To enhance our current exhibit, "Magna Carta, 800 Years: Rights and the Rule of Law," we recently added QR codes in the exhibit gallery. In addition to information included in the cases to accompany the volumes, and nine standing panels with images and text around the room, the new QR codes link by smartphone to audio recordings that shed further light on exhibit items. With the codes, we aim to offer some more in-depth information and add to our visitors' experience.
By offering short audio (and/or visual) clips, QR codes can highlight interesting additional information - about a book's binding or a former owner, for example - that may be difficult to give attention to in the text for the main exhibit. This was the case for our exhibit book, Magna Carta Opposed to Assumed Privilege (London, 1771). The volume contains material related to the controversy over printing Parliamentary debates in England, and radical figure John Wilkes's role in it. The book's binding is also noteworthy, depicting on its spine images of the "liberty cap and pole," symbols of freedom in the restive American colonies as well as Europe. The use of the symbols on the binding likely referred to Wilkes's image as a political radical, something eagerly celebrated in the colonies (whose grievances he supported). We chose to display the book's title page in the exhibit case, and included a close-up image of the binding elsewhere in the exhibit room. The audio recording was a great way to focus on the richness of this particular volume, bridge its 'inner' and 'outer' significance, and improve the variety of information available for visitors touring the exhibit.
- Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections