The core components of our project are an archive, a game and a map. At our first development meeting, we discussed all three components, brainstorming different possibilities of user engagement and planning our work over the next three months. By we, I mean: the developer Andy Chapman from 1010media; RAMM’s curator for antiquities Tom Cadbury; RAMM’s digital media officer Rick Lawrence; the documentation assistant Helen Burbage; our volunteer helper Kate Squires, and myself.
Following on from my research on trajectories through user experiences, I always felt that the three components should remain distinct, although Moor Stories would be constituted by all of them. This is in order to facilitate different types of journeys through RAMM’s collections on Dartmoor (inside the Museum, on Dartmoor, and online).
The archive should act as a digital library. Users could browse it; gain knowledge over the RAMM collection; find parallels between artefacts; and explore the development of art in Dartmoor chronologically by looking at Bronze Age Dartmoor, Victorian Dartmoor, etc. Andy (with Helen and Tom below) pointed out how it was important that free exploration should be facilitated in this context, just like in a real library and that the design of the website should be uncluttered, though perhaps entailing a Victorian theme of some kind.
The game, on the other hand, would be structured around the theme of the church detective. Helen noted that it should be playful and we all feel that it should use the theme of the detective to encourage users to explore churches on Dartmoor and help us to locate the objects that Hems worked on in Dartmoor. From a learning point of view, the game would encourage users to look at churches, find objects, search for parallels between them, and develop knowledge. In fact in a sense, our game users would act as Moor Stories researchers.
Finally, the map, aims to attract the curiosity of the Dartmoor explorer (walkers, tourists, families) prompting them to juxtapose a physical exploration of Dartmoor with the viewing of the artefacts in RAMM’s collection that are connected to specific sites on the Moor. The map may not be the terrain, but in our case the design of the map is rendered more complex by the overlap of a number of factors. Tom noted that most artefacts in the RAMM collection stem from East and Southern Dartmoor, but we don’t always know exactly where they are from. A number of areas in Dartmoor have no connectivity, so we will need to start by looking at overlaps between areas which have connectivity and locations which are related to objects in the RAMM collection. Rick also noted that we can’t go into the areas covered by the military and, to be more inclusive, we shouldn’t adventure too far from car parks, although to attract walkers we may have the odd long trail.
At one level we hope this project will take the Museum out of itself, and another we hope that users who will have experienced objects on Dartmoor may wish to go back to RAMM to look at the physical artefacts themselves. To this extent we are considering a view on demand option in case a certain number of users wish to view a particular object in the museum as a direct consequence of participating in Moor Stories. This of course would only be possible if the object could be safely displayed (i.e. if there was no risk of deterioration), so we are not sure about the feasibility of this idea. However, as is the case of other digital projects, such as Art Maps at Tate, we feel that it is critical that more relationships are built between the objects in these ‘national’ collections and the people themselves, ‘the nation’ to whom these objects belong.