Title:Exploring Heritage in Participatory Culture: The MuseumApp
Authors:Dick van Dijk
Publication:MW2011: Museums and the Web 2011

People have always wanted to tell stories about their experiences and to connect to shared meaning and values. The advent of social media enforces this even more. At the same time our mobile phones are steadily turning into digital Swiss Army Knives full of informative, creative and social potential. To make sure the development of new tools and systems is "culture smart" and to explore how "mobile ready" cultural audiences are the Amsterdam Historical Museum (AHM), media lab Waag Society and cultural funder DOEN develop in close collaboration the Amsterdam Museum App.

Strengthening a visitor's sense of place and context (the outside world, the city) to the museum experience - and therefore, connecting a living society with our formal heritage - means exploring the social dimensions of formal and informal heritage sites and creating new ways of engaging with an audience.

The Amsterdam Museum App is a first step in creating a GPS based, location aware heritage platform, in which museums can create their own multimedia city tours and location based games, that does just this: connecting history and current events to locations in the city in an interactive and fun way, allowing the users to be the curator of their own experience. Publishing their own images, comments or suggestions related to the tour to other audiences on other (social) platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. The core technology is a proven technical backbone ( publishing location based content to iPhone and Android devices, which is developed further in close collaboration with the project partners.

The development of the Museum App in so called 'Locative Labs' - a short, repetitive, interdisciplinary and intense collaboration, think 2 days per week, for 6 weeks - is a unique meeting of curators, media professionals, concept developers and technical colleagues in the AHM and Waag Society. The joint development is based on experiment: rapid prototyping and testing of city tours; and on the spot content development. The Lab setting is one of the methods used by Waag Society to do creative research: explore interaction principles and demo innovative solutions in a real setting, with real stakeholders and real users.

AHM will be the launching customer of the Museum App, after which the platform will be open to all cultural organizations. The Amsterdam Museum App will feature four interactive routes exploring the fundamental aspects of the city of Amsterdam, the creative, the entrepreneurial, the tolerant and the civic agency; connecting the outside experience closely to the narrative of the new permanent indoor exhibition Amsterdam in Close up (opening, may 2011).

In the Labs the partners explore novel social media practices as a new way to engage audiences with heritage. Connecting it to personal accounts and social network communities might help in getting (more / new / different) audiences meaningfully involved.