Broadening Digital Horizons – Overview & Workshops

I was very fortunate to be selected by West Midlands Museum Development to work with and mentor museums across the West Midlands.  This began by museums attending one of three different workshops and then applying to be one of the 10 museums to get further mentoring from me.

The introductory workshops were broadly defined by 3 topics:

  • Maximising use of free online tools, virtual reality and touchscreens
  • Hardware e.g. ibeacons, NFC, Raspberry PI, audio tours
  • Digital & Analogue Games

Generally I build more high-end playful experiences for museums (sometimes leading and other times as the technical partner) so it was a great experience to work with a wider range of places – a bit closer to home.  I say closer but even living in the centre of Birmingham – some of the West Midland museums are still 2 hours away!

We wanted museums to feel more engaged with digital technology, to feel less fearful of it, to understand what can be achieved with smaller budgets, to feel empowered to create their own solutions and to feel motivated by the possibilities.

For the workshops – the basic premise was that I would take some of the more advanced experiences I had created and develop materials to allow museums with more limited technical abilities and budgets to create them on their own.  Many of the museums were very small and had little technical skills in-house and their only digital interactives had been purchased from one-off grants.  This meant that in the event that the interactive stopped working it would be carted off into a cupboard never to be seen again.

I was very much inspired but the rise of the DIY ‘Maker Movement’, low-cost hardware such as Raspberry PI / Android platform and the fantastic tutorials available on websites such as youtube and instructables.  If you are a larger museum with bigger budgets and resources you would still work with digital agencies to produce your unique digital ‘thing’.  The advantage of these lower cost methods mean the smaller museums can now have access to similar experiences.

During the workshops we:

  • Built our own touch tables
  • Created VR photosphere experiences that the player could navigate
  • Developed Cuddly Audio Tour Guides using NFC
  • Wrote our own interactive fiction and played on screens


Some of the tutorials that I created for the workshops are available here on the website.  Please feel free to use them for your own museums or re-purpose the material for your own workshops.

John Sear
Real-world Game Designer

My interests are creating games for real-spaces at the intersection of game design, theatre and technology.