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Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage EcoSystems

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ARCHES (Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage EcoSystems)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-12-31

ARCHES ‘Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage EcoSystems’ aimed to create more inclusive cultural environments, particularly for people with differences and difficulties associated with perception, memory, cognition and communication. It achieved this by adopting a participatory research methodology and the development of innovative applications, functionalities and experiences based on the redevelopment and reuse of digital resources.
Our interdisciplinary consortium – involving academia, SMEs, research centers and six museums –focused on ensuring widespread communication and exploitation, stimulating cross-border collaboration, generating an innovative ecosystem to address a challenge common across Europe.
All of our project outcomes have been generated in a participatory research environment and in close collaboration between project partners/participants. Four participator research groups met on over 70 occasions, carried out exploratory and evaluatory activities, tested technology, produced art and multimedia content and helped to make the participating museums more accessible in every aspect. Close cooperation between technology companies lead to the development of intra-project accessibility standards and a common design for a access preferences settings menu.

Serious games, apps and web plattform
We developed a game around the artworks of the participating museums. Each museum received a personalized version with elements of the respective artworks. The games are fully accessible even for BVI people and can be played in a web browser or as mobile versions on hand-held devices.
These games were also integrated in newly built museum apps, which provide information on the respective museums, suggested walking routes through the exhibitions and detailed information on selected artworks - all of this in different languages, easy-read and standard text version, as audio versions and/or sign language videos.
The game as well as the museum app support a variety of access preference settings. The museum app is also available as an equally accessible web platform. It has received awards and nominations at several conferences.

Tactile reliefs and multimedia guide
We further developed the tools for semi-automatic tactile relief generation and researched the new technology of a relief printer. The respective project partner applied for a patent for this promising technology. Tactile reliefs as a service is now promoted to museums at exhibitions and trade fairs.
The proposed improvements to the so-called Interactive Audio Guide lead to the development of a kiosk-like installation which is now a fully-accessible multimedia guide for works of art, connecting digitalized museum resources, our tactile reliefs and further information and background stories about the respective work of art.

Sign Language Avatar
After conducting online surveys and in-depth evaluation, we were able to establish acceptance of our re-modelled digital sign language avatar within the participatory research groups. We improved significant aspects like mouthing, mouth gestures and overall facial expressions. The database of signs in different sign languages has been expanded and will be expanded further. We see potential to use automated sign language translation with a digital avatar for simple applications like weather forecasts in the future.

Towards a Participatory Museum – A How To Guide on Inclusive Activities
As a result of our ongoing work within participatory research groups in the museum context we were able to produce a book on our experiences that might help other institutions to create a more inclusive environment and start inclusive activities. This how to guide was published in three languages (English, Spanish and German), digitally and in print.
Furthermore we produced a ‘Ways of Working’ document, a guideline designed to aid other institutions and/or projects to set up participatory research groups.
All of our useful documents can be downloaded for free from the ARCHES project website.

Academic output, outreach sessions and future impact
ARCHES published 13 academic publications, conducted workshops and held presentations on around 40 occasions in 11 countries and has had an undeniable and sustainable impact on the participating institutions, companies and people.
As mentioned above, ARCHES has had an undeniable and sustainable impact on the participating institutions, companies and people. Working together in the participatory research groups and in cross-disciplinary settings established a common perception of the questions arising around accessibility not only within employees of the tech-companies. It also deepened the understanding of problems that might arise in the participatory research context within academics and museum staff. It also had an overall impact on the perception of people with different access preferences within other individuals in the participatory research groups. Each of the participating museums got more accessible in the course of the project. Participants profited from the experience in unexpected ways, such as in finding new job opportunities or expanding their portfolio.
A patent application and several awards and nominations for technology developed within this project proof that we progressed beyond the state of the art and that the academic community as well as the public have recognized this.