The Tributaries application is an Augmented Reality mobile/tablet application created in collaboration between Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives and sound artist and musician, Halsey Burgund. It aimed, through using historic documents from personal diaries to shipping reports to tell the stories of the people of Newcastle in the First World War both from a home front and front-line perspectives.
Earlier in the year I was lucky enough on my masters course to travel to Newcastle and test this application for myself. It promised to be personal, thought provoking and really grounded in the community. This is what I found when using the application.
I really loved that all the entries had been read by the local community and not voice actors. It was more personal this way and there was far more raw emotion in the piece because of this. As well, this was a fantastic way for the local museums to interact and engage with the local community, it got them involved.
The only drawback perhaps to allowing the local community voice some of the entries was the use of children in the piece. It is fantastic, for a start, that local schools were included in this piece. But I was not the only one who felt uncomfortable when a small childs voice was talking about how all their friends had died in the trenches. It was eerie and reminded me more of a horror film than a heritage application. It perhaps would have been more appropriate for them to narrate a piece on the homefront? Talk about rationing or the lack of toys? Maybe I should feel uncomfortable? Maybe I listened more to these entries because they were not the norm?
The application was geolocated (sounds are triggered when your phone is in a certain GPS location) which proved to be problematic. There were so many entries that, if you kept walking whilst you had already triggered a track, then you could end up listening to several entries at once. This took away from some of the emotional impact of the application and instead made it more of an overwhelming experience.
The application also allowed for local residents and visitors to record their own entries. You were encouraged to react to the tracks that you listened to or to react to the location you were in. All entries to this are geolocated and then moderated by the museum to make sure that people aren’t posting abuse. This again is a fantastic initiative. It shows how the local communities views are valued and encouraged. I think a lot of museums are moving toward this but I think this is probably the most creative approach I’ve seen so far.
The application as ever is available to download through the App Store and the Google Play Store. Although the application is geolocated, you can listen to a twenty minute piece wherever you are when you download the application! Let me know what you think! Have any of you tried the application? What was your experience?
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