International Museum Day

Happy International Museum Day! 国际博物馆日快乐 (Guójì Bówùguǎn Rì kuàilè)!

Falling on 18th May since 1977, the International Museum Day has been a unique occasion for the global communities of museum goers and professionals to celebrate. This year’s theme of celebration is ‘The Power of Museums’.

The objective of International Museum Day (IMD) is to raise awareness about the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.”

International Council Of Museums

What does it mean by ‘The Power of Museums’ to you? How would it be possible that we, as visitors, can be empowered by museums? Today, we are delighted to invite WANG Xi (王曦), who specialises in museum with technologies for enhancing accessibility and just passed her PhD viva successfully, to explain her understanding of empowering visitors of special need through enhancing technological design in her project for the Titanic Museum (泰坦尼克博物馆 Tàitǎnníkè Bówùguǎn).

WANG Xi has been working at Queen’s University Belfast as a Marie-Curie Early Stage Researcher since 2018 and completed her PhD in Translation Studies at the School of Arts, English and Languages in May 2022. Her research interests are in museum accessibility. She currently works with world leading tourist attraction Titanic Belfast and RNIB to investigate novel access options that employ new technologies to improve accessibility and visitor experience for blind and partially sighted visitors.

Research project: Investigating Technologies to Enrich Museum Audio Description for Enhancing Accessibility

Museums are typically dominated by visual experiences. This means that people who are blind or partially sighted (BPS) tend to be excluded from several aspects of the visitor experience, including emotional engagement. The purpose of this practice-led research project was to explore ways in which smart software-enabled technologies could be used to enrich audio description (AD) and to enhance accessibility and visitor experience for BPS visitors. Working with Titanic Belfast and RNIB NI, I pioneered three approaches that combine a commitment to low-cost accessibility solutions and emotionally engaged visitor experience.

Titanic Museum, Belfast | Image@XiWang

This project first presented a study of BPS visitor experience in Titanic Belfast, and applied for the first time existing models of visitor experience in the context of accessibility.

Visitors touching the carpets | Image@XiWang

Next, based on the feedback from this study, I developed and evaluated a new approach to accessibility which used a multisensory smart map to present a journey-based story of Titanic’s maiden voyage. The smart map used readily available materials and affordable technologies, such as Raspberry-Pi. It also used software-controlled multi-function buttons to enable BPS users to autonomously select the desired AD and level of detail.

Touching A Smart Map | Image@XiWang

Finally, I proposed a major extension to the standard passive audio descriptive device by developing an interactive voice-driven museum audio descriptive guide for Titanic Belfast (TBot), with built-in navigation instructions and a free format Question and Answer facility. This TBot uses text-to-speech technology to generate AD from a textual knowledge base, speech recognition for input, to voice-activate the device; and a design platform that easily enables museum staff to produce, update and customise the chatbot.

Thanks to the funding from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Training Programme, I was able to run the 4-year-long project to investigate, develop and test innovative access options for BPS visitors, using new technologies within diverse museum environments. It has contributed several methods to enrich AD for enhancing museum accessibility and visitor experience for BPS visitors both theoretically and practically.

Author: WANG Xi
Editor: Martin Duffy

Continue reading

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor

Our previous article, My Journey to Henan Museum written by Yang LIANG, has been invitingly responded with a new but related article contributed by a current MA in Irish Studies postgraduate at QUB, Martin Duffy, who, with great interest, shared his experience and perspective of visiting the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors in his early years when visiting Xi’an, China.

[The author happily acknowledges the copyright of all videos and pictures included in this article which are reproduced under fair use policy for educational purposes only.]

This is undoubtedly one of the “must see” sights of China. Tickets can be obtained by web, agent or at the admissions desk, and there are a variety of discounts. The Great Wall of China was augmented by the emperor to protect the newly founded Qin dynasty (221–206 BC.). In many ways this is Emperor Qin’s greatest legacy. However, the Emperor’s personal mausoleum and world-famous Terracotta Warriors are treasures to rival even the Great Wall.

Martin duffy

Continue reading

My journey to Henan Museum

What can you do on a rainy and wet winter day? Perhaps visiting a museum for an exhibition or event will be a good choice. In this post, we invite Yang LIANG (梁阳), a Queen’s graduate in TESOL from School of Social Science, Education and Social Work to share with you her recent experience of visiting Henan Museum (河南博物院 Hénán Bówùyuàn).

About Henan Museum

Henan Museum, built in 1927, is one of the oldest and largest museums in China. Its site changed for several times and finally lies at Nongye Road, Jinshui District, Zhengzhou, Henan. It is a history and art museum with a collection of more than 130,000 pieces of cultural relics through the ages.

China Highlights
The Homepage of Henan Museum (English version). The light spot on the map of China shows you where Henan Province locates while the shape on the left displays the provincial geographical range.

After some ten years, I went to visit Henan Museum again. This time, I went there mainly for a show on ancient Chinese music performance, as well as re-visiting the relics.

Yang Liang

The ticket is free, but one needs to book it, either online or on site. I did it via a mobile app for a slot of admission. Then I took a bus there, as the public transport system is very convenient nowadays and there is a bus station nearby.

The collection of photos show what the main entrance looks like and the main exhibition halls from different angles.

This is what it looks like inside of the museum with some of the exhibits. For a full range of exhibition, you can return to the Museum’s website above.

As a layperson of architecture and archaeology, I’m not going to focus on these constructions and relics. However, I’d like to share with you what I felt about this visit from my personal experience of watching the show performance and some other observation.

I watched the music show before walking to the exhibition halls, as I was more interested in the new forms and functions museum nowadays promote – not only for educational purposes, but also to entertain visitors of all walks of life. I was totally impressed by the quality of ancient music performance, fully immersed in the show and the marvelous acoustic effects which allowed me to travel back to thousands of years ago. Here are a few clips of performances that I recorded:

Nowadays, more and more young people enjoy visiting museums, attending both exhibitions and relevant events like talks and shows which encourage more dynamics and interactive engagement, in contrast to the formulaic stereotypes that visitors just took photos around in museums and left without much understanding and appreciation of such exhibitions. I recall that decades ago I went there seeing the same kinds of lifeless objects without any interest in observing, discovering, and imagining how and why they were relevant to me in history and have impacted on my life, let alone a good level of appreciation. If one has no good knowledge about these exhibits, they would easily feel so bored and want to escape.

This time, when I got it in hand, I found the idea of blind boxes, or mystery boxes, really appealing as I never could have guessed what kind of things were inside until I opened it with a ‘Wow’.

(The added line of characters read ‘拆盲盒的快乐 ~’, meaning the happiness (快乐 kuàikè) of opening (拆 chāi) the blind box (盲盒 mánghé). The photo shows that there is a set of samples of palace maid band designed by Henan Museum.)

I also came across two boys who were giving a video call to their mum, making a live broadcast while walking around. They told their mum what they saw and how they were impressed, and their mum sounded really excited over the phone.

I would also like to attribute this wonderful experience to the advance of modern technology which makes these old objects alive. For example, the amazing lighting and acoustic effect made me feel as if I stood in a traditional Chinese ink painting, exploring a wonderland when I saw many white cranes fly in the sky and heard the stream flowing pleasantly. Wow! Who wouldn’t enjoy this kind of visiting experience?

Editor: Liang WANG
Proofreader: Owen Marles

Continue reading

World Bicycle Day

Happy World Bicycle Day! 世界自行车日快乐!

Statues of bicycle riding taken at Suzhou Dushu Lake Higher Education Town. Image @LiangWANG

Acknowledging the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, and that it is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation, fostering environmental stewardship and health, the General Assembly decided to declare 3 June World Bicycle Day.

The UN

Do you have a bicycle? What do you use it for? Read the story shared by Haiying LIANG (梁海映), a Queen’s graduate, from Beijing recently.

In Beijing, you can always see people riding bicycles of various colours on streets, which has become beautiful scenery in the city. These colourful vehicles are a type of newly emerged business known as shared bicycle service that has become one of the important aspects of daily life for many people in Beijing, as well as in many other places in China.

Shared bicycles also play an important role in my daily life. While conducting field work in Beijing for my doctoral research, I also take a research assistant intern at Tsinghua University. Its campus is so large that it takes over half an hour for me to walk from the office building to my favourite cafeteria. You may imagine that without a bicycle, I would have spent about two hours for a meal. So I really think that a bicycle does a great help as I can ride whenever I want. Moreover, unlike finding a car park, I can leave the bicycle at the designated parking area nearby, which makes my travel very flexible.

Shared bicycles are indeed a very convenient means of transport in densely populated places where traffic jams are not uncommon and finding a car park is far from easy. In addition, they are not only environmentally friendly, compared with cars, but also very economic – the price of a 30-minute ride is only one-tenth of the price of a single bus ticket in London – which is 1.5 yuan (about 0.15 pound), as this screenshot of the App shows.
Image @HaiyingLIANG

Despite the great advantages, the lack of designated parking area for shared bicycles can also cause the problem of occupying space such as pavements and lanes. As shown in the photo, the intensively parked bicycles have caused traffic congestion and inconvenience for people who are walking on this road. When building the roads and pavements decades ago, engineers didn’t expect that there would be so many shared bicycles in the near future. Therefore, in the new urban planning, the parking sites for shared bicycles should be well planned, and roads and bicycle lanes can be expanded to accommodate more vehicles that may appear in the future.
Image @HaiyingLIANG

Did you know that in Belfast there are shared bicycles as well? Have you ever used them? Share with us your experience in the comment box below.

A person about to use a shared bicycle parking opposite Queen’s McClay Library. Image @LiangWANG

Useful vocabulary and expressions in Chinese

  • 世界 shìjiè – world
  • 自行车 zìxíngchē – bicyble, bike; 自 zì – self, 行 xíng – moving, 车 chē – vehicle
  • 单车 dānchē – bicycle, bike; 单 dān – single (person)
  • 共享 gòngxiǎng – shared; 共 gòng – together, 享 xiǎng – to share
  • 停车场 tíngchē chǎng – (car/bike) park; 停 tíng – to stop, to halt; 场 chǎng – an open space, field, market, etc.
  • 收费 shōufèi – to charge; 收 shōu – to receive, to collect; 费 fèi – fee
  • 便宜 piányi – cheap
  • 方便 fāngbiàn – convenient

A spring tour to the City of Springs

It’s not to do with the spring season, nor with trampolines, but the fluidity of the waters.

In late spring, our alumni and volunteers Xiaohui (小惠), left, and Zhenru (珍如), right, who have found jobs in different places of China, joyfully reunited in Ji’nan (济南 Jǐ’nán), the provincial capital of Shandong (山东 Shāndōng). While having enjoyed the beautiful scenes of the city which is famous for its artesian springs (泉水 quán shuǐ), they would like to share their findings with us.

Do you know which city has most springs in China? The answer is Ji’nan, which is known as the Spring City with 72 springs altogether. Among them, the most famous one is called Baotu Spring. During Qing Dynasty’s Emperor Qianlong’s southern tour, Baotu Spring was regarded as the “No. 1 Spring under the Heaven” because of the mellow and sweet taste of tea made from its water.

Zhenru and Xiaohui

About Baotu Spring

If you ever pay a visit to Ji’nan, you will find that Baotu Spring (趵突泉 Bàotū Quán) is located in the city centre. The spring pond is 30-meter long and 18-meter wide, accommodating three outlets with streams gushing out from the ground. There is large stone masonry around the Spring. We would definitely recommend you to lean on the railing for a better feel to observe the streams gushing in the pond from underground limestone caves.

The entrance gate of Baotu Spring (the name should read from right to left). Image @Xiaohui LIAO

The famous modern playwright Lao She (老舍, Lǎo Shě) once wrote that “the waters gush up from the spring’s eyes, and rise half a meter above the surface of the water, constantly rolling like boiling”. We were there eager to see this wonder – the “boiling” scene. However, we felt rather disappointed that we didn’t see any “constantly rolling” waters; only three streams were there rippling mildly. Maybe it was because the waters were exhausted after running for hundreds of years.

The grand view of Baotu Spring with a waterside pavilion and two carved stones on each side. The left stone displays its name ‘趵突泉’ and the other marks it as the ‘No. 1 Spring (第一泉)’. The three rippling circles on the water surface at the bottom left corner of the photo are the streams through three outlets. Image @Xiaohui LIAO

What was astonishing was that we found two baby seals in the pond, playing with each other, as seals normally are seen in the sea. It turned out that the waters are specially treated to be in line with sea water quality to accommodate the creatures, according to the local authority that manages the scenic sites, despite the disputes arising from some tourists and people who were concerned with animals right and protection.

One of the reasons to introduce two seals in the Spring is to do with the double puns in the mixture of Chinese and English contexts.

The name in Chinese of seals is 海豹 (hǎibào), literally meaning ‘sea (海 hǎi) leopard (豹 bào), the second syllable of which echoes with the pronunciation of “趵 (bào)” in Baotu Spring (趵突泉 Bàotū Quán). “突 ()” sounds similar to ‘two’ in English. So today people jokingly refer to Baotu Spring as the spring having two seals, though “趵突 (bàotū)” originally means jumping and rushing out and forwardly.

Image @Zhenru SHANG

So, what do you think of the idea of keeping seals in the waters? You may share your opinions in the box below and read more detailed report here.

Learn the words and phrases

  • 济南 Jǐ’nán – Ji’nan, the provincial capital of Shandong; 济 – the river of Ji; 南 nán – south
  • 山东 Shāndōng – Shandong province; 山 shān – mountain, hill; 东 dōng – east
  • 泉水 quán shuǐ – spring, the waters; 泉 quán – spring; 水 shuǐ – water
  • 趵突泉 Bàotū Quán – Baotu Spring; 趵 bào – jump; 突 – out and forward
  • 第一泉 dì yī quán – The No. 1 Spring; 第 一 – No. 1
  • 海豹 hǎibào – seal; 海 hǎi – sea; 豹 bào – leopard

If you would like to share your cultural experience in China, you are welcome to contact us by filling in the comment box below with your name, email and proposed topics.

An edible ‘landmark’ of Wuhan

Whilst it rained with ice balls in Northern Ireland only a few days ago, people in China have already turned to ice-creams for the cool taste. More popular than the tastes are perhaps the variety of shapes of ice-creams that resemble those local features and places of interest. Here’s what Xuewei YANG (杨雪薇), a QUB alumnus, brings to us.

Continue reading