Interactivity and Flickr at the British Library 'Ramayana' exhibtion

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 31 July 2008

Whilst we were in the UK recently I took the opportunity to go to the British Library exhibition on the Ramayana. I've seen some great exhibitions there over recent years, including 'Front Page' and 'Sacred', but I have to say I found this one a little disappointing. It probably wasn't helped by the fact that when I visited it, it was absolutely swarming with school-kids, and I could barely get to see even a fraction of the main displays.

A page from an illustrated edition of the Ramayana

There was a good section at the back which featured some non-book material, including shadow puppets and clips from television versions of the Ramayana. This area also housed the exhibition's interactivity. There was a terminal where people could leave feedback about the exhibition, which was then displayed. I have to say this rather seemed like interactivity for the sake of interactivity, as I couldn't see what the electronic equivalent of a museum guest book was adding to the experience.

Have Your Say at the British Library

Another feature was a panel displaying photographs from Flickr. Users were invited to submit their own Ramayana images for display within the exhibition.

"Share your Ramayana photographs online by joining the British Library's Ramayana Group on Flickr. If you're not already a member, you can sign up free at www.flickr.com. Your photographs could be displayed on this screen during the Ramayana exhibition and on our website. Full details can be found at www.bl.uk/ramayana."

Underneath it was a slightly over-the-top explanation of the way that Flickr had revolutionised digital imagery.

"Flickr is one of the world's leading online photo and video sharing communities where people explore, find and manage pictures and video clips of life's daily moments with friends, family and the world. With 42 million worldwide visitors each month and more than two billion photos stored, Flickr serves as the 'eyes of the world' and has revolutionised the sharing and discovery of what people see and experience through digital imagery. To share and explore the world's photos and videos, visit www.flickr.com"

There was one piece of delicious irony though - in the exhibition itself there were large signs forbidding photography. In order to get a shot of the Flickr photo-sharing panel, I had to take a sneaky pic with my phone when the security guard wasn't looking!

Interactive Flickr panel at the British Library

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