Bluetooth beacons at …Something Blue

GG3 GG1 Images courtesy of Stewart Cromar (@stubot)

On Friday we trialled the use of Bluetooth beacons in our exhibition space, using Google Glass and the Guidigo app to provide an immersive tour of the Something Blue exhibition. Beacons work by emitting a small Bluetooth signal which activates content installed on visitors’ mobile devices. Four of these were placed at locations throughout the exhibition and, when users came within range, music, videos and voice recordings relating to specific exhibits were activated on the Glass headsets.

Users standing near the Blob 05 (Blue) exhibit, for example, were able to access an interview with Art Curator Neil Lebeter talking about the painting, while those in close proximity to the Vienna Horn could watch a video of Curator Sarah Deters playing the instrument.

There was a strong novelty factor as many people had not tried out Google Glass before, but on the whole it was felt that using the technology with the beacons in this way was an effective way of delivering content. The exhibition room is a relatively narrow space and because of space restrictions, some of the beacons were situated very close together. As a result, the signals from different beacons often interfered with each other, meaning content delivery was sometimes quite erratic. On more than one occasion someone standing next to one beacon received content from another one located several metres away on the other side of the room. As well as this, when too many people were standing close to a beacon the signal could be blocked or dulled.

In order to combat this for future sessions, it would be more effective to spread the beacons evenly throughout the space and have specific signs on the floor or walls saying something like “stand here to hear an interview with the curator”. Aside from these issues, the Google Glass worked really well: the Guidigo app overcame many of the well-known problems associated with the technology (poor battery life, overheating, and headaches) by putting Glass into sleep mode whenever the user was outside the beacons’ range. On the whole, it was an interesting experiment to take part in and we hope to have a more public trial of the technology at our next exhibition, so please do get in touch if you would like to be involved!

We are also exploring further ways of using beacons with other mobile devices to provide self-guided library tours: watch this space for further updates.

Gavin Willshaw | Digital Curator


Library Play Day

Ideal Librarians in LegoLast Friday, Gavin, Caroline, Matthew and I attended a Library  Gamification day organised by the Scottish Academic Libraries Cooperative Training Group. Andrew Walsh, from the University of Huddersfield gave us an introduction to gamification and then gave us all a pack of Lego with the challenge to build our ideal librarian.

We then playimage2ed different games to discover the different game mechanics we could use when building our own library games later in the day. The Lego was again utilised to form groups for the rest of the day based on common issues we wanted to address. Here’s my Lego model of a problem we face here at the University of Edinburgh, the Lego wall represents the Main Library, with the pink and red blocks being the floors most undergraduates visit and the grey floors the Lower Ground Floor, fifth and sixth floors containing the rare and unique collections that are unknown to many of our students.


We then created board and card games based on the common issues we face in our libraries.

The group I was in created a caimage1rd game called ‘Library Soup’, where each player was given a ‘recipe card’, representing an assignment that they had to complete with five visits to the Library (five turns). The player with the highest points at the end was the winner. The aim of the game was to teach the  players that not all library resources are equal. As the assignment could be completed with resources with low points, e.g. a magazine article or high points e.g. a peer-reviewed article.

IMG_0115Gavin and Matthew’s team created a board game called ‘Find-It‘ to encourage users to discover resources in their University Library. Players started off at the library entrance, drew cards to see what items / resources they had to locate and then searched for these in the physical and digital library space. The game aimed to raise awareness of the diversity of library resources available while orientating students around the library building.

In Caroline’s teams game ‘Database Acedatabase_ace players worked their way up the board picking up reward, risk and chance cards. The cards taught users about the use of online database in their assignments.





Andrew, also gave us an overview of ‘Lemon Tree‘ a rewards based application developed in partnership with University of Huddersfield Library, which gives users points and badges for library activities.

Videos of all the games designed on the day are available on Andrew’s Blog .

Claire Knowles, Gavin Willshaw, Caroline Stirling and Matthew Pang


Food for thought at Europeana Tech


While our main contribution to the Europeana Tech revolved around the metadata games on this site, there was a veritable feast of things for us to consider for our future work.

In no particular order, I’d just like to say a little bit about the best of them, to focus us on where we could be improving processes.

  • Image strategy in general. It pains me to say this, as such a large proportion of my work in this job has been with the LUNA imaging system, but I can see the way the wind is blowing, and it would be churlish not to acknowledge it. The IIIF– International Image Interoperability Framework is increasingly becoming the standard for open sharing and hosting of images. With a host of open source tools for storage and discovery, such as OpenSeaDragon, which zooms at least as well as LUNA does, we could be looking at options to have all of our collections in one application, instead of linking out. We could be sharing images to other tools without having to store so many derivatives. We would be in a position of confidence that everything is being done to a standard. It’s still in its infancy, but the Bodleian- who used to use LUNA- have moved over, and the National Library of Wales are using it too.
  • APIs for data. The Europeana APIs are there for our use, to let developers from contributing institutions just get in and build stuff. We could be employing this to pick up metadata for our LUNA images as an alternative to the LUNA API (which we will need to use when the database goes in v7), and thus could employ it in our Flickr API, our metadata games, and our Google Analytics API. More than that, though, with a small tweak, we could be pointing metadata games to the WHOLE of Europeana, thus allowing us to do a service to other institutions- getting their data enriched, and supplying them with crowdsourced information. This would be great for our profile.
  • Using Linked Open Data. This comes up again and again, and would definitely come into play if we were to build an authorities repository. Architecturally, the approach is likely to involve RDF, although cataloguing can be done through CIDOC-CRM, from which RDF can be extracted. CIDOC-CRM is looking to have an extension for SPECTRUM, which Vernon uses, so there could be some interesting changes to how Vernon looks in the years ahead.
  • Alternatives to searching. One of the messages that rang out loud and clear at the conference is that people do not go to a museum to DO A SEARCH. Ways of presenting data without a search button as such are being looked at, and some sites which do this are here:
    V&A Spelunker
  • One other thing that occurred to me, thanks to Seb Chan at Cooper Hewitt, in relation to our work for St Cecilia’s- videos which show objects in the round, 3-D versions. Is it enough to show a flat image, or a bit of audio, for something that is in a display case?

In the tradition of Library Labs, this is a bit of a brain dump, and I will inevitably think of more content for this post over the next few days. It’s a start though!

Tag It, Find It!: Pop Up Library on tour

ILW combined

Last week, Pop Up Library packed its bags for a three day tour of the university campus, bringing paintings from the art collection, our metadata tagging game and a 5kg tub of fizzy sweets to the Murray Library at KB, the Main Library on George Square and ECA Library.

The aims of the sessions were to show off items from our art collection, get students and staff to try out the latest version of our metadata game, and to raise awareness of the importance, and ubiquity, of descriptive metadata, particularly for digital objects.

Players of the game were given laptops on which were displayed a series of digital images from the art collection. They were asked to ‘say what they saw’ by tagging these and then voting on the quality of other players’ tags. Points were awarded for the best descriptive tags, and the leaderboard was displayed on TV screens and projected onto the Holopro above the Main Library Helpdesk, thus creating a healthy sense of competition amongst players. If you took part, have a look at the leaderboard below to see how you did!

STUDENTS: TOP 10ILWStudentHighScores (2).fwSTAFF: TOP 10ILWStaffHighScores (2).fw

Alongside the game, we displayed original works of art next to their digital surrogates in order to contextualise the tagging game: the digital images in our collections are representations of physical items and the information and details that can be seen in the digital object is often quite different to that which can be seen in the original. For digital collections, it is important that items are tagged correctly so that they can be found both in search engine results and within the image database itself.


The sessions were well attended, with almost 3,500 tags entered by over 50 staff and students. The tags obtained from theses sessions, once moderated, will be uploaded to our image database and used to improve the discoverability of our digital image collection.Why not play the game for yourself on the new Edinburgh Library Labs blog?

ArtWordle (2).fw

Google Glass, gaming and Gallimaufry

Last Monday was no typical day at the office: after an early start at the Imperial War Museum exploring its First World War exhibition with Google Glass, I finished the day trying to escape the British Library before the lights were switched off! In between, I was involved in the launch of a new initiative to make our images available through Tiltfactor’s Metadatagames crowdsourcing platform.

Google Glass at the IWM


The Imperial War Museum ran an experiment to see how its First World War Galleries could be enhanced with the use of Google Glass and invited heritage professionals to try out the technology. Information Services at the University of Edinburgh have recently acquired a few sets of Google Glass and announced a competition to see how students could use it to improve their learning, so I was keen to see how it could be used in a heritage setting. The concept was actually very simple: a Glass ‘tour’ had been uploaded to the device and, whenever a wearer approached one of several beacons installed throughout the exhibition, the user was fed additional relevant content onto their Glass screen. For example, one of the exhibits was an early tank – when I came within range, a short 1916 propaganda film appeared on my screen describing how the new invention would “bring an end to the war”.

I felt the museum did a good job of providing enough additional content through the Glass to complement existing exhibits without overwhelming the user with too much additional information. The device was surprisingly comfortable and the screen wasn’t overly intrusive. This experiment showed that Google Glass can work in a museum setting: there is definitely scope for using it in one of the Library’s exhibition spaces to provide another dimension to showcasing our collections.

Digital Conversations at the British Library


There have been some fantastic initiatives recently in using heritage content as inspiration for video games – this event, part of the British Library’s Digital Conversations series, brought heritage professionals and games designers together for the formal launch of the 2015 ‘Off the Map’ competition for students to design games inspired by the BL’s collections. The theme for the competition, ‘Alice’s Adventures off the Map’, relates to next year’s 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Library provides asset packs for games designers and facilitates access to original collections; the designers use these materials to create exciting and innovative computer games. Previous winners have included an underwater adventure through the long demolished, but now digitally restored, Fonthill Abbey, and a fully immersive 3D version of London from before the Great Fire of 1666.

There were also some really interesting talks at the event about the launch of the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, a discussion about how the V&A’s designer in residence built a successful mobile app using items from the museum’s collections, and a demonstration of how the British Museum used Minecraft to engage users with the building and its collections. The range of ideas on display gave food for thought – how can the University take inspiration from initiatives such as these to enhance access to and use of our own collections?

Gallimaufry games

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 14.25.36

Crowdsourcing is definitely one way we can do this! We’ve been working on creating a fun metadata tagging game to encourage games enthusiasts, and those with an interest in out collections, to ‘say what they see’ and tag our images. We took inspiration from Tiltfactor’s Metadatagames platform, and on Monday we uploaded around 2,500 images from our Gallimaufry collection to their site. You can now play addictive games such as ‘Zen Tag’, ‘Stupid Robot’ and ‘Guess What’ using a diverse number of images from our own collections!