The Augmented Telegrapher: Creating and capturing the value of an Integrated approach to immersive experiences in a small museum context.

Lead Research Organisation: Falmouth University
Department Name: Games Academy

Abstract

Based on the work carried out for the 'Augmented Telegrapher: Mixed Reality in a Museum Context' project, we propose to extend our collaboration with both Porthcurno Telegraph Museum [PTM] and Cornwall Museum Partnership [CMP] to help tackle some of the Museum's key economic and interpretational areas of challenge. It became apparent through our previous collaboration that our experimental and investigative work could be leveraged, if commercially optimised, to help the museum to bring in footfall during the low season months as well as provide an additional highly marketable attraction for the public in the high season months. Part of this work is therefore also to provide means using the latest Augmented and Mixed Reality technology to help audiences, and particularly the under-engaged 16-30 age group, to engage enjoyably and meaningfully with the importance of the location and the collections within the museum. Our aim then is to attract, surprise and delight audiences with the availability of creative and innovative uses of immersive technology that will bring to life a unique location steeped in telecommunications heritage. To aid in the process of attracting visitors and in the development of a new income stream we will use a range of existing assets and designs to create a commercial, group-based 'Escape Room' type offering that can be booked across the winter months to bring in a new income stream. In close collaboration with our partners, existing digital assets will be optimised and polished, and made ready to be used to develop an online platform designed to better attract the interest of the under-engaged market. These assets will also be used to integrate Mixed Reality methods with the permanent collection with the aim of connecting past experiences of the impact of communications on daily lives with those experienced in our internet age. These additions provide therefore the basis for new income streams and business model for the Museum, helping to tackle some of its economic, thematic and cultural challenges.

Planned Impact

This follow-on project proposal will provide Porthcurno Telegraph Museum (PTM) with the basis for a new business model that will generate new income streams and reach under-engaged audiences. If the project is selected for funding, these are the two major areas where impact will occur. Should this project not be funded there would be a negative impact on: the museum and by extension other small rural museums who could make use of the format; the surrounding area that benefits from visitor footfall; and, in a wider sense, on the Cornish economy. However, should the project be funded then we will be able to polish & optimise the assets and designs that were prototyped within the previous project in pursuit of our aim to generate commercial grade mixed reality-based content that will excite more footfall and engagement at the museum. More specifically, the work will help to widen the appeal of the museum, enabling it to attract and communicate more effectively with under-engaged demographics - specifically the 16-30s. The AR format of the content will provide the new income stream and will also specifically target that age group and is designed to create impact with this demographic.

The 3 elements of the project combine to help the museum to deploy its new business strategy. Each element is designed to help create impact in our two target areas (footfall and engagement). Some of the content (Element 2) that we will develop will be used to provide prospective audiences with the means to engage with the museum's collection prior to their visit. Placing some of the content online has an economic and an interpretational function; helping to create impact in relation to the financial and cultural missions of both CMP and PTM. From a financial perspective, the online provision will entice audiences with glimpses of new innovative additions to the collection and, crucially, inform prospective audiences of the exciting 'escape room' group experience which they will be able to book in advance online. The online platform will also be useful as a means of marketing the availability and appeal of the 'escape room' activities, thereby helping to maximise bookings in support of a new income stream.

Direct and immediate impact will be generated by the group-based 'Escape Room' experience (Element 1) that visitors will be asked to book in advance and pay for. These will be available as 60-minute slots for 4-6 players, and they will be available from September 2019. This will generate both an extra valuable income stream and also engage those who may otherwise overlook the historical, cultural and technological interest of the location and the collection, with impact demonstrated in both areas. Slightly longer term and designed to enhance the attraction of the Museum to holiday-makers, is the digital overlay work (Element 3) that will be integrated into the main collection. Available from August 2019, this will help PTM and its surrounding businesses to compete with other attractions in the area including the beach.

From a cultural impact perspective, the Augmented experiences that we will develop will mobilise new technologies to help audiences to understand the historical and cultural significance of the old technology that is housed in the museum. Further, we aim to have cultural impact by framing contemporary debates about our current use social media through engagement with the telegraphy as the social media of the past. This project will provide PTM with additional income streams by mobilising the immersive content that we prototyped to the more focused task of generating increased audience capture and engagement. This is underpinned by the efforts to deploy immersive content to connect the history of telecommunications with contemporary experience & expectations. We aim to increase footfall by 30% and generate c10k in the first season of the AR-based Escape Room offering.

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