Buxton Museum and Art Gallery features iBeacon ‘soundscape’ as part of new exhibition

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Today sees the launch of an exciting new exhibition at the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, Derbyshire, UK, lead by artist Debbie Adele Cooper. The Fragility of Memory exhibition features an interactive audio soundscape which visitors can listen to using an iBeacon app on their mobile devices.

Debbie has wanted to create a digital soundscape for an exhibition for some time, but has found it difficult to find suitable technology to achieve this successfully.  However, after trying the audio tour mobile app at Leicester castle, which was created using Locly and iBeacon technology, she was delighted to have finally found an effective solution.

Debbie is a member of FreeFall Arts the team behind Past Lives Project, and during the last two years they have toured the Midlands digitising photos and cine film, recording oral history and music. She gained a commission from D-Lab to bring digital technology to her practice, and for this exhibition she worked with Locly and University of Leicester to create an iBeacon aware proximity app.

The exhibition features four sculptures, each showing photographs from localities in the midlands which have been encased in wax and resin to represent a visual memory that speaks about the fragility of our recollections and how they fade and and change in the passing of time. Debbie wanted visitors to be able to walk around these sculptures and experience different sounds blending together as they passed from one to another, so she collected historical narratives (donated to or gathered by Past Lives Project) and original music (created or recorded by Chris Ellis & Dave Stuart working with local musicians) to create the soundscape.

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Small battery powered iBeacon devices were placed inside each sculpture by Locly who also created a customised mobile app that would be triggered by these individual beacons. What audio file was played, or picture shown, would depend on the app’s proximity to the beacons.

It was also important to Debbie that the separate audio tracks played seamlessly, without stopping and starting when the visitor passed between the iBeacon devices. So Locly ensured that the app audio files faded in an out as the device travels from one beacon to another, thus providing a continuous soundtrack.

The resulting experience is very effective – almost like you are ‘listening in’ or ‘eavesdropping’ on conversations as you pass by the sculptures. Also, because each iBeacon has a different loop length of music and spoken word, it creates an audio mix that is unique to each visitor, and to that moment. The app also includes sensitivity controls allowing visitors to adjust the transmission sensitivity to the iBeacon devices themselves, if they wish.  This is useful if a beacon signal is weakened e.g. if the gallery is particularly crowded or the device is enclosed in a particularly protective cover.

The custom app created by Locly is available on both Android and iOS and visitors can download the app at the museum or before they attend. If you would like to create a soundscape for your gallery or exhibition or museum, please contact the Locly team for more information.