April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA

Delivering Gallery Interactives Using Web Technologies: Multimedia and Web Delivery at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in 2009

Eric Bates, Victoria and Albert Museum, United Kingdom


The year 2009 was the busiest to date for the delivery of high tech interpretation in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s permanent galleries, with over 76 high tech interpretation points installed during the year. These range from individual interactives to multiple accessible interactive audio points.

This workshop looks at examples of how the V&A has delivered high tech interpretation using Web technologies for both development and delivery. Examples include gallery interactives that share content with the museum’s Web presence, delivery of video in various formats, and using APIs to harvest data in the gallery interactives.

By using Web technologies, we are tapping into our own learned experiences of delivering for the Web whilst also making the most of a larger technical community. What we see in our galleries translates very well to the Web, and with some simple lessons learned and an Internet connection, there is no reason we can’t share our gallery experience with our on-line version, or vice  versa.

This workshop looks at the process of understanding what it takes to commission interactives in a way that allows for easy porting to a museum Web site. Planning for this from the start allows for flexibility from the developers.

We also look at making the most of the hardware we use and keeping things flexible.

Keywords: multimedia, Interactive, video, Web, in-gallery, on-site, interactives


As the multimedia manager for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, I’m responsible for the high tech interpretation in the museum’s permanent galleries; we only look at the permanent galleries in this workshop. The many temporary exhibitions and their high tech interpretation are not discussed here.

In easy-to-understand language, we will be looking at a selection of interactives produced for installation in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, during 2009. Our main aims have been to commission interactives that are produced using Web technologies, are updatable in house, and are cross platform. These interactives can be updated and delivered in multiple locations throughout the museum and on the museum’s Web site.

Accessible Interactive Audio Points

We aimed to produce an accessible interactive audio solution. We look at our requirements, the solution and the technologies we employed, and why. We also take a look under the bonnet to show how easy it is to update and make changes.

Hardware and software employed:  8.4” touchscreen panel PC, Flash, html, xml, delivered in an Internet browser.

Search the Collections (Gallery Installations)

We wanted to produce a means of creating gallery specific Search points. The brief was to allow visitors to look in depth at objects in a specific gallery, allow the solution to be cross platform and deliverable in a Web browser, and also easily portable to the museum Web site. The solution also needed to link into our collections management system using our collections API. By the time we run this workshop, we should have 7 different versions running in 23 locations in galleries around the museum.

We look at the solution and how it works, and discuss how successful it has been. We also look at the back end moderation and update process.

Hardware and software employed: PC with limited keyboard, Mac Mini with limited keyboard, with various Web technologies, delivered in an Internet browser.

A selection of Stand Alone Interactives

We take a look at a series of interactives deployed throughout the museum during 2009. The content of these remains editable outside the interactives in separate xml files, allowing for changes to be made at any time. We have been able to respond to new information about objects without the need to involve the original contractors.

Making Sure External Contractors Understand Our Requirements

If there is time left at the end, we will be looking at how we make sure that what we want from our contractors is what we get. Making sure they understand some of the decisions we make is basic to how we will be developing and maintaining the interactive once their job is done.

Cite as:

Bates, E., Delivering Gallery Interactives Using Web Technologies: Multimedia and Web Delivery at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in 2009. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2010: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2010. Consulted