Welsh Museums Deliver Extra Content Via Bluetooth Beacons

National Museum Wales has developed the Culture Beacon app that will be used at numerous museums, castles and schools to present more information to visitors, based on their location.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 05, 2014

Visitors to the National Slate Museum and the National Roman Legion Museum, both in Wales, walk around exhibits that might be difficult to interpret without some help. Photographs and artifacts are often hard to put into context (such as a Roman device that was a valuable tool at one time, but appears to be merely a small gray stone today). Printed material posted on exhibits and on walls do not do the exhibits justice, the museums' curators say, since there generally is insufficient space for the volume of content, and it is difficult to tailor information for each specific type of visitor—such as a child versus an adult.

The solution is an app known as Culture Beacon that works in conjunction with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons and uses a software platform called Locly. from Welsh company Bookry Ltd.. With the app, a user can receive transmissions on his or her smartphone or tablet upon approaching an exhibit, and thus view pictures, textual content specific to that person's indicated interests and video that provides some explanation of the particular item on display.

Installed on a Slate Museum visitor's smartphone, the Culture Beacon app will display exhibit-specific information each time the phone comes within range of one of the site's 25 Bluetooth beacons.
The Culture Beacon app is slated to be used at many more facilities than just the few museums at which the technology is currently installed. National Museum Wales oversees seven museums throughout Wales, including the Slate and Roman museums. National Museum Wales is a member of the People's Collection, Wales, a group aimed at exploring innovation at museums, schools and other public entities through technology for distributing data regarding the nation's history and heritage. Other members of the People's Collection include the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales , the National Library of Wales and the BBC. Rheinallt Ffoster-Jones, a program manager at National Museum Wales and a member of the People's Collection, has been helping to drive the deployment of the Culture Beacon app, which will be used at museums, monuments and castles around the country, as well as at schools, libraries and various outdoor destinations.

The Culture Beacon app was taken live at the Slate Museum in July 2014, and last week at the National Roman Legion Museum. It is presently being adopted by the National Museum Wales Cathays Park and the National Waterfront Museum. According to Ffoster-Jones, National Museum Wales is also working with approximately 30 other sites at which the BLE system app is being requested, many of which are managed by the Welsh Museums Federation.

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