Icelab

Two new interactives for the National Museum of Australia

By Michael Honey06 Jun 2011

It was a fun night out for the Icelab team at the launch* of the National Museum of Australia’s Landmarks gallery. The new permanent gallery contains over 1500 objects from all around the nation, including must-sees like Phar Lap’s heart, the first Holden car, and and a 15.2-ton excavator bucket from Mount Tom Price. Oh, and a couple of touchscreen interactives by us.

Port Macquarie interactive at the National Museum of Australia.

We’ve worked on several other interactives for the Museum, and we’ve also recently redesigned their website as parts of its ongoing redevelopment, but these two touchscreen interactives are particularly interesting for us as they’re the first that we’ve built using HTML5 and JavaScript rather than a more traditional Flash implementation. Browsers (we used Chrome, but Safari or Firefox are viable alternatives) are now at the point where a robust, rich interactive experience is possible using standards-based technologies, making our development pathway simpler, and, critically, making later deployment online – and to iOS devices – much easier. That’s not to say that there weren’t some curly problems to be solved, particularly to do with memory management for an interactive that has to run for eight hours straight…

The first interactive is about Flemington racecourse, home of the Melbourne Cup. We tried to capture the excitement of the day using a panographic approach: Max, NMA photographer George Serras, and NMA production assistant Beck Moloney spent the day of the 2010 Cup shooting 40GB of still images.

Flemington interactive

The second interactive is about amateur science at Port Macquarie, seen through the eyes of three residents of the area: Thomas Dick, whose photographs of the Birpai people tell us both about traditional life and the colonial gaze; Annabella Innes, whose botanical watercolours are on display next to the interactive and William John Macdonnell, whose telescope is one of the key objects in the exhibition.

Port Macquarie interactive

Of course, our works aren’t the only interactives on display. Shout-out to Lightwell and Roar whose touchscreen interactives are also looking good. And thanks to the great team at the Museum for their dedication to making them perfect.

So: head out to the National Museum of Australia and check out the new Landmarks exhibition. And if you can’t make it to Canberra, stay tuned for online versions of the interactives in the next couple of months.

*So four of us were standing in a row near the stage, watching the speeches. One of the curators was asked if a boy band was about to perform.

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