Stories: Behind the Artifacts with the NYPL

Web app brings the rich stories behind the exhibition's artifacts to visitors on-demand and curated to their location in the exhibition

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My Role:UX Design & Research, Personas, Storyboarding
Tools Used:Sketch
Overview:The NYPL holds multiple exhibitions each year with artifacts selected from their vast archives. The items are generally displayed in glass cases or hung on walls with a description card nearby.
Challenge:There is an opportunity to create a richer exhibition that resonates with visitors - an exhibition that feels timely, relevant and relatable.
Collaborators: Anupma Rajani, Datrianna Meeks, Nic Barajas
Duration: 13 weeks for Design and the Service Experience class

Current exhibitions display artifacts in glass cases or hung on walls with a description card nearby. We can make the experience more engaging for visitors by making the stories behind the artifacts easily accessible through a location-aware web app that serves up artifact content based on their location in the exhibition. By providing context around an artifact in an interactive manner, visitors will not only gain a better understanding of what they are seeing, they will also be able to relate it to their own experiences .

Enhancing the in-person exhibition experience is particularly important for adults 18-35 who seek new information experiences and do not use the library regularly. Exhibitions are a great way for the New York Public Library (NYPL) to connect with them.

RESEARCH

We observed visitors of an NYPL exhibition held at the NYPL’s flagship location, the Stephen A. Schwarzman building. We wanted to understand how visitors engaged with the current exhibition and identify opportunities where we could intervene.
We interviewed NYPL exhibition staff to understand the exhibition development process and goals.
Lastly, we conducted interviews with our target users to understand how they learn about exhibitions, what motivates them to visit, and what experiences resonate with them.

THE INSIGHTS

1

Exhibitions need a narrative that resonates with visitors.

2

Visitors need to be guided through the experience.


3

Most users find out about exhibitions through third parties.

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EXPERIENCE PROTOTYPING

Before going any further, we tested our concept with two users in our target demographic. We envisioned the app working through beacon and bluetooth technology. For the test, we simulated the experience with text messages. When the user was close to an artifact, we sent them information about the artifact to their phone. The main features we tested were the categories of information to offer, the artifact descriptions themselves and the geolocation feature.

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We iterated on the concept based on the insights that came out of the two prototype sessions.

THE INSIGHTS

1

Give users more control over the experience.

2

Users want information not available in the exhibition.


3

Save function is a missed opportunity.

We incorporated the insights into the concept. Instead of surfacing content for the closest artifact to them, we let them choose which artifact they want to learn more about by providing a list of the artifacts nearby. We ensured the additional content complemented the information in the exhibition and added the save function.

APP MAP

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SYSTEM OVERVIEW

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THE APP

Stories is a web-based app that accompanies visitors as they walk through the exhibition, giving them the backstory on the artifacts they are seeing, connecting them with other exhibit visitors and sharing additional library resources that are available if they want to do a deeper dive into the history of a particular artifact.

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