Forms (part 1): Ownership of Data

Open Data Has Many Forms (part 1): Ownership of Data

While Culture Kent aims to make cultural event data open online, enabling free access to dates, times, and locations of events, open data is not just restricted to this type of information. Museums and galleries similarly make their works of art and collections available to people around the world through their websites. Artworks and cultural objects have been globally accessible since the advent of the website, but they usually were in the form of images or videos.

Recent advancements in technology have led to the creation of 3D models of museum objects for research and preservation purposes. This led to the unique opportunity of potentially broadening a museum’s audience by adding 3D models to museums’ websites and making them accessible at any time of the day. Internationally-known museums such as the British

Image The-British-Museum-Website-3D-models

Screenshot of the British Museum’s 3D models

Museum and the Smithsonian have made 3D models of their collections available online. Additionally, there are websites dedicated to bringing together collections from different institutions, notably Europeana and Google Cultural Institute. These museums allow users to interact with the 3D models of cultural artefacts using a mouse to rotate, move, and zoom in and out of objects. Never before has one been allowed such a personalised and in depth look into rare and important museum objects.

 In the case of the British Museum and its utilisation of Sketchfab, users have the chance to select their favourite object and create their own, personalised museum, or even print out 3D copies of objects. By making their collections open, museums are allowing website visitors to have a sense of ownership over certain objects. This leads to visitors revisiting museum websites, and potentially even visiting the actual museums, because they not only trust the information made available online by museum personnel, they also made personal connections to a museum.

If cultural event personnel also make their event data available to anyone to re-share on their own websites to a new and broad audience, it can have comparable effects. Those sharing the data must trust the information they are sharing is up-to-date, which is reflected in users returning to their website for further event information. As a result, organisations and owners of event data will continue to share upcoming data with their audiences.  The importance of making cultural event data open has further effects, which will be discussed in Part 2 of this blog post.

Digital Walkshop – Understanding How Visitors Utilise Technology

In March, Visit Kent held a Digital Walkshop aimed to explore the various ways visitors use technology. Led by the Digital Tourism Think Tank, participants were divided into four groups representing different types of tourists. For example, the Young at Heart group represented tourists who were older and not as familiar with current technologies. Each group was given three tasks to complete during the day, which started at 10:00am. From an initial starting point of the Marlowe Theatre, each group had to pretend that they weren’t familiar with Canterbury or its cultural and tourism offerings. Instead, groups had to plan out their day as if they really were visiting from elsewhere.

 The first task for the Young at Heart group was to plan a day out from Canterbury. Many tourists initially plan on visiting one location, but are eager to explore nearby places as day trips. As ‘tourists’ to Canterbury, we had to figure out where to go, how to get there, and whether it was open. We first Googled ‘tourist information Canterbury’ to see what places others suggested to visit while in Canterbury.  The results linked us to a directions page, but unfortunately the directions were not available, which was frustrating. We next decided to ask someone at a tourist office or visitor centre in person. We went back to the smartphone to Google maps to see where we were and how far we were from the tourist centre. However, the online map was confusing with too much information appearing, so we quickly looked around High Street and found out that Canterbury has very good signage set around the city, and were able to find the Canterbury Visitor Centre, which was located at the beautiful and historic Beaney House of Art and Knowledge.

Image Canterbury Signage

Canterbury Signage

The visitor centre had maps, brochures and guides on display, offering a wide variety of options for places to see both in Canterbury and nearby towns.  We perused the brochures and picked out the brochure on Leeds Castle as it was a nice day and we wanted to visit somewhere outdoors, but we still needed to know how to best get there. Instead of using a smartphone to look up directions, we thought it was best to ask someone at the help desk. She told us that is was not easy to get there if we did not have a car. She gave us a brochure for Dover Castle instead, along with bus and train options. The brochure said the castle was open everyday from 10-6, and if we took the bus, it would take us closer to the castle, although there was still a big walk up a hill. She gave us bus options, including how to get to the Canterbury Coach Station where the bus we had to take was located.

Image Canterbury Map

Canterbury Map

Along the way to the coach station, we tried to look up bus times and ticket costs but the connection to the Internet was spotty. We found that there was free Internet at Fenwick’s, so we stopped by to check our smartphone. Unfortunately, there were still problems connecting to the Internet, but luckily we saw that the coach station was nearby. After speaking to an employee, who gave us different, but more convenient, bus instructions than the lady at the visitor centre, we decided that visiting Dover Castle was a good idea, and Task 1 for Young at Heart was completed!

Image Dover Castle Brochure

Dover Castle Brochure

Although this task seemed like a simple one, it proved that it can be frustrating and complicated for those who are not familiar with Canterbury and had to rely on signage, assistance from people, and spotty Internet service. Although many people own smartphones, they provided no extra help when no Internet connection was readily available. Even when the Internet did work, we could not depend on links since they were either not working, or search results were not what we were looking for.

Acting like tourists in Canterbury really helped us understand what a tourist might go through when they are visiting a new place and want to experience all that it has to offer, but do not know where to start. While many people do most of their planning beforehand, some may want to take a spontaneous day trip or change plans based on weather. In these cases, they may rely heavily on their smartphones to get information quickly so they can start their day out as soon as possible without wasting much time. Even though speaking with people is helpful, tourist centres might be closed if it’s a holiday or they might be located far from where the tourist is staying.

When thinking about how technology can best help tourists, places of tourism need to have reliable, up-to-date information on their websites. If all related data is centralised and standardised using the same vocabulary to tag cultural events, it would make online searches much easier for tourists.

This is the main goal of the Culture Kent project. By creating a data pool of all cultural event data in Kent, we can optimise users’ searches, making it easier for future tourists to discover all the cultural events Kent has to offer, and as a result, increase Kent’s profile as a cultural destination.

Did you have similar experiences while visiting a new place?  How has technology helped you, or would centralised cultural event data have been more useful?  Please leave your comments below!

Bridging the Gap Between Data & Audiences (part 3): Optimising Open Cultural Events Data

The previous post described different methods for organising related data and creating a website to make the open data accessible to others.

Image Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary

The potential benefits of standardising cultural event data and making it available online for anyone to access and implement are immense. First, local audiences become aware of the cultural events that are happening nearby, which can encourage them to support local events as well as invite friends and family to visit them. Second, a more global audience can find events that they might not have heard about without someone publicly sharing the event information. For instance, organisations can implement cultural event open data into apps, making it easy for travellers abroad to find cultural events in any country they visit.

An example of an app that allows users to find cultural events is Culture Finder App. With this app, users can:

  • Explore the City through its museum collections, cultural events and venues with this free app
  • Can follow ready made tours or plan your own
  • Can add locations of places, signs indicating where notable people lived or spent time, etc.

Another app is Time Razor App. Its three main features are:

  • smartEVENTS – Shows what’s happening around you
  • travelTIME – Takes into account traffic and alerts you when you need to leave to get to an event
  • easySHARE – Publish events to Facebook, email, SMS, or Twitter

This app also can be integrated with your smartphone’s calendar, making it easy to receive reminders of upcoming events.

An app that focuses on all events happening in one location is Plymouth Artory App. This is being billed as the ‘Ultimate guide to Plymouth’s art and culture’. In addition to featuring a calendar of events, this app offers visitors incentives for leaving feedback about what they thought about the show, the exhibition, the film or the attraction. Feedback can be left as ‘moods’; users can submit their feelings and emotions about the art and culture they’ve just viewed.

These are just a few ideas about how open cultural event data can be implemented in an engaging and effective way. The more data available, the more valuable an app can be. It all starts with organisations’ collaborative efforts to standardise event data and make it available online.  Do you know of any interesting cultural events apps or have an idea of your own?  Please share your ideas in the comments!

Read the previous post: Bridging the Gap Between Data & Audiences (part 1): Background for Creating an Open Data Source for Kent Cultural Events

Read the previous post: Bridging the Gap Between Data & Audiences (part 2): Building an Open Source Website