Creating the QR codes is a simple process - what takes the most thought is what kind of content to use. The more we talked to participating museums, the more options we heard. Your imagination is really the limit.
Part of the allure of testing out QR codes was the fact mentioned in Part 1; we've been conducting a lot of artifact research over the past few years and few museums have brought this new information into their exhibits. This information is available online through Artefacts Canada and the Virtual Museum of Canada, so linking to it would be easy enough. We also knew that a number of museums had conducted oral history projects and had video and audio files sitting on shelves. How better to bring history to life than by letting it speak for itself?
1. Readings From Books
Reading short sections of relevant published works can be an easy way to make engaging content. It's easier to record high-quality audio than video, and if you're selling the book in the museum gift shop it can make a great advertisement. These audio segments can be matched with photos, or even just the museum's logo and uploaded to YouTube.
2. Oral Histories
Community elders have great stories to share, which can be edited into short videos. They can be placed near artifacts which they reference either thematically or directly. Imagine having a description of housework in the 1930s placed in the kitchen of a historic house museum, or someone talking about their family's tradition of cabinetmaking with the QR code next to one of the cabinets. Since many institutions have oral histories as part of their collection, this is an easy way to share that information.
3. Photo Slideshows
Another way to re-purpose existing content is to create simple slide shows using archival or other photographs. These can be combined with either of the two audio types suggested above, paired with music, or simply kept silent.
4. Single Photographs
Even a single photo can make for effective content. Memory Lane Heritage Village used QR Codes to link to advertisements from the 1930s and 1940s for objects they had on display. This method is simple, but very effective.
5. Database Records
If some of your artifact records for objects on display have been placed online, a link to that content is a great way to share knowledge about that artifact without requiring a large text panel. Records for items which are not or cannot be displayed can also be linked to, providing visitors with a peek into what's hiding in storage. Our new CollectiveAccess database system will have the ability to produce codes for each object record, simplifying the process even more.
6. Audio Tours
QR codes can also be used to create narrated audio tours, providing introductions to rooms and further information on artifacts from curators and staff.
These are just a few methods that we tried out over the course of our project. As I mentioned before, your imagination really is the limit. So don't be afraid to try out some different kinds of content to see what your visitors prefer. You could even take requests.
I'd love to hear from museum people about how you're using QR codes and what kinds of content you think works best. Feel free to share :)
Stay tuned for part 3 - tracking usage.