The Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest used ThingLink to create an interactive schools museum tour, which quickly expanded into a collaborative virtual schools visit to the six major national collections in Budapest.
Like many museums, the Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest were suddenly cut off from visitors during a nationwide Coronavirus lockdown. The entire country usually celebrates Revolution Day - a public holiday - on March 15th. Crowds of schoolchildren visit the museum, learning about its eponymous hero-poet Sandor Petofi. A key figure in the 1848 revolution, Petofi's work is studied from kindergarten through to high school and museum exhibits link to the Hungarian national curriculum.
Anna Kadar and her Education Department colleagues Anna Czekmany, Judit Kodolanyi and Diana Sóki realised they had to think fast to give teachers the support they needed with so much of the education provision cancelled. Having researched various options, Anna found ThingLink via Facebook. “We fell in love with it. It was so user-friendly - easy to design and easy to edit” she says.
Her colleagues initially worried that professional design and technical support would be required. However, they were soon convinced. With a little help from their in-house graphic designer Gábor Bogdándy, who sourced a 360 image from Google Streetview, Anna very quickly and easily created her first ThingLink including bespoke icons and tours. “We did it in an afternoon!” she remembers, “and the branded icons we created ourselves looked so professional.”
In May the pilot “museum visit” was opened for schools to sign up. The following day their mailboxes were full with requests from teachers to take part in the online lessons and tours. In May and June over 2,000 schoolchildren took part in the pilot.
“It's so quick - there's no waiting to see how it will look. There's no need to brief external design agencies, with the potential for confusion and extra cost that involves.”
“ThingLink have been an amazing support and a great partner - we feel like we are all one team. And it’s clean and secure, with no security issues to worry about”, says Anna Kadar from the Petofi Literary Museum Education Department.
The successful pilot expanded fast into creative collaboration
Encouraged by the positive feedback and number of views, a collaboration was proposed to co-create teacher-friendly content with five of Budapest’s most important museums. The Hungarian National Museum, The Hungarian National Gallery,The Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, the National Széchényi Library and the National Archives of Hungary all voted in favour of developing the pilot into a joint schools tour. Incredibly, this was the first time these museums had collaborated in the education sphere.
In total, 40 colleagues from across six museums took part in the project administration, planning, communication and realization - including nine museum educators, who spent all their summer holiday building the Thinglink together: Erika Andrási (National Széchényi Library), Anna Czékmány, Judit Kodolányi, Diána Sóki (Petőfi Literary Museum), Laura Csonka, Henrietta Hecker (National Archives of Hungary), Szabina Gáva (Hungarian National Museum), Vera Kovács (Museum of Fine Arts), Zsófia Sepsey (Hungarian National Gallery).They were then split into teams. The overall theme was chosen as the formation of Hungarian national identity in the 19th century and the project was named Kapocs (link in Hungarian).
The project was split into seven sub-themes, which are linked from the landing page. These are: the nation state, travelling, ethnic groups, the development of museums and libraries, communications, March 15th, and the legacy of the 19th century reform movement.
Teams shared ideas and content via a Google drive, mainly choosing artefacts not previously exhibited before, which were presented with their school audiences in mind. New content was specially written for the project to explain the artefacts and their significance to the development of 19th century Hungarian nationhood.
The teams utilised many types of content, including audio, video, games and quizzes. Where one museum already had 360 images available, these were licensed for use in the project free of charge by the original design agency. There are also links to external websites with supplementary information and videos, as well as links to the individual museum collections for further study. Although primarily designed for school educators, Kapocs is free for anyone to access and use.
What’s next: Children as curators
The museum education department advocates “constructivist pedagogy". This is based on the idea that knowledge is something constructed rather than innate or passively absorbed, and that we construct our own knowledge through direct experience rather than simply accumulating facts. Alongside a new museum education room, designed to encourage creativity, schoolchildren will now also be able to create, curate and present their own exhibitions using ThingLink. In doing so, schoolchildren learn vital cultural and workplace skills for the future.
“It's shown us the possibilities of combining real space and virtual space. When classes are allowed back in, we’re going to ask them to create their own exhibitions and present them usingThingLink. They can take photos of their objects, 360 photos of their pop up galleries and curate their own virtual exhibition," says Anna Kadar. To learn more, or to invite Anna to speak about their project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.