What Does the Derbyshire Landscape Mean to You?

Regular visitors to the museum or its digital incarnations may remember the launch of White Peak Dark Peak on Friday 13 December, blogged about by Ben shortly afterwards. He was kind enough to photograph me sampling the buffet!

The exhibition examines some of the places we’ll be exploring through Collections in the Landscape, using objects, paintings and photographs to contrast the ‘soft curves of the White Peak’ with the ‘gritty angles of the Dark Peak’.

Visitors to the exhibition are also asked a question – What does the Derbyshire landscape mean to you? We’re encouraging people to let us know through social media (#WPDP) but also in the gallery itself.

The whiteboard in White Peak Dark Peak has allowed visitors to express themselves.

The whiteboard in White Peak Dark Peak has allowed visitors to express themselves.

For this week’s post I’ve taken it upon myself to analyse some of the comments – exploring the moving, interesting, and often imaginative responses left behind by visitors. Already there are some strong themes emergingGet ready for the top 5 so far!

5. Flora & Fauna

No surprise in this strong entry. The living landscape of Derbyshire has clearly made an impression on those who visit it. Mammals, birds, insects and flowers all get a mention! A casual walk around Miller’s Dale in late Spring/Early Summer rewards the visitor with hundreds of pink Common Spotted Orchids.

 

Space, air, butterflys, orchids, hares...a fox...

Space, air, butterflys, orchids, hares…a fox…

4. History

I can safely say that the museum team are very relieved to see this feature in the top 5! The messages left convey the sense of special places, where time has stood still or that, despite changes, the past is all around us. Take a stroll up to Arbor Low to feel this deep connection to the landscape’s ancient past.

Where the past still lives

Where the past still lives

3. Weather

How very British, our visitors simply couldn’t help but comment on the weather. The rain and wind seem to feature quite a lot…I can’t imagine why. If you do catch yourself in the area in poor weather I can only recommend you visit us at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery as a perfect way to spend a wet afternoon.

wet

wet

2. The Physical Landscape

In at number 2 – the geology and geography of the region. From rolling hills and deep dales to dark moors and peat bogs, visitors have enjoyed describing the physical features of Derbyshire. The top of Mam Tor, near Castleton, is a great place to contrast the landscapes of the White Peak to the south and the Dark Peak to the north.

Long rambles through dales and over moors

Long rambles through dales and over moors

1. A Beautiful Place

Topping our list – it’s the sheer beauty of this unique landscape. Many, many different terms were used to describe the spectacular scenery of the region. I’ve often pulled over on my drive home along the A53, from Buxton to Leek, to admire the view across the hills and dales.

Unspoilt Untamed Incredible

Unspoilt Untamed Incredible

We’re continuing to photograph the board as it fills up to keep a record of the comments. We’re also starting to share some of these quotes with the world through our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

We've started to share our responses through social media.

We’ve started to share our responses through social media.

Please share your own thoughts about the Derbyshire landscape with us and we’ll endeavour to print some out and include them in the exhibition. Use #WPDP on Twitter posts. I’ll leave you with one of the most artistic contributions so far, but perhaps a little unfair on some of our neighbours though…

Some visitors have been quite creative

Some visitors have been quite creative…(not the opinion of the museum I hasten to add!)

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Discover Geology: An Augmented Reality Field Trip

The view from the top of Mam Tor, a very pleasant hike!

The view from the top of Mam Tor, a very pleasant hike!

I recently had the good fortune to join the University of Manchester on a field trip to Castleton and Mam Tor. The purpose of our visit was to test out ‘Discovery Geology’ – a recently developed augmented reality field trip. The experience was co-developed by a cross departmental team that included Mimas, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Faculty and Manchester Museum.

Augmented reality is something we’re curious to explore as part of Collections in the Landscape. As soon as this trip came onto my radar, I knew it would be a valuable exercise to see what other people were already doing digitally, out there in the Peak District.
But before we pull on our walking boots, what was ‘Discovery Geology’? And how did it work?

In the developers’ own words:

The app allows the user to enhance their walking experience, learning more about the geological history of the Hope Valley with expert academic commentary and insight. Other functionality includes:

  • Feature finder identifying fossils, oil deposits and minerals such as Blue John.
  • Location based Points of Interest (POI) along the way navigating your journey.
  • A compass allowing the user to find their bearings, to compliment the audio commentary.
  • Geological ‘Beneath your Feet’ diagrams illustrating the geological make up at points along the route.
  •  Dynamic navigation informing the user of the closest POI.
  • Route finder – audio directions to the next POI…. and many more.

The trail is hosted on the Junaio app, an AR browser which allows users to create, explore and share information by layering this digitally onto the real world. This is viewed through a device’s camera, hovering over a real-time view. Alternatively a map view can be used.

This video by the developer shows some of the capabilities of the browser:

So did it work…?

Starting in the car park by Castleton Visitors Centre many users experienced difficulties accessing the app, mainly due to poor signal in that area. Fortunately this was the worst signal spot on the whole route and so once the group moved off things improved.
Being unfamiliar with Junaio many people had difficulties finding their way around the app at first (myself included!). However, once I’d got to grips with the layout, capabilities and design I found the tour pretty easy to interact with. That said, some users did give up due to the tempting paper versions of the tour handed out to everybody before the walk started. This just goes to show how inclined people are to take the easiest option!

In general, audio, images and texts loaded fairly quickly. Once or twice I had to wait for audio to buffer half-way through but this was not common. So long as GPS is functioning it was simple and straight forward to interact with points of interest through camera view or via map view.

Each point of interest typically contained the following content:

  • One or more audio commentaries describing geographic features in the landscape. For example at POI 9 – Top of the Ridge, there is a ‘Look North’ and ‘Look South’ option, each linking to an audio guide explaining the view and underlying geology.
  •  ‘Beneath your Feet’ opens up a page with a geological map with the walking route laid over the top. The POI is marked on and users can see what type of rocks they are currently standing on.
  • ‘Route’ links to a short audio instruction to give the users directions to the next POI. Live View or Map View are not detailed enough to show pathways etc.
  • Some POIs had more specialised content, for example POIs 10 – On the ridge, and 14 – Windy Knoll, had links to images of nearby rocks and prompted the user to locate fossils or other interesting features. The ‘Feature Finder’ at Windy Knoll is a particularly good example.
Geological features at Windy Knoll

Oil seepage was just one of the geological features that the app highlighted at Windy Knoll.

The main problem encountered was battery life. The phone was fully charged that morning but constant use of GPS and frequent use of my phone’s camera on Live View drained the battery very quickly. I had a flat battery by around 3pm. This can be saved by maximizing use of Map View and using Live View as little as possible but that sort of negates the point using of AR in the first place.

Bright sunlight was also problem in places, making the screen difficult to read. Another slight hazard was the temptation to walk whilst looking at/through the phone screen. This caused more than one near trip or stumble.

Summary

Overall the app and content functioned well in the landscape and, save for a couple of black spots, signal was good and content was fairly quick to load. Problems such as signal or battery life will probably resolve themselves as technology progresses and as phones/tablets get more and more sophisticated. It may be advisable to limit trail lengths until battery lives significantly improve.

The app did look better and seemed easier to use on tablet devices. That said, it was not difficult to use on a smart phone. This is more of an aesthetic comment although clearly the quality and size of photographs on a tablet make visual information more accessible.

The app turned a pleasant hike into a more enriching experience with only a couple of technological hiccups. Although this tour didn’t utilize museum collections it certainly wouldn’t be difficult to insert this type of content into it. I’m definately keen to explore the possibilites of AR as part of the project…

Don’t just trust my review!

Mimas have already blogged about the field trip

MancOnline also tested out the trail