PCCR – A Framework for Mobile Apps in the Museum Application Development

The PAGE CUBE CONTENT REPRESENTATION Framework

ViSIT Project

This venture has been accompanied by the project with the title “Virtuelle Verbund-Systeme und Informations-Technologien für die touristische Erschließung von kulturellem Erbe” (ViSIT). The project has been funded by the INTERREG programme ‘V-A Bayern-Österreich 2014 – 2020’ enabled by the ‘European Regional Development Fund’ (ERDF). ViSIT highlights the cultural area lined out by the three rivers Inn, Salzach, and Danube. That territory has been historically defined by the salt trade, dating back to the beginning of the 11th century, as well as the Prince-(Arch-) Bishoprics of Salzburg and Passau. Thus, the territory has a strong connection characterized by its rich historico-cultural heritage. Within the focal scope of ViSIT was the visitor experience to be generated, especially in alignment with the development of partnerships between institutions. Among other components, the development of a software framework for mobile apps for the Museum Application Domain (MAD) has been a vital element.

The role of Museum and the Web

Since 2015, the very beginning of me working in the realm of digital humanities, I am committed to do my best to help to shape the landscape of our field and to improve the possibilities of communicating our knowledge. With my first contribution to MW in 2017 a whole new world opened up for me being able to share my vision and experience the amazing projects ideas of all the members of our community.

Over the last three years, I had the fortunate opportunity to annually meet many of you at the conference location and build professional connections and personal friendships. They kept an open ear and always offered their helping hand when it came to resolving some domain specific complications!

Motivation

Large museums always were interested in presenting their findings and their exhibitions in the most appealing way. With the advent of digital technologies, the possibilities today often exceed the expectations from just the previous day. Following these trends, industry leaders are able to build extravagant and mind-blowing digital empires.

The field of tension comprised of technology, tourism, and digitization however, causes immense pressure on small and medium sized institutions who already struggle under the weight of their mandatory obligations!

That often causes one of two fatal situations to manifest:

  • Museums feel compelled to start digital projects into the blue without previously working out a dedicated digital strategy. That, in most cases, will end in a failure or the project will be neglected, leaving everybody involved frustrated and consuming every last bit of enthusiasm.
  • Museums feel repelled by technology altogether, because they cannot commit their sparse resources to something that promises no results in the foreseeable future for them or disrupts them and puts their day to day business.

To tackle both of those initial mindsets we developed the PCCR App Framework! It tries to educate museum professionals about what it means to create and maintain sustainable digital content while at the same time providing a hands-on approach to produce immediate results. That way any effort put into the system is instantly rewarding and executed in an orderly manner.

The PAGE CUBE CONTENT REPRESENTATION Framework sets the stage from the very beginning of any digital journey, providing valuable resources and added value every step along the way:

  • In the beginning, it supports you to form an understanding of the processes necessary to jumpstart and maintain digital content by putting you in the seat of the visitor.
  • There are no requirements to start, except having access to a computer and an internet connection. No external support or coding experience necessary!
  • It is smoothly guiding you through the process, from the very beginning with a high quality user experience and a step-by-step manual.
  • The backend is designed for you to be in full control, supporting you with instant previews of every keystroke, all the way to your first launch!
  • All data produced using the framework follows a rigorous ontology and is readily available in a structured form that can be used within every other system as well!

Execution

To do all of that a micro domain model has been developed that can closely describe certain reoccurring entities often encountered in the museum application domain. That model is capsulated and totally technology agnostic.

However, that data centric approach alone is just on the level on a collection management system and might not appeal to those who are just starting out. Since tat perspective is too sterile it does not offer any immediate value to those not aware of the long term benefits of structured data.

For that reason in addition a view engine that is structured around the visitor’s perspective has been developed. This enables to visualize the data in real time during the entry process.

Those two components are tied together by a ViewModel implemented in JavaScript that allows for easy access through a browser. That implementation has been accompanied by some local partners of the ViSIT project in Germany and Austria in a close feedback loop resulting in a product that is easy and fun to use.

Result

The resulting framework will be freely available to the public on GitHub including the source code, the illustrated and interactive manual, the style guide, and the comprehensive technical documentation GitHub under the GPLv3 licence! Because of local policy restrictions, I am not able to grant public access internationally until 01.04.2020. Please feel free to contact me at any time for early access to the system or any document. Especially the maual can aid you to understand the benefits of the framwork and its implementation.

In the meantime check out the demo on the project website (It works best in the Chrome browser)!

Quick Overview

The framework takes the visotor app as the starting point of any interaction.

The creator can add basic information such as general information about the museum or exhibition, opening hours, or addmission fees in a guided form, and is instantly presented with waht the visitior would see.

Additionally, it is possible to create advanced pages for certain entity types like objects, events, or persons to describe artifacts relevant to the exhibition!

Furthermore, it is possible to create quizzes or model your exhibition area to simplify your visitors navigation throughout your premises.

Once some pages have been created, those can be assembled into an app. Again, that process is guided by forms and editors that let you pick your previously created pages at the appropriate time.

It is bossible to buid apps of two desict types: “Guide” and “Explore”:

  • The “Guide” Mode shows sequecial pages in a predetermined order. The visitor can use the arrow keys to navigate between these pages. Additionally, it is possible to return to the home screen.
  • The “Explore” Mode offers to show pages at specific locaitions by presenting numbers for the consumer to enter into the input field. Each selection offers exactly one page, therfore it is only possible to return to the home screen.

After an app is finished it can be deployed throgh the UI and then can be accessed by the visitor.

 

Each app visit will be tracked and the data is automatically transformed and accessable for the museum professional: