Ten years after it was first introduced, the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre has been relaunched at the British Museum after an update to install new technology and create new digital experiences for visitors.
Alongside the updated room, the British Museum and Samsung have launched a new learning programme aimed at engaging teenagers, as well as allowing virtual visits to the museum for schools across the UK without them\ having to make the trip to London.
Called Virtual Visits, the Museum and Samsung hopes 35,000 pupils across the UK will be able to experience both the museum and its experts virtually over the next five years through broadcasting into classrooms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The programme takes into account the national curriculum when building its virtual visits, and has tried to take into account the varying levels of technology adoptions in schools.
Many believe collaboration is the way forward when it comes to teaching kids digital skills – for example partnerships between local authorities, schools and technology firms – and it is also widely believed technology should not only be involved when teaching computing, but as a part of other subjects too.
For teenagers, the British Museum and Samsung have worked alongside young people to develop access to the museum’s various collections in line with what this age groups wants – an age category which is apparently very difficult to keep track of.
As for the Discovery Centre, since it opened in 2009, 150,000 people have visited it, 25,000 of which were in the year before it was closed for refurbishment.
The Centre allows people to attend workshops, school visits and family drop-ins to learn more about the museum and use technology to explore its exhibits.
At a recent visit to the newly opened centre, which has been upgraded with a Samsung Flip, E-boards and Samsung Galaxy smartphones, tablets and smartwatches, I got to play around with the tech there, and take part in two of the experiences on offer – Emoji Match and Fun Family Photo.
Emoji Match uses a combination of a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and smartwatch – one person wears the watch and the other is designated photographer. Participants visit museum exhibits, choosing an emoji on the smartwatch which matches how they feel about certain things on display.
The photographer takes a picture of the emoji next to the exhibit, with the idea that using emojis not only sparks up a conversation between participants, but can also be a fun experience regardless of the native language of the visitor, as pictures can cross language barriers.
Family Fun Photo
When down in the Digital Discovery Centre, I had my photo taken in front of a green screen, which I was then able to manipulate on a Samsung tablet to make it look like I was interacting with one of the exhibits.
I was given a written guide to help me with the software, and there were staff members on hand if needed.
As well as the chance to fiddle with the tech, I was given a list of possible exhibits I could use in my picture, the details of which were available elsewhere in the centre through large interactive screens.
The Centre has activities on throughout the year, and is free to visit.
Hartwig Fischer, the British Museum’s director, explained the new virtual visits will help young people interact with exhibits and experts where they “ordinarily might not be able to”.
The hope is by using technology alongside the exhibits, as well as giving people digital access to the museum, will spark a “lifelong curiosity in the history of the world”.
He said: “The advances in digital technology have enhanced the learning opportunities within, and now outside, the Museum.”
The idea of working alongside Samsung to introduce digital technology into the museum is to make exhibits more accessible, as well as make people more comfortable with using technology through walkthroughs in the Centre.
The introduction of augmented reality (AR) and video conferencing technology to the Museum might not seem like much, but it means lots more children around the UK can learn about what is housed in the huge columned building in London, and we all remember the lessons as school that were a little bit out of the ordinary.
As put by Francis Chun, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics UK&I said, the collaboration between Samsung and the British Museum has allowed both parties to “constantly trial new technologies that engage children and young people in innovative ways to not only help them learn about lessons in history, but enable them to better understand the present and prepare for the future.”