Simple Tangible Interaction: An Illumination of Trajan’s Weapons Frieze and Open-source Models For Exhibition Development And Hands-on Storytelling

How-to Session

Todd Berreth, North Carolina State University, United States

This how-to session and paper describes a tangible interactive installation at the Museum of the Imperial Forum in Rome, developed as part of an exhibition commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Emperor Trajan’s death. The project was entirely manufactured via “maker”-technologies, a laser cutter and 3D printer; its interactivity was implemented through hobbyist electronics, a low-cost micro-computer and simple scripting.

This project led to an effort to create a generic, open-source project, on how to build a similar installation with other curatorial content, using the same technologies and techniques. It’s designed as a typical “do-it-yourself” tutorial, which tries to simplify the process of fabricating. It’s a simple entry point to incorporating these modes into a user’s curatorial practice, testing their use, and potentially extending the project, and its tutorials and fabrication plans, via open-source collaboration. Such work offers a compelling model for open-source exhibition development.

Museums and cultural heritage researchers continue to experiment with emerging techniques to engage the public regarding cultural sites, archaeological artifacts and museum collections. This happens increasingly through interventions using computational media, leveraging its unique affordances to enable new possibilities for interactivity and storytelling. Such communities are exploring these potentials to heighten visitor engagement, better communicate context and narrative, and generally to activate the experience and generate empathetic connections with the subject matter.

While such modalities continue to spark the imagination of many curators and scholars, a barrier remains regarding learning curves and the expense of developing such engagements, which hinders communities from incorporating these modes into their toolkits. This suggests that there is a need to both experiment with new modes, and make it easier and less expensive for others to do the same.

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