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Christchurch City Council Media Release 24 October 2001

Gallery First With Interactive Guide

Guided by your on-screen map to your favourite artwork, you listen to the Curator explain why she chose this particular setting for the piece and how it relates to the works around it, before accessing a short film of the artist working in the studio and a brief history of their work.

For visitors to the pARTs exhibition at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, a new handheld TechnoGuide, the first of its kind in the country, will put this level of information at their fingertips, making art a more interactive, informative and mobile experience. The Gallery is launching a pilot trial of the guide this week, as part of the preparations for the new Christchurch Art Gallery, to be opened in April 2003.

The TechnoGuide - a handheld Compaq computer with special software developed by award winning Christchurch company Holliday Group - provides an audio guide to the works and an interactive map of the exhibition space, as well as video and still images of the artists and their work.

The Robert McDougall Art Gallery's Manager of Public Programmes, Ronnie Kelly, says this interactive handheld technology adds another dimension to the audio guides, which are at best rarely available in New Zealand.

"As we prepare for the City's new Gallery, we are looking to develop new ways people can approach art, interact with the Gallery environment, and customise their experience. Supplementing exhibition resources is of major importance to us," says Ronnie Kelly.

"The guide provides a range of features, which we hope will not only make art works more accessible but also make the overall experience more informative and entertaining."

Visitors can choose a 20-minute guided tour of the 14 works in the exhibition or, using the touch screen map, access information on each artwork in any order they choose.

The Gallery approached local mobile technology experts Holliday Group and discussed a trial pocket PC multimedia presentation as part of the Gallery's information technology programme.

"The challenge," explained Phil Holliday, Managing Director of Holliday Group, "is that multimedia presentations usually require a lot of computer memory to run. Video clips, audio and images all take up a lot of storage space, which is why few have been designed for handheld computers."

"The Gallery, however, wanted to trial a portable multimedia application for only 14 exhibits. A couple of years ago, this would not have been considered possible - or even affordable. But modern technology has allowed us to develop a tidy presentation for a pocket PC at minimal cost, in just one week."

"We were able to achieve this by using special software (an HTML controller and Visual C) to create a short multimedia presentation. The resulting TechnoGuide contains graphical map of the Gallery plus pictures, video, audio and links about each of the 14 pARTs works. While it is possible to fit larger presentations onto the pocket PC, some data compression would be required."

The exhibition's curator, Felicity Milburn, has supplied a commentary that gives the visitor a unique insight into the way pARTs was designed and developed. In addition to the audio component, local media personality Liz Grant has scripted and voiced the guide's instructions, concentrating on making the programme as easy as possible to follow and use.

"The TechnoGuide will give visitors the opportunity to customise their experience of a show, by interacting and accessing only material that is useful to them and without having to seek out additional information sources," says Ronnie Kelly.

Mr Kelly says the pilot has been developed to allow the public to provide feedback on the TechnoGuide and its content, so the guide can be refined for use in the new Gallery.

"This is another way we are seeking the views of Christchurch people and other visitors to our Gallery on how we can provide the best possible art experience," says Ronnie Kelly.

"The TechnoGuide is just one of the many ways the new Christchurch Art Gallery will be more interactive, educational and entertaining for everyone."

The Gallery will launch the TechnoGuide on Friday 26th October at a staff briefing. All media are welcome to attend.

Christchurch Art Gallery ~ Media Releases index

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