Digital Exhibit Progress (Plus: Bonus Google Sketchup Images)

For the last few weeks Matt and I have been meeting regularly to create our digital exhibit.  In case readers are not following the progress of this project closely, the center piece of our exhibit is an interactive timeline that allows the visitor to visualize the path of a British convict ship as it sailed around the world from 1802 to 1803.  Check out Matt’s blog to see the Simile Timeline as well as read where you too can create one.

My job of archival research, collecting samples from the Ship’s Log, turned into a few hours of data entry, completing (almost) the excel spreadsheet that our Simile Timeline pulls from to display our project.  Matt and I enjoyed going through the research and as it taught us a few things (some already mentioned in previous blogs).

  1. The trip around the world involved a variety of unique weather patterns.  From “clear” to “squally” the ship’s crew (and the ship) faced it all.  At times the weather snapped the mast, or tore the sails, as evident in short posts about stopping for repairs.
  2. A few entries tell the story of the convicts aboard the Glatton.  In one story, a convict accused of stealing had his head shaved and tarred.  (I imagine if you were already being shipped to Australia, you really did not have much to lose in stealing).

As we plugged in the coordinates for each of the 12 anchoring locations that we selected along the Glatton’s voyage, the final visualization turned out awesome.  Visit our timeline map at “Vidal Voyage” and check it out for yourself.

Adding the coordinates works well with the Simile timeline, for people interesting in unique ways of showing the intersection of time and place.  Notice that as you shift the timeline foreword pins drop down in succession, showing the visitor (roughly) the actual course around the world.  Matt and I were surprised to find out:

  1. The ship went all the way to North America before crossing back over the Atlantic and going down around the cape of South Africa.  (Further research on convict ships of the 19th century revealed that the routes were not often direct.  Reasons for this included the weather, the need to visit various Caribbean colonies, dropping convicts off in other locations, or stopping for repairs).
  2. The return trip involved going around the tip of South America, up the coast and straight on ’til morning England.  For some reason I assumed they returned the same way, event though the book says “Around the World.”
For those reading this, and looking at the timeline (and not looking ahead..), you might be wondering, how would this work in a museum?  Over the weekend, I jumped back on Google Sketchup and started designing a potential exhibit that showcases the HMS Glatton, Voyage around the World.

In this museum space, a corner exhibition would be ideal since it lends to the natural shape of a ship’s hull.  I added the circular windows and ship’s wheel to heighten the effect for a visitor.  (who is clearly stand offish at this point).

 To give the visitor some sense of “command” over the exhibit, inviting interaction, we elevated the wheel.

 Wood panelling only made sense because it is a ship.

Because of all these changes, our visitor is now shaking off his “museum fatigue,” is no longer stand offish, has changed clothes, grew a beard, and is ready to interact!

In front of the Ship’s Wheel is a screen with the Simile Timeline.  Notice, above the screen is a Kinect.  Matt has the Kinect reading our body movements so that you do not need a mouse to scroll over the page.  Instead, you become the mouse!  Your hand movements control the timeline.

*Almost (not exactly, but almost) like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

The exhibit includes two additional panels, telling the two stories of the Glatton.  Here the visitor will learn about weather patterns found and used from old Ship’s Logs.  They will see the connection between historic weather patterns and present studies on climate change.

The second panel tells the stories of the convicts.  The humanity of these convicts is often lost in a historic record that showcases statistics over stories.  We hope to add images into our timeline, but this panel will help illustrate the lives of convicts aboard these British vessels.

Zooming out, here we have our visitor coming into the museum and encountering the HMS Glatton exhibit.  We hope that the Kinect and Timeline combination will inspire visitors to engage and learn, while having fun at the same time.

To Do:

We are working on making the timeline a little more aesthetically pleasing.  This involves images and videos embedded into our daily journal entries.  We would like to find more ways to be creative with our timeline so that the story “pops” out at the visitor.  At the moment, size 12 Times New Roman on a white back drop just isn’t doing the job.

Please feel free to send us your suggestions or comments, as we are all ears on ways to make this exhibit more interesting.


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