Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2013 Newsletter

New kiosks about the Gutenberg Bible and First Photograph engage visitors

Visitors interacting with touch screen kiosks. Click to enlarge.

Thanks to a generous gift by Margaret Hight, the Ransom Center recently unveiled new kiosks for the Gutenberg Bible and First Photograph. These kiosks feature large touch screens and engaging content for both adults and children that encourage visitors to learn more about the Center's two permanent—and popular—exhibitions.

The Gutenberg Bible is the first substantial book printed from movable type on a printing press. It was printed in Johann Gutenberg's shop in Mainz, Germany, between 1450 and 1455. The Ransom Center holds one of five complete copies in the United States. The First Photograph, which Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce produced in 1826, is the foundation of the Ransom Center's photography collection. The 8 x 6.5-inch heliograph depicts a view just outside the workroom window of Niépce's estate in Le Gras in east central France.

According to Lisa Pulsifer, Associate Curator for Education and Public Engagement, the kiosks are already attracting great interest from visitors. "Since the kiosks have been installed, we have noticed that more people are using the kiosks and spending more time exploring the many features, including learning about the history of the Gutenberg Bible and First Photograph."

Among the most popular features is a virtual heliograph that allows visitors to take a portrait that can be emailed directly to the visitor or to friends and family. The virtual heliograph image replicates the photographic technique used to create the First Photograph.

"Using modern technology to demonstrate older photographic processes provides a unique opportunity for learning," Pulsifer said. "The photograph also provides a nice keepsake for visitors."

The kiosks also offer content geared for younger visitors, including digital coloring pages of the Gutenberg Bible and First Photograph. A video has been incorporated to help children understand how the Gutenberg Bible was printed and why it remains important.

The new kiosks represent just one of the ways the Ransom Center is introducing technology into its exhibitions. "Today's museum visitors expect the use of technology in a variety of ways from multimedia to interactivity," says Cathy Henderson, Associate Director for Exhibitions and Fleur Cowles Curator. "Our goal is to use technology to enhance the visitor experience."  

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