Heritage Jam 2015 – sign up soon!

Heritage Jam at York University – registration opens on 20th August

I had a great Skype chat today with Neil and Paul from Info-Point. I’d first met them a couple of years back, and wrote about their product here. In fact, I’d put them in touch with one of my client properties at the time, Saddlescombe Farm, that had a problem which I thought Info-point might be the perfect solution for. It was – and Info-point have now supplied solutions to a number of out-of-the-way (and out of signal) National Trust sites across the country.

Their challenge is that they are technologists, not storytellers, but sometimes places come to them hoping they can supply the content, not just the platform. To this end, they are working hard at building a network of interpretation designers and content providers, who they hope will use their technology when heritage sites come calling.

We were chatting idly about setting up a two-day “hacking” event, to bring together heritage custodians, storytellers and technologists. While we were talking I thought “we could call it something like Heritage Jam!”

Afterwards I thought – “Heritage Jam… that too good an idea to be mine. Where have I heard it before?” and a quick Google later, I knew where. York University will be hosting Heritage Jam towards the end of September. I missed it last year, and made a mental not not to miss it this year. OK, so that mental note came back a bit garbled, but it came back in time for me to get myself on the mailing list. Registration opens and closes on the 20th August. So if you want to go, set a reminder in your diary! If you can’t get to York, there’s and on-line participation month kicking on the 20th of August too, so check that out.

GamAR at the National Maritime Museum

Some time ago I read about the GamAR app for mobile devices. Which allows visitors to a number of heritage sites to download a (sometimes free, sometimes paid for) Augmented Reality Game based around the site. Last week I finally got to give it a go, when I visited the National Maritime Museum. The app had been sitting unused on my iPad for months. Now I had the oppurtunity to download a game a take it to the museum.

Here’s a thing – there’s a free game you can download for the Cutty Sark, but we’d been there a year or so ago, before GamAR came out, and didn’t want to repeat that visit yet. Now the Great Explorer game in the NMM itself appeared to be free on my iPad, so I downloaded that. But when my wife tried to download it into her’s she was asked to pay for it (so she didn’t – we took mine).

If I had had to pay, I’d have been cross, because it didn’t work. It started up and wanted access to the iPad’s camera, which I allowed, but the camera images wouldn’t appear on the game screen, so after some fiddling, I gave up and borrowed one of the museum’s Android tablets so my family could try it out.


It’s a simple but fun scavenger hunt around a giant map on the mezzanine level of the Museum’s roofed-in courtyard. The kids had to move from port to port, finding out a little about each country and picking up items and crew that allowed them, eventually to level up to Grand Admiral (huzzah). The Android tablet was quite heavy, and my boy gave up after a while with tired arms, so his sister completed the quest.

It was notable that there were few others playing the game, even though the borrowed tablets were free. I saw just one other player while we were there. There were plenty of kids playing on the map, though. But they were just playing, running and rolling around on its soft surface. Of course when they occasionally rolled under where my kids were point the tablet, the image recognition that powers the app failed and we’d have to wait a while for them to roll out of the way.

A regular visitor we were with, wasn’t even aware of the game, despite the massive banners around the map advertising it. This speaks to my continuing (but as yet unmeasured – I wonder how I might go about that?) suspicion that very few people actually want to play games when they are “doing heritage”.

Meanwhile, many more visitors where enjoying another playful intervention at Royal Museums Greenwich. Up the hill, at the Royal Observatory a number of items had been removed from show there, to appear in the Museum’s Longitude exhibition. To take their places in the observatory, the museum had brought in a number of Steampunk writers, artists and makers to create an alternate history of longitude.

The especially made exhibits were fun, but my favourite aspect was the rewriting of labels for items from the museum’s permanent collection. By way of example have a look at this picture:


Got it?

Now read the caption and suddenly the picture becomes a lot more frivolous:


A lot more fun, for me at least, than GamAR’s efforts.

#GoogleGlass for learning: The National Trust experience

A colleague pointed out this post to me, wherein a Google Glass owner tries a visit to Blickling. Of course he was stymied by a lack of a phone signal – which is common across many of our properties, and by a lack of wifi. Putting public wifi into National Trust buildings, to ensure decent connectivity despite thick stone walls in some places (not at Blickling), and then connecting to a network with enough capacity for tens or hundreds of visitors at a time to have responsive access to the web is a challenge for many, or most National Trust places. But it will become more and more urgent as visitors will expect to learn about places in ways that suit them.

Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

Whilst i enjoy the history, the cream tea is an essential part of the experience. Whether you go jam first, layering your cream on top, or cream first (which, just to be clear, is wrong), there’s nothing quite like sitting in a National Trust cafe, fending off the wasps, to let you know that summer is well and truly here.

Blickling Hall

The National Trust is a charity, set up to preserve landscapes and houses of national importance: originally focused on grand, stately homes, now equally likely to preserve the more humble abodes of writers and musicians. As a member, you can enjoy access to hundreds of properties around the UK, assured of a firmly middle class experience and a nice cup of tea at the end of it. I’m a huge fan.

But it was with some trepidation that, having taken delivery of my GoogleGlass a scant four days earlier, i…

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