Skin & Bones, a mobile app that rejuvenates a 133 years old exhibition (Booth 7)

Diana Marques, University of Porto, Portugal / National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Portugal, Robert Costello, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, USA, Jose Azevedo, Porto University, Portugal

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History hosts the institution’s oldest exhibition, a Victorian-age relic containing 282 skeletons. Most specimens were collected during the 19th century and predate the 104 years old building. The current arrangement of the skeletons, the third in its history, dates from 1964-1966.
The purpose for creating Skin & Bones is to change the visitor experience from passive to active, motivate learning, increase the enjoyment and memorableness of the exhibit experience, and unlock the potential of the collection through visual storytelling. A correlated and dependent goal is to preserve the historic exhibition by increasing the value of the visitor experience. Additionally, Skin & Bones respects the concepts of comparative anatomy and evolution that were always the underpinning bases for the exhibit design.
By downloading Skin & Bones to their mobile devices, users can enjoy 10 Augmented Reality experiences, 32 short videos and 4 playful activities, all developed around 13 specimens on display. The content is structured according to the IPOP theoretical framework and explores scientific concepts represented within the exhibit, introduces scientists and their personal experiences, presents the roles animals play in the environment, showcases their unique anatomical features, and promotes haptic interactions with the device. Despite the focus on the Hall experience, the content of the app can be fully appreciated outside the Museum.
The formal paper covers the design, content production and software development process for the app, and includes preliminary analyses of data. We will demonstrate the design and technology as the user would experience the app from outside the museum. Future directions of the project will be explained, namely how research on the visitor experience and theoretical framework will progress alongside the quest to establish guidelines for best practices regarding the use of augmented reality in museums.

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Kahr-Højland, Anne. 2010. “EGO‐TRAP: a Mobile Augmented Reality Tool for Science Learning in a Semi‐Formal Setting.” Curator: the Museum Journal 53 (4). Wiley Online Library: 501–9.

Pekarik, Andrew J., James B Schreiber, Nadine Hanemann, Kelly Richmond, and Barbara Mogel. 2014. “IPOP: a Theory of Experience Preference.” Curator: the Museum Journal 57 (1): 5–27.

Yochelson, Ellis Leon. 1985. The National Museum of Natural History : 75 Years in the Natural History Building. Edited by Mary Jarrett. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.