Digital reviews - Museums Association

Digital reviews

From a Black history app to guided Twitter walks, we take a scroll through the latest digital content from museums
Digital
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Danny Birchall
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A still from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image's online exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image
A still from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image's online exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image
App | History Bites
The History Bites app seeks to educate young people about overlooked aspects of Black history

The recent controversies over statues have inevitably meant that we have spent a lot more time thinking about how to get rid of memorials that we don’t want, and forgetting about how we might build the new memorials that we need. The Brixton-based charity Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health might have an answer in its educational augmented reality app. History Bites seeks to educate young people about overlooked and underrepresented aspects of Black history such as the Bristol bus boycott of 1963.

After reading a short text, or watching a short video on your phone, you can answer five questions on each subject to unlock an AR camera and place a virtual memorial in your own surroundings. Position a celebration of the British activist Stella Dadzie or the Ghanaian revolutionary Kwame Nkrumah on your own road, then download a snap to your camera, share on social media and earn a badge.

The app is straightforward, accessible and simply built. And it’s a great way to learn some more about hidden histories, and an even better way to imagine a public realm no longer dominated by statues of dead colonisers.

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Online exhibition | The Story of the Moving Image
Acmi’s first exhibition after reopening offers a multilayered integration of its collections and media

As the pandemic continues, the rate of return on digital substitutes for events and exhibitions is decreasing. The novelty of delivering talks from home can only last so long, and online events are too similar to Zoom meetings.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (Acmi) in Melbourne, which reopened in February after a major redevelopment, has been gearing up for a more robust digital offering. Its Experience Operating System (XOS) offers a platform for delivering experiences across physical and digital spaces.

First out of the gate is an online exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image, which mirrors the content of Acmi’s reopening exhibition. Three parts are online – Australian Television, Australian Films and Video Games – with three more to come: Black Women on Screen, Social Video and Digital Art.

The format is familiar: scroll-through pages of text and images, with callouts and expansions. But there are two major strengths in it – the stories are illustrated with Acmi collections’ objects and short films. The former link directly to rich records in Acmi’s catalogue. The latter are pulled from YouTube and Vimeo channels not belonging to the museum. This multilayered integration of collections and media is something to emulate.

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Truly international online experiences offer unexpected bonuses. The story of film and TV is global, but Acmi’s exhibition explores the combination of promise and threat that television offered to Aboriginal communities, something UK museum visitors would be unlikely to find in a similar exhibition.

If anything disappoints, it’s that the format of text-and-object follows the embodied museum experience too closely, when the internet offers richer opportunities for interactive journeys. Hopefully, XOS will be able to support them in future.

Guided Twitter walks | Museum of London Wednesday Walks
The historian and author SI Martin takes you on a journey through the East End of London

Fancy a quick walk? You can stretch your legs without leaving your desk now, thanks to the Docklands’ branch of the Museum of London’s new series of #WednesdayWalks on Twitter. The historian and author SI Martin offers bite-size insights into East End locations, vividly invoking the area’s past, from the West India Docks where slave trader Robert Milligan’s statue no longer stands in front of the museum, to Limehouse’s erstwhile Chinatown, dogged by late-Victorian accusations of vicious criminality.

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Surprisingly intimate, like a personal guided tour, the short videos are clearly subtitled. So wherever you are, pause your doomscrolling for a quick escape into London’s multicultural past.

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