Scopify This!

Posted: October 2, 2013 - 14:58 , by Courtney Murfin
ROM Mobile, Technology, Education & Engagement | Comments (2) | Comment
Using an iPhone with the Scopify app on the Larnyx.

By Courtney Murfin, Interpretive Planner

About a year ago, I was brought in to work on a really cool project here at the Museum – an app called ScopifyROM was in the works. When complete it would let visitors look at objects in our galleries in ways that were simply not possible before. Using their smartphones, visitors would be able to “x-ray” things, “restore” ancient objects, and even put skin on a skeleton…

My job as interpretive planner was to figure out how visitors could get the most out of using these “scopes.” The answer was clear. This is all about what we do! The ROM’s collections are full of information about the world – manmade and natural, then and now. And now we put the tools in the palm of your hand to let you investigate them for yourself.

How do we know birds are dinosaurs? Examine the T. rex in ScopifyROM and you’ll see!

Using Scopify app in the Dinosaur Gallery on the T-rex.

How do we know cats were really important in ancient Egypt? Look closely in the app at the cat mummy and find out.

A scan of the cat mummy in the Gallery of Africa: Egypt.

When it came time to choose objects for the app, I approached a bunch of curators and gave them one condition: the pieces had to be things that could be examined in cool ways, and would show evidence about some bigger picture. As you can imagine, the list I got was huge! Whittling it down to a selection of only 15 was tough, especially because some of the pieces that didn’t make the cut were really cool (there was a fossil of a prehistoric horseshoe crab that, when examined closely, revealed what was happening at the exact moment it died).

But the pieces that did make it into the app have phenomenal stories around them.

There’s a coffin from ancient Crete called a larnax, which, as you scope it, reveals a lot about Minoan burial practices. You can even go so far as to lift the lid and look inside. What, or who, was in it? No spoilers here!

My absolute favourite is a fossilized bat skeleton that’s the actual specimen ROM curators used to prove that bats could fly before they could echolocate! It’s a complex issue, but in the app you can scan the skull and see one of the features in the ear that was used as evidence. And if you look closely at its fingers, you’ll see that it had claws where no modern bats have them. The app will tell you why.

That’s one of the great things about my job – I get to find out so much amazing stuff. And that’s what’s so exciting about ScopifyROM – now visitors can too!

To learn more and download, visit our ScopifyROM page.

Scan of a bat skull


Comment by Jen

Just wanted to say it's great how you are always working on ways to introduce technology as a way to further interact with an learn about the items. I was in on the weekend and was told about this app. I spent an extra hour in your museum because of this app - because it was downloading the whole time :( and then asked right away for an update! Much of the time spent waiting for this app could have been spent browsing the galleries instead. Also the whole time, the tech docents who were talking to guests about this app were hovering hoping to see when it loaded so they could help. The one lady switched shifts recently and was given her tablet to help guests but I ended up intuitively knowing more than she did on how to work it. I understand this is new so here are some improvements I suggest:
Tell people about the app while they're waiting in line to pay for admission. Encourage them to download it then.
Offering WIFI is great but it needs to be faster to process so many people downloading.
Your docents need to know and be familiar with their technologies.

Thanks for listening and great work on what's been done so far! Hope you can continue this for many other items in your collection.