As a museum studies graduate student, I have had a number of opportunities to wrangle with exhibit label writing. For any museum, choosing the levels of information to include in an exhibit is a daily battle. And, the need to provide resources for non-English speaking audiences complicates the issue further.
Many museums are already using mobile applications to fill this information gap, though these apps can be costly and time-consuming to create. Luckily for museums, we now have QRpedia! This website combines the efficiency of QR codes with the information already present in Wikipedia to provide more detailed content about an exhibit object in the visitor’s own language. Once the QR code is scanned, the QRpedia website detects the phone’s language and loads the mobile-friendly Wikipedia article in that language.
QRpedia solves a number of issues. First, comprehensive information about the object will literally be in the palm of the visitor’s hand (not cluttering up the wall). Secondly, the language-detection function has huge potential for multilingual accessibility in exhibits. It is especially useful in countries where curators must shorten label text to allow for the inclusion of multiple languages. Finally, like most QR code generators, QRpedia allows you to easily track statistics associated with each code.
Most topics and noteworthy exhibit objects will already have Wikipedia articles in many languages. But, what if a notable object or topic in your exhibit doesn’t? Because Wikipedia is an editable encyclopedia, you can create the article within any Wikipedia language. You can also update articles with new information that is then immediately available through the QR code in your exhibit.
Since April, several museums have successfully implemented QRpedia in exhibits, beginning with the Derby Museum and Art Gallery in England. Derby has since established a Wikipedia Multilingual Challenge to encourage the creation of Derby-related articles in a number of languages. Alex Hinojo, Wikipedian-in-Residence at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, is working with curators at the Fundació Joan Miró to add QRpedia to the traveling Joan Miró exhibit currently on view at the Tate, London. Alex describes QRpedia as “a system [that will] provide a better service to thousands of tourists who visit [Barcelona]…From now on they can read about the works displayed in museums in their native language.”
For more information on how QRpedia works, see QRpedia developer Terence Eden’s blog post, “Introducing QRpedia.”