Chawton Untours live: progress review

Its a rainy day today, and so Chawton House Library is seeing very few visitors. I guess that many visitors come to the village to visit the Jane Austen museum, and if it’s dry a good proportion of them follow that up with the short stroll to the Library. But when it rains, with the choice of a warm and dry pub OR a cafe just across the road from the Jane Austen Museum, I guess most people decide they don’t want to brave the weather to come here.

The quiet afternoon does give me the opportunity to reflect on Untours so far. The first thing to note is how helpful every visitor I’ve approached as been. Not one has refused to let me give them an Untour. They have also been helpful on the tours, clearly expresing their interest in objects etc. I wonder how much their behaviour is changed by their awareness of  being observedt, but I don’t think, in the final analysis, that will matter very much for what I get out of the experiment. They’ve also been very patient and forgiving when the (somewhat flaky) wi-fi takes time to get up to speed.

I have the minimum number of volunteers, so I’m currently doing all the Untours, with the volunteers (Ryan doing most of it, and Yvette and William from Chawton’s own volunteer body helping out when Ryan isn’t around) in an observer role, either taking notes or filming the exchange. It does mean that one thing I wanted to test – where two groups come into the same space with different story needs – isn’t something I’ll be able to learn about this time.

I’m not going to make firm conclusions here, not until I’ve had a chance to look at all the evidence, but there are some observations I’ve aleady made. One such is that it seems so far that trying to direct people’s attention my turning lights on is having little or no effect. This maybe because most days, the lights don’t make much difference in the naturally and artificially lit rooms of Chawton House Library. Today, with the gloomier weather, my lights are all more noticable, and I was hoping to see if they finally did start attracting visitors’ attention. But I’ve only given one Untour so far today…

Music/sound seems to be working well*, sometimes the visitors’ behaviour keeps it in the background and sometimes they actively listen. It will be interesting to look back on the week’s notes and films and see if there’s any indications whether particular pieces of music trigger specific responses.

*My wizard of Oz solution for the music isn’t brilliantly reliable – I set the music running, and then set the relevant speaker. The music is all on-line, short pieces on Scalar itself, and bigger files on an AWS server I recently set up for an entirely unrelated podcast. Occasionally one of the servers (I’m not sure yet but I think its only the Scalar one) takes so long to deliver the music that my device (an iPad) raids its own music library for something to put on the speaker. The first time this happened, it was Adele’s heavy piano chords, so I notice in time to stop it and go back to the Austen themed piano pieces that should have played. Subsequently I deleted the iPad’s entire music library, but just yesterday it managed to drag up the Pretenders from somewhere.

Halfway through this post we got a visitor who happily joined my tour, and she was followed by another very interesting couple. So I didn’t manage to finish writing the above until now, Friday morning. Ryan collected a lot of video evidence today, with everyone consenting to be filmed, so that will be interesting to look back on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s