QR or ‘Quick Response’ Codes have been about since 1994 when Denso-Wave Corporation invented them Japan. That being said the greater use of smart phones with cameras has meant there has been a greater use of these nifty little codes in recent times. In fact I only heard about them in March when a Information Officer friend at Newcastle Libraries told me all about them.
This growth has been especially true in the Museum/Heritage Sector. There are various example of QR code usage in the Heritage Sector including:
- Gene Sherman Contemporary Japanese Fashion Display, each interpretation panel was augmented by a QR Code.
- National Museum of Scotland: Tales of Things – Using QR codes to provide information about object including rare film and images and allowing users to leave memories and comments. Tales of things uses an App format.
- QRATOR– UCL takes the work around the Tales of Things project further by using QR codes to allow visitors to view curated information and leave their own interpretation. QRATOR links to a database.
- QR-Pedia: Site used to create QR codes to wikipedia sites, allowing access to wikipedia articles in a mobile-friendly format.
I think the best way to think about QR codes is they are simply a mobile readbale web address, they can create a link between the real world and our increasingly digital world. So why have they become so popular recently, especially when linked to Museum Collections? Well not only because of the aforementioned upsurge in smart phone usage, mobile cameras and increased mobile internet speeds and access.
Using QR codes are cheap, in fact most readers and generating codes are free. Creating the codes can be done in house. Secondly, you could link it to exisiting websites; for example those online collections databases that many Museums have already spent lots of money on. This is particularly true if the site is already mobile friendly.
Of course, all this blurring of the real and digital world also has it’s problems. Not everyone has a smart phone, how many people are aware of QR codes (although they are out there when you look!) and how do we overcome the age all problem of reliable internet access at sites not designed with this in mind (like so many NT sites)?