I visited the British Music Experience at the O2 arena in Greenwich today and was really impressed. Not just by the fantastic amount of great music that has come out of Britain since the 50s, but also in the way they presented it at the exhibition.
Each room covered a particular period or style of music and each room used a combo of presentation/interaction styles. Most of the images were projected in some way or displayed on a screen.
(1) Juke boxes allowed you to choose different genres of music and gave you some background information about the music you’d chosen.
(2) Fretboard/keyboard style input allowed you to find out more information about memorabilia held in glass cabinets.
(3) Trackballs could be used to control news time lines – images related to particular news items were displayed on a wall and you could find out more details by skimming over them.
(4) Projected images that responded to touch and ran through more detailed documentaries.
My personal favourite was the large map of Britain, which was projected onto a stage area in the main room. Here you could use one of 3 separate track balls to move a circular cursor over the map. On a smaller projection a few feet wide, nearer your trackball, you’d be shown information about musicians associated with that location on the map.
As well as these clever ways of presenting the information, your entrance ticket was also an rfid enabled smart ticket. At many of the information points you could scan your ticket over a sensor and bookmark the information you were looking at/listening to. Then, when you take your ticket home, you can type the ticket number into the British Music Experience website and you’re shown the information you bookmarked in the exhibition. It’s a permanent record of the bits of the exhibition that you found the most interesting. I can’t help think that it would have been good if the website provided you with further details about the areas you were interested in based on your ticket number, rather than just showing you the information you saw at the exhibition – maybe pointing you to other websites related to this music genre/band. Following on from this, I wonder if libraries could do a similar thing, by recognising when a user logs in to the library catalogue that they had recently read a particular book on a particular subject and therefore work out via some clever algorithms that they might be interested in further information on a related web site.
Another minor criticism of the exhibition was the inability to search for specific musicians/bands. Browsing is great, but if you have a particular interest in a specific musician you might want to know if they are mentioned in the exhibition at all, and if they are, in which room.
It was well worth the visit and the way it was organised meant that you could personalise the exhibition according to your own musical interests, by either ignoring, skimming, exploring in detail and/or bookmarking the resources that were there. I’d definitely recommend you visit, if you are in any way interested in popular music produced in Britain in the past 60 years.