5 Handheld devices in heritage management and information dissemination

Web resources are not just accessing the internet through your PC. PDA/PocketPCs and mobile telephones are finding increasing use in the heritage sector. PDAs (and other handheld computers) are now being used by several museums for documentation of archaeological excavations, but none so far with direct internet connection to national or local databases. But this development is just around the corner.

Drawing on web resources through mobile telephones has been tested, however, and two projects – both set for 2004-5 are underway.

5.1 Demo projects 2003

During the summer of 2003 the National Heritage Agency carried out two projects on the island of Bornholm using mobile telephones. The projects were intended to evaluate possible ways to disseminate heritage information from the national databases.

Project one was focused on listed buildings and was based on MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) – a technology that allows you to transmit text messages also with audio, video and still image content. A unique four digit code is displayed on a small sign on each building, and the user sends this code as a text message to the telephone number also displayed. Seconds later an MMS message is received with a short description of the history of the building and its function along with old photographs or drawings to supplement the text.

Anyone with a telephone capable of receiving MMS messages (and most telephones can these days) was able to use this service. The data came from the National Database of scheduled and listed buildings, but the text needed to be rewritten and the images reformatted to suit the new media.

Project two presented data from an archaeological excavation and used location based services. The telephone used in this project was equipped with special software to display maps drawn from the National Survey and Cadastre's Web Map Service (WMS). A Bluetooth connection to a small GPS receiver provided the telephone with information on its position, thus enabling a map to be displayed showing the exact location of the user.

When entering the area of the archaeological site the telephone would draw the user's attention to information about the site, such as excavation plans or images of artefacts with an audio commentary.

Data from this project came from the NMR, the National Museum and the Museum of Bornholm. As was the case in the buildings project all data need to be rewritten or revised.

5.2 Projects in progress

At the moment of writing two projects using mobile telephones are in their initial stages. Both are primarily (but not solely) oriented towards the general public.

Nordic Handscape is a project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, with institutions from five Nordic countries taking part. The Danish project is aimed at the visitor at the Frilandsmuseet, an open air museum with c. 100 historic rural buildings from most regions of Denmark and Brede Værk, a textile industry complex in use from 1832 to 1956 situated next to the Frilandsmuseet. Partners in the Danish project are the National Museum and the National Heritage Agency.

Visitors will be able to borrow mobile telephones and a miniature GPS (matchbox size) with Bluetooth connection and can use these for a guided tour or create a user profile and be buzzed, when something interesting to the user is near, with the possibility of getting more information through text messages or audio. Images such as the building at its original location and video will be available as well. For instance, if the building is a cooper's workshop, a video of a cooper at work will be offered.

The application used requires special software, which requires a specific operating system. So it will not be possible for the visitors to use their own telephones.

Key objective of the project is not only a finished and functional system. It is also outlined in the project description that the project should aim for a technical solution that is sufficiently general for other projects within the heritage sector to take and use with no or at the most minor modification. This also applies to the underlying datamodel.

There is a close cooperation with the other project, “Access to Sunken Worlds”, which started only a few months after Nordic Handscape. “Sunken Worlds” is run by the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde and has Roskilde Fjord and Øresund as its project area. The target audience is a special group: The people who use the fjord, yacht and sailing boat owners and scuba divers. The sites are those from the NMR located off the coast line, 200 locations in total. These are mainly stone age settlements, but there is also a substantial number of ship wrecks.

The story of these now invisible sites (except to the divers) is told using the same technology as Nordic Handscape, i.e. you are alerted to the presence of something interesting, when you approach a site or wreck and offered text, images, video or audio.. Sunken Worlds will be using the same software and the same data model as Nordic Handscape, but the project is also going to include facilities for the visitor to report from the telephone at the site on the condition of the site or wreck. This is directed directly to the project's web page, where other users can respond – or the museum take action.


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