Engaging with Communications

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miGuide logo

mi-Guide is a multi-media hand-held visitor guide developed for use within the Connecting Manchester communications gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. It offers a suite of services which are all aimed at promoting, raising the awareness and supporting education in the field of telecommunications. Funded through two EPSRC Partnerships for Public Engagement grants (EP/D504686/1 and EP/F027729/1) from 2006 to 2009, the mi-Guide project was led by the University of Salford in partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry, BT Heritage, Greater Manchester STEM Centre, the Centre for Science Education and Salford City Learning Centre.

Originally developed purely to provide visitor information within the Connecting Manchester communications gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry, mi-Guide was subsequently extended to offer a mi-Guide@School educational resource, an online version and a version that was re-scaled to make it more suitable for accessing mi-Guide via a smart-phone.

mi-Guide at the Museum of Science and Industry

Nigel Linge using mi-Guide at the Museum of Science and Industry
Nigel Linge using a mi-Guide multimedia guide within the Connecting Manchester gallery.

The Connecting Manchester Gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry was opened on Friday 19th October 2007 by the Rt Hon James Purnell MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. It tells the story of the development of communications in the Manchester region by looking at how the new technologies of the day made it possible for people to communicate faster and further. The Gallery draws on a wide range of the Museum's collections, including printing and papermaking machinery, photographic equipment, telephony and telegraphy equipment, radios, televisions, computers and other digital equipment. The Connecting Manchester Gallery was supported by BT through its Connected Earth project.

mi-Guide is a multi-media hand-held information system for museum visitors. Our goal in developing mi-Guide was to enhance the experience you gain when visiting a museum gallery by being able to provide you with far more information about everything you see. Using a hand held computer (DELL AXIM PDA) you can now receive an audio commentary, see additional images of objects, listen to sound files, and watch videos.

A miGuide scan point
A miGuide scan point.

It is important to note that mi-Guide was developed at a time that pre-dated the launch of the Apple iPhone and the ensuing revolution in smartphone and app development.

A visitor using miGuide to scan an object
A visitor using miGuide to scan an object.

In order to determine your location within the Connecting Manchester gallery, mi-Guide uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies. Key objects within the Gallery have an RFID tag installed, indicated by the presence of a mi-Guide scan point logo. Simply placing the PDA near to the mi-Guide scan point is sufficient for the identity of the object to be detected. The PDA then communicates via a WiFi network to a remote server and informs it of the object that has just been scanned. From this, the server knows where you are within the gallery and is then able to send more information about the object to your multi-media guide.

When an object has been scanned, additional information is presented on the miGuide hand-held PDA under five categories.

miGuide homepage for the radio broadcasting exhibit
The miGuide homepage for the radio broadcasting exhibit.
miGuide homepage for the Cropper printing press exhibit
The miGuide homepage for the Cropper printing press exhibit.

These are:

  • Overview
  • Who’s who?
  • The Manchester Story
  • How does it work ?
  • Impact on Communications

Each of these categories then takes you to another page of information where you can listen to an audio commentary and find out even more about the object through a set of extra multimedia content that includes additional images, an audio commentary or video clip. In this way a visitor is able to find out more about each exhibit on display, to better understand its connection with the local Manchester region, to appreciate a little more about how it works, the people involved with it and how that exhibit impacted our ability to communicate.

The audio commentary can either be listened to using the single ear piece provided or using the speaker option.

Accessing the Impact on Communications section for the Cropper Press exhibit
A visitor accessing the Impact on Communications section for the Cropper Press exhibit.
miGuide ear piece
The miGuide ear piece.

Project team member Kate Booth using miGuide
Project team member, Dr Kate Booth, using miGuide.
Project software engineer Duncan Bates using miGuide
Project software engineer, Dr Duncan Bates, using miGuide.

Discovering more about mi-Guide

If you would like to know more about the motivation, design, development and our experiences of creating and deploying mi-Guide within a museum gallery, the following academic publications will be of interest.

  • Linge N., Bates, D., Parsons D., Context driven information systems for museum visitors, 7th Annual Post Graduate Symposium on the Convergence of Telecommunications, Networking and Broadcasting, June 2006, pp23-27
  • Linge N., Parsons D., Bates, D., Holgate, R., Webb, P., Hay, D., Ward, D., mi-Guide: A Wireless Context Driven Information System for Museum Visitors, Proceedings of the 1st International Joint Workshop on Wireless Ubiquitous Computing, WUC 2007, Funchal, Portugal, June 2007, pp43-53, ISBN: 978-972-8865-94-8
  • Bates, D., Building user context into workflow process models, PhD Thesis, University of Salford, July 2007
  • Bates, D., Linge N., Parsons D. et al., Building Context into a Museum Information Guide. In CSNA 2007, Proceedings of the IASTED Conference Communication Systems, Networks and Applications, Beijing, China, October 8-10 2007, pp 235-241. ISBN CD : 978-0-88986-702-4.
  • Linge, N. Parsons, D., Booth, K., Bates, D., Heatley, L., Holgate, R., Webb, P., and Spicer, S., (2008) mi-Guide @school – A Mobile Learning Application in a Museum Context [poster]. In Proceedings of the mLearn2008 Conference, October 7-10 2008, UK. p376.
  • Nigel Linge, Duncan Bates, Kate Booth, David Parsons, Louise Heatley, Pauline Webb, Robin Holgate, Realising the potential of multimedia visitor guides – practical experiences of developing mi-Guide, Museum Management and Curatorship Journal, Vol 27(1), 2012

You can see mi-Guide in action by watching the following video

You can also download a pdf version of a set of presentation slides that was delivered at the AHRC/BT Digital Heritage Project: Landscapes, memories and cultural practices: a GIS/GPS mapping network event held at Lancaster University on Tuesday 23rd Feb, 2010.

The Connecting Manchester communications gallery opened to the public on Saturday 20th October 2007 and can be found within the 1830 warehouse building at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.


As described above, mi-Guide was initially developed as a multi-media visitor guide for use within the Connecting Manchester communications gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry. However, working in partnership with the Centre for Science Educatuion at Sheffield Hallam University, a set of associated learning materials were developed to complement miGuide and create our mi-Guide@School service. The aim of the mi-Guide@School materials is to take a subject with which we are all familiar – communications – and develop a set of classroom and off-site activities that use this theme as a vehicle to gain knowledge and understanding through the exploration of a range of topics and related issues. Although based on the Science Programme of Study for KS3, the activities also place science in both an historical and a contemporary context, supporting a cross-curricular approach and acting as a resource from which further activities can be developed.

The full set of mi-Guide@School learning materials can be viewed online.

End of project colloquium: Multimedia Guides - realising their potential

At the end of the mi-Guide project we hosted a colloquium at the University of Salford on Tuesday 30th March 2010 to disseminate and share our experiences of developing mi-Guide in all its forms. Entitled, Multimedia Guides - realising their potential, a selection of the papers presented as available to download.