Displaying the digital: engaging visitors with digital collections with the British Museum’s African Rock Art Image Project

Lightning Talk
Elizabeth Galvin, The British Museum, UK

In 2013, the British Museum launched the African Rock Art Image Project, research project to record and disseminate digital images of rock art from throughout the continent. Over 19 different African countries have been documented, with tens of thousands of digital images accessioned into the British Museum’s collection as objects. As an entirely born-digital museum collection, this presents significant opportunities and challenges for curators in reassessing how they frame and present these objects to the public. Whilst it has led to interesting ways in which the project can engage with the worldwide public online, the collection presents the opposite challenge that many curators face: how does one take a collection that has a successful online following and significant web engagement and translate that into engagement with visitors in the brick and mortar museum? Drawing on a few case studies from the project, such as an interactive mobile VR tour of a rock art site in South Africa made from existing photos to the 3D printing of rock art digital models for handling sessions with visitors with visual impairments, this talk will discuss ways in which this project has been able to bring digital objects and online content into physical gallery spaces. Additionally, it will present results from visitor feedback of these digital outreach programmes showing ways in which it has been successful and areas that need modification.