GLAM/Newsletter/February 2011/Contents/Derby

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From the editorsNews in briefThe Indianapolis updateDerby Museum and Art Gallery

Three days of Action - QR codes at Derby Museum and Art Gallery

By Victuallers
What’s this? It’s called a Quick Response Code or “QR Code” and it’s basically a next generation bar code. They are quite large (c. 35 mm square) and they always have the three larger boxes as shown

I’ve been working actively with Museums since June last year and like many organisations they can be slow to make decisions. Choosing the first UK regional Museum to collaborate with Wikimedia UK to the first meeting in April will be about six months (Liam tells me it took a similar time to set up the work at the British Museum). So when someone said “Why don’t Museums make their artefact labels using Wikipedia?” it wasn’t surprising that the answers from some Wikipedians were:

  • "Museums like doing this, they won’t let amateurs just do it, it takes weeks of training"
  • "Museums steal our stuff anyway and don’t tell anyone"
  • "We could use QR codes but no-one will let us try them in their museum."

I’ve summarised the conversation, but surprisingly a museum contacted us and said “Yes, you can try QR Codes and... you can do it now!”

Suddenly we had no excuses! Within three days we had investigated how to make QR Codes, received a list of suggested exhibits, made the codes, laminated them, mounted them in the museum, and recorded the event for posterity, and what's more, the total cost was next to nothing. Now visitors to the museum can read the museum's label and if they want extra information then they can use their Smart phone camera to look at this code and they will be directed to further information from Wikipedia. If you have a smart phone then you can visit the Wikipedia article on the Allenton Hippo by looking at the code included on the right. You can add one of your own articles about a Derby Museum artefact here and (hopefully) it will have its QR Code on display in the museum for the event in April.

There were lots of minor issues but none that could stop this happening. The big problem, I mean opportunity(!), is language – it's silly that we can’t just have one code for, say, “Museum” and then your phone tells the cloud which language you prefer and then sends you a description in Tamil or Urdu. At the moment you need to only offer one language or a different code for each language. More information on the QR code trials is available on the English Wikipedia.

Could your local GLAM (or zoo) benefit from QR Codes? Where will they get all the links they need? From Wikipedia. Come and see for yourself on April 9th.


+ Add a commentDiscuss this story

Thanks for the interesting article, Roger! I'm excited to see where this collaboration will go. Face-smile.svg Rock drum (talk · contribs) 14:17, 6 March 2011 (UTC)

Me too. The guy who should get the credit is Nick Moyes who was the curator had the nerve to volunteer... and User:Fae who did the programming :-) Victuallers (talk)
The issue of a single code for a given topic has come up in a different context: interlanguage links. Right now, if 200 language versions of Wikipedia have an article on the same topic, and a 201st language version adds an article on the same topic, updating the article in every version requires edits to 200 separate articles (plus, of course, adding 200 interlanguage links to the brand new article). By contrast, if each article had only a single interlanguage link to a central hub (a cross-referral Wikipedia), then when that 201st language added its articles, exactly one link would be needed - to that central hub, in the new article.
Having said that, I'm not aware of any ongoing effort to build such a central hub. Which is too bad, because if one existed, that's where QR codes should point. John Broughton (talk) 06:05, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
Great stuff guys, well done to all involved, particularly Nick. I hope this gets a wider audience through Signpost, it deserves to. As someone who's been thinking a bit about the relationship between Wikipedia and the wider world (I really must get some of those photos uploaded...), there's no reason why this has to be confined to museums - you could have the equivalents of blue plaques out on the street if someone wanted to make it happen. The density of Wikipedia articles in somewhere like London is quite impressive these days, Boris might not have the money but perhaps the Corporation of the CoL might, or a charity might be persuaded to help make it happen. Particularly if you could make it properly interlanguage. Another question to raise - how about including a Wikipedia logo or something to make it clearer what it's about, potentially it could link to anything, advertising or even malware. Le Deluge (talk) 01:41, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for comments. The event on April 9th will take this event even further. We have created a new type of QR code that is optimised for Wikipedia and allows multi-lingual support. Sadly Nick was made redundant in a restructuring of Derby Museums. Victuallers (talk) 07:31, 31 March 2011 (UTC)


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