Reflections of an intern: creating the Virtue & Vice app

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There are days to go until the opening of the exhibition “Virtue & Vice” at Hardwick Hall. This will coincide with the availability of an accompanying app for Apple and Android smartphones. This aspect of the project has been a real departure from the norm and, having had the opportunity to play with the beta-version over the weekend, I can honestly say it is thrilling to see all our work coming together. Being available on the iTunes store is, of course, a nice little bonus too!

From its meagre beginnings as a Powerpoint diagram (I discovered I can create a reasonably convincing iPhone using the ‘Draw’ toolbar) the app has become an accessible, rich and, dare I say it, rather stylish resource. With the invaluable help of Nottingham-based developers Rusty Monkey, a wealth of images, informative text and ideas have been pulled together into something that not only supports the exhibition itself, but may also stand alone. I like to think that it will be something to show friends, family, total strangers etc., inspire them to visit Hardwick and encourage them to think about the early modern period in new ways.

 The Virtue & Vice app is divided into four main sections. First, a “Take the Tour” section provides floor plans with useful guides to where exhibits are located within the Hall and why they are significant. Second, a “V&V Themes” section expands upon the content of the exhibition panels, further placing Hardwick Hall within the context of cultural change in early modern England. Third, the app will include the route for a walk around the Hardwick estate, highlighting particular points of interest such as the gardens and the church at Ault Hucknall. Lastly, a final section provides more information on the Conversion Narratives project as a whole, linking to an exhibition website as well as this blog and the project’s main webpage.

The layout and aesthetic of the Virtue & Vice app have been greatly influenced by a number of excellent apps accompanying exhibitions, museums and projects from around the world. Here are the three key apps that influenced us:

 iPhone Screenshot 1

Gesichter der Renaissance

This app provided me with the initial inspiration for the app’s design. “Gesichter” accompanies a sell-out exhibition of Renaissance portraiture held at the Bode Museum in Berlin in 2011. Its thematic organisation, high-quality images and linking of exhibits to wider discussion were particularly influential.

 iPhone Screenshot 1

Treasures of the Bodleian

This app accompanies the 2011 exhibition of the same name at the Bodleian Library, showcasing the Library’s rarest and most significant items and looking towards the opening of the Weston Library in 2014/2015. We liked its clean, smart design, wealth of information and high-resolution images.

iPhone Screenshot 1

Musée du Louvre

The accompanying app to one of the world’s largest museums and a Paris landmark. Here, too, high-quality images and accessibility are essential features, but we particularly liked their inclusion of informative captions to go with each image in a gallery.

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