M. Lozano, R. Tesoriero J. A. Gallud and V. M. R. Penichet
Laboratory of User Interaction and Software Engineering
Department of Computer Systems, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Albacete, Spain
Keywords: Mobile devices, PDA, Art Museums, usability.
Abstract: Mobile devices as smart phones or PDA are common devices in our daily life. Museums and art galleries
are provided with some electronic guides in order to do more pleasant the visit to the exhibition. Our
research group has been working in designing and developing mobile software for art museums based on
PDA. The problem studied in this paper is to prove the suitableness of using PDA instead of the traditional
electronic guides. It is interesting to know how to use these devices as a medium to guide and improve the
visitors’ experience. Before presenting the components of our solution we introduce the important items and
concepts by means of our conceptual model.
Museums used to offer visitors some mediums to
guide and enjoy the visit. These electronic guides are
an item with audio facilities in several languages. It
permits users to be informed about pieces of the
museum even in several languages.
In this paper we suggest a new way of interaction
instead of using old communication systems, but
new technology. Then, we thought about a system in
which people could interact in many ways. The
system we have developed is completely available to
visitors, who can rent a pocket computer (PDA) in
the museum (Gallud, 2005), the Museum of Cutlery
of Albacete (Spain).
The system running in the museum can manage
its visits, public news and events in its Web page, to
provide restricted information for determined expert
people, to sell items on-line. Pieces can be managed
and catalogued with multimedia information (audio,
video, image, text…) and displayed in portable
devices such as PDA’s or tablet PC’s with
portability warranty in the applications.
A first task before designing the system is the
definition of the conceptual model of a museum.
What are the items we should consider common to
all museums? How do we can define a scalable and
modular system?
The paper follows describing in section 2 some of
the most relevant previous works in this field.
Section 3 introduces our proposal about the
conceptual model of a museum. Section 4 shows the
definition of our first system and the evolution to the
today’s system is showed in section 5. Finally, the
conclusions and future work is presented in section
The application of new technologies in museums is
not a new topic. There are several experiences that
work in real cases with success. Technology is used
to provide visitors with the ability of interacting with
the museum. In a typical scenario, the visitor can use
his or her sense of touch (hearing and sight) to learn
about the subject of the exhibition. Multimedia
devices, 3D sound, DVD and other systems are
employed to do people enjoy in the museum.
In this project we focused on the use of pocket
computers (PDA) as a powerful tool to help visitors
in their visit to the museum. The challenge was to
find out if our system be a new barrier or a helpful
tool in the museum, if the PDA technology would be
useful to artist and their work of arts, if there are
reasons for museums to avoid adopting new
advanced technology. They are not questions easy to
Lozano M., Tesoriero R., A. Gallud J. and M. R. Penichet V. (2007).
In Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies, pages 469-474
DOI: 10.5220/0001292404690474
answer reading former works, so we decided to
define our conclusions building a complete system.
Before beginning our project we should take a
look to previous works. There are several former
projects that have tried to use wearable computers in
museums. One of the most important references in
this subject is the work developed by Ciavarella and
Paternò (Ciavarella 2003 and 2004) in the Marble
Museum of Carrara (Italy). This project is currently
working and offers to users a PDA with all the
information preloaded by means of memory cards.
The PDA is able to detect when the user is entering
in a new room thanks to infrared devices located at
the beginning of each room.
Other Museums have already developed projects
based on handled devices (Steele, 2002), as the Field
Museum in Chicago, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of
Art of New York or Kew Gardens outside London.
Most of them use handled devices as a useful tool in
the inventory process (see references). These
projects are all prototypes and normal visitors do not
use any PDA.
The exhibitions are ideal scenarios for applying
augmented reality or mixed reality. There are many
HCI groups working in this area, as the work of
Ciolfi (Ciolfi et al, 2002) where an interactive
museum exhibit is designed using or the work
performed by Bernt Schiele (Schiele et al, 2001)
where a wearable computer is developed as an
alternative to the traditional guides.
One of the first tasks relating the design of mobile
software for museums is to define the conceptual
In this section we try to answer the question
“what is a museum?” We would like to combine the
most general and abstract view together with the
particular case of the Cutlery Museum of Albacete.
We think a museum is conceptually composed
by, at least, two types of information:
Catalogue information
Environmental information
Catalogue information is related to museum
registry. Information is stored according to defined
structures and procedures that museums should
follow to accomplish international standards
(Carretero, 1996) (ICOM-CIDOC, 1995). Usually,
this information is described in technical language,
and it should be adapted to visitors. It is also usually
available in electronic format. So, and we are not
going to board this type of information in this
article, although we provide a mechanism to provide
extra information adapted to pieces.
We are focused on defining a model to represent
information that surrounds piece instead of the piece
itself. We called this information environmental
information. A piece being exposed is wrapped by
extra information that depends on exposition
environment; for example piece physical place. So, a
central item of our model is the Space. An art object
must be exposed into a Space and the object has a
Space associate to itself.. Pieces are usually exposed
into a container, for instance a show. A show may
represent a showcase, a frame in case of a painting,
or anything that is able to contain a piece. A Space
has a graphical representation, an associated
resource and an identifier.
The interesting point here is that the Identifier
entity allows the system to be isolated from the
specific technology used to locate the object in the
real space (RFID, WIFI, etc).
Besides, an object may be identified by one or
more Identifiers. So it is possible to use different
position and location technologies at the same time
to improve system precision. For instance, you can
use RFID to identify a showcase and a code bar to
identify a piece into identified showcase.
Although a museum may have a media
repository associated to its catalogue, extra
information about pieces should be provided in order
to present / adapt information to visitors.
Media and content exposed to visitors may
differ from museum technical information. So this
information should be related to museum pieces.
Pieces are not the only spaces that may have
information related. Often, spaces provide
contextual information about pieces contained in
Information described on previous paragraph is
represented by resources. So art objects may be
associated to different resource media, for instance;
images, audios, videos or text. Media should also be
customized in different languages.
A museum is a cultural environment which may
be physically organized in one or more buildings. A
building is divided into floors and a floor is divided
into rooms. In a room we can find terminals. A
terminal represents a device that can be place into a
room. It can be a show or panel.
Museums usually have information about pieces
catalogued. Pieces are exhibited in shows.
However, there is some information that is not
catalogued; this information is provided to visitors
through panels. Sometimes large shows are divided
WEBIST 2007 - International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies
into regions to organize pieces in groups to improve
information understanding. So, each region is
represented by a section that groups pieces that are
related in some way. As consequence, pieces can be
contextualized according to defined criteria,
providing a context for each group of pieces.
Pieces are physically represented by a physical
representation (PieceRepresentation) that relates the
physical place of the piece to piece information.
The only linking point between catalogue
information and environmental information is
PieceRepresentation and Piece.
So, we decouple piece physical representation
(PieceRepresentation) from piece technical
information (Piece). PieceRepresentation acts as a
Adapter to a concrete piece, providing additional
information related to environment. This
characteristic provides us the ability to adapt the
model to any kind of pieces.
The GraphicRepresentation is the graphical
representation of a space. Each space is represented
in two ways:
1. Internally
2. Externally
Internal representation is used show the space
On the other hand, external representation is a
representation of the space from container space
point of view.
GraphicRepresentation is a medium to decuple
space graphical representation.
An overview of conceptual model is depicted on
Figure 1.
Two years ago, the first design of the system was
deployed in the Cutlery Museum. By that time there
were some critical aspects that had to be solved to
adopt a solution that affected the whole project
(software and hardware architecture and so on). In
our case, these critical aspects were: (some of them
would change in the following stages):
Timing: the most critical was the deadline for
realising a functional version of the system. We only
had six months. Positioning system: the first
definition of the system was simple.
The system could take advantage of user position
to retrieve information and minimize user
interaction. However, we decided not to use any
automatic positioning system because of the strict
deadline. Instead of using an automatic system, we
decided to employ a set of Museum maps. All
objects in the Museum have a reference to localize
the object in the system.
BarCodeLogicID PassiveRFIDActiveRFID
Figure 1: Conceptual model of a museum.
Location of the information: we decided to store
all the information in servers. All client computers
(desktop, laptop and PDA) request information from
the server through a wireless network. This decision
simplifies the maintenance tasks.
Technology to be used: This is another critical
aspect of the development process. We decided to
use a multi-technological approach, as it is described
We divided the whole system in three
subsystems: the Web Subsystem, the Internal
Subsystem and the Mobile Subsystem.
The Museum Web Subsystem (MWS) consists of
a Web portal. This subsystem is described in
(Gallud, 2005).
The Museum Internal Subsystem (MIS) is used
to manage general information about pieces. Pieces
can be inserted, modified and removed from the
database with this subsystem.
One of the most interesting applications is the
Plan Manager. An administrator can load a map of a
floor of the building. Then he can place the
following items:
Walls cannot contain anything and limit
Sections, rooms and zones allow to
classified pieces in the museum be
accommodated in one collection or in
Panels are used to represent windows and
pieces and can be placed in the same
position like reality.
Pieces were added to database and then an
administrator can take the pieces from the same
database and put them into the correct show window
or panel with the Plan Manager.
Every visitor can use a portable device, like a
PDA, and if he has installed the mobile subsystem,
he can interact with the system.
Another important subsystem is the Museum
Mobile Subsystem (MMS). Thanks to the MMS, a
visitor can view in a PDA, or in another portable
device provided with wireless connections,
additional details about the physical pieces that he is
watching in a show window, just by clicking in the
All multimedia information (video, audio, text,
etc. in several languages) is taken from the database
server through the wireless network.
Besides, users can be warned if there is some
interesting thing in the room where they are placed,
or if there is an audiovisual exhibition or something
like that. Events and exhibitions are introduced from
the MIS described former.
When new functionality is going to be incorporated
in the system, problems like components reuse or
system scalability arise. If there are no components
reused or if the system can not be easily scaled, one
can conclude the initial system has not been well
designed. This is the situation we faced when we
decided to incorporate new functionality. And this
situation is easy to understand taking into account
the rigorous deadlines.
On the other hand, as the time the system was
released and deployed in the Cutlery Museum, we
began to receive users’ satisfaction evaluation and a
number of improvement suggestions.
The desired functionality for the system was
almost the same with the addition of the automatic
positioning of PDAs and the redefinition of the user
interface in order to provide a richer experience.
Additionally we had to integrate our solution with
the previous software running in a museum
(catalogue application).
Only our experience in mobile software for
museums was useful in the new system design but
we could not reuse any software component.
Anyway, experience is a degree.
In summary, we decided to redesign the system
in order to support PDA automatic positioning,
automatic database synchronization (from any
catalogue database to ours) and, the most important
issue is the user interface definition.
In this paper we are not going to describe the
research aspects devoted to improve the user
interface and the experience of visitors (with PDA)
in the Museum. We focus on functional
requirements affecting the architecture.
Two main requirements have been incorporated
in the definition of the system: the positioning
subsystem and the automatic database
synchronization subsystem. Other important
requirements were also taken into account in a lower
degree: modularity, technology independence and so
The new components of the system are showed
in Figure 2.
The positioning subsystem is responsible for
giving the PDA a specific location according to a
reference system.
WEBIST 2007 - International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies
Figure 2: Subsystem view.
The automatic database synchronization
subsystem is responsible for maintaining the
coherence between both the internal and external
Figure 3: Detailed components view.
As internal database we mean the database
eventually installed in the museum (usually the
catalogue and an eventual media repository).The
external database refers to our specific database for
supporting the positioning subsystem and the other
Figure 3 shows a more detailed view of the new
system’s components. In the detailed view showed
in Figure 3 we can see the main components of the
system and the specific nodes hosting each
Both systems share a common functionality
described as follows. A user with a PDA wants to
visit the museum and runs the specific software for
museums, in the entrance. In the first approach the
user had to locate his or her position in the virtual
map showed in the PDA. The new version of the
system introduces an improvement by which the
PDA is able to detect automatically the position of
the user in the museum.
The positioning system allows the system to
provide users with an unknown experience when
they are visiting an art museum.
From a technological point of view, we
considered the most relevant techniques to solve the
automatic positioning system, and up to date, we
have not closed the topic with a definitive
conclusion. We have considered using infrared,
RFID, WIFI and mixed approaches.
The variety of positioning systems forced us to
define the system separately from the hardware
employed. Figures 1 and 2 show how the client is
able to interact with the environment in order to
know its position in the real building. The client
program running on the PDA can receive
information from the environment in different ways:
infrared sensors, RFID tags, Bluetooth or WIFI
devices or whatever system available now or to
appear in the future.
Figure 2 shows other components running on
different nodes.
The person responsible to manage the art
exhibition uses the Space Manager program to
define spaces which will host art objects. The
concrete art object is managed by means a software
legacy. This software is supposed to reuse the
information the museum had before the introduction
of the mobile solution based on PDA.
To cope with information reuse the system
assumes the existence of software legacy that
introduces the need of a Synchronizer. The
Synchronizer maintains the coherence between
External database and Internal.
The Catalogue component is responsible for
accessing information belonging to internal
database. Relationship among art object information
that is not related to environment is solved by this
Space administrator relates museum catalogue
information to environment information. This
information is usually structured and organized by
The Contents Provider provides to the client with
the information to be showed. This information is
client independent because it is represented in XML
format and it can be easily read by most of devices.
So, information adaptation and communication is
managed by this component too.
In this paper we describe the components structure
of mobile software based on PDA applied to art
This research is based on the idea that a PDA or
pocket computer can be used in art museums to
improve the users’ experience.
The paper shows the conceptual model of a
museum that allows us to design generic software
for all kinds of museums. We have applied the
concepts to a particular museum, the Cutlery
Museum of Albacete (Spain).
The evolution of a real system has been
described from the initial requirements to the actual
ones. The most important requirement introduced in
this new version of the system is the introduction of
automatic positioning of PDA in the real building by
means of using the available technology (infrared,
RFID, etc).
The first version of the system was deployed in
the Cutlery Museum of Albacete two years ago and
has been visited by over 15.000 people.
The new system is being developed in the
LoUISE research group and will be deployed in
spring 2007.
We would like to thank the Spanish CICYT project
TIN2004-08000-C03-01 for funding this work,
which was also supported by the grant PCC-05-005-
1 from JCCM
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