Design and field testing: Making the ‘Ars Incognita’ mediated exhibition and mobile app a reality

Vince Dziekan, Monash University, Australia, Simon Sherrin, Museum Victoria, Australia

Mobile applications have rapidly become a “naturalized” feature of the museum eco-system. While many aspects of museological practice in the “distributed” or “multimedial” museum have readily adapted to technological developments in information and communication technology, curatorial practice by and large has been far more circumspect. The 2015 installment of Museums and the Web Asia featured the first MWX exhibition curated outside of North America: ‘Ars Incognita’. Developed in collaboration between Vince Dziekan (Curator of MWX – the exhibition initiative of Museums and the Web) and Simon Sherrin (Lead Developer), this mediated exhibition experience re-purposed Museum Victoria’s award-winning ‘Field Guide to Australian Fauna’ app by extending its taxonomic structure, characteristic features and functionalities to serve as an exhibition platform for a set of specifically-commissioned artist-driven productions. Conducted as a social experiment between 5-8 October 2015, the curatorial design of the exhibition promoted an active mode of participation by calling upon delegates attending MWA2015 in Melbourne to engage in “fieldwork”: random acts of exploring, recording and collecting supported by social media integration throughout the conference. This presentation documents the design and field testing of this creative project while providing “situated” perspectives of curator and multimedia developer respectively. The demonstration will pay particular attention to how museum digital practitioners and content producers can extend their understanding of their craft, tools and techniques through critically reflecting upon their practice, while also accounting for the ways in which this project has continued to build upon the GENERA source code for iOS-based mobile applications (released by Museum Victoria under an open-source license in 2013).

Relevant previous publications:

Dziekan, V. (2012). Virtuality and the Art of Exhibition: Curatorial Design for the Multimedial Museum. Intellect: Bristol.

Sherrin, S. (2011). “Release your local species into the iOS ecosystem.” In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2011: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Available at:

Sherrin, S. and Wallis, E. (2012). “Creating a Mobile App Ecosystem – The Genera Project for iOS” In N. Proctor and R. Cherry (eds.). Museums and the Web 2012: Proceedings. San Diego: Archives & Museum Informatics. Available at: