12.05.2022 | 5 minutes reading time
A current Mediasphere For Nature research project not only examines the topic “accessibility”, but also provides an innovative example of how to re-use our in-house collection objects. The focus is on a small inhabitant of our native wildlife: the dor beetle.
The Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MfN) has a huge insect collection - about 15 million specimens in total. Like other parts of the collection, the museum’s insect collection will be systematically digitized over the next few years, in part open to the public, as in the
Innovation with digital insects
What innovative possibilities are at hand for using digitized objects such as those from our insect collection? This is the subject of a current Mediasphere For Nature research project, which is being carried out in cooperation with the interdisciplinary modelling team of
The project was inspired by the touch tour adventures for blind and visually impaired visitors of the MfN Education Department and their idea to supplement the collection of tactile objects with an upscaled tactile model of an insect. An insect representing a widely known native species was considered - in order to enable as many target groups as possible to relate directly to the animal and thus also to the tactile model. The search for a suitable insect led to a 3D scan of a dor beetle from our entomological collection that had already been created for the
Further development of the tactile model concept
After the experience already gained with the development of a
In contrast to the crocodile model, which was only equipped with a few static sensor points, almost the entire surface of the beetle model will be equipped with sensor technology. This allows for a more flexible design of the audio content, which can also be changed or expanded via a sustainable content management system even after the model has been completed.
Involvement of a test group and initial model planning
The project planning process involves an additional component: a small group of visually impaired participants test interim results of the project within the framework of selective workshops and contribute to the optimized final model through their feedback. The outcome of the project is not going to be a market-ready product but rather a tangible object as an outcome of a feasibility study that can be used both at trade fairs and during in-house touch tours. At trade fairs, the tangible model can provide new incentives for both institutions and trade fair construction companies to consider barrier-free models in their own planning.
Initial discussions on the integration of the test group and the development of the
After consultation with the museum’s Education Department, it was decided to aim for a total length of approximately 40 cm (figure 5). This roughly corresponds to the size of some of
Building a prototype
Already in the early phase of project planning, it became clear that a prototype would be necessary before the final tactile beetle model could be produced, in order to carry out tests with sensors and audio feed in time. The prototype (figure 6), still lacking delicate body parts, is not only equipped with sensors at certain points – instead they are already distributed over the entire surface.
A preliminary version of audio recordings thematically tailored to the body parts of the beetle was also prepared to test the tactile navigation over the model. werk5, Interactive Scape as well as
Workshop with test group
After an internal test phase, the prototype was ready for the first workshop with visually impaired test persons in mid-December 2021 (figure 8). The feedback collected on the control / operation as well as requests for additions and changes, for example with regard to audio information on the beetle, were extremely helpful and have since been incorporated into further development steps.
Audio texts and first project presentations
Since the beginning of 2022, the fine-tuning of the sensor technology has been intensified and various material tests carried out in order to make the final selection of materials for the beetle model. Another focus is on determining the final themes for the audio texts that users of the beetle model trigger by touching certain surface areas. Experts from the museum’s education department and entomology department will support the development and scientific testing of the audio texts.
The project, in the planning since mid-2021, is now entering the “hot phase” in which model construction is about to begin. At the
We will report on the project progress in another blog post – including pictures from the model builders' workshop.