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Marconi Museum

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New ICT technologies for cultural heritage

Why this project

The Marconi Museum, situated in the historical Villa Griffone, the cradle of the first wireless experiments conducted by Marconi away back in 1895, is, since many years now, the affirmed destination by numerous groups of visitors coming from all over Italy and abroad. The Museum already adopts within its structure exhibition methodologies of the most modern kind privileging learning through multimedia, with an extensive use of interactive exhibits which are often integrated with scientific laboratories for schools. Nevertheless, the need to implement fruition was felt so that the museum could offer even more modern and diversified modalities, to meet the requests of individuals and small groups that knock on the Villa's door without reservation, or during closing times. Modalities that would allow visitors to come into contact with the Marconi universe even without having a direct access to the Museum. Through the study and experimentation of museum applications of the most recent ICT technologies, the objective has been to enhance the cultural and museum experience by renewing it technologically. The Villa has thus become the place for testing these new applications, where both benefits and difficulties can be handily assessed even in other museums, in and out of the city. Which better place to test new wireless applications designed for museums if not in the very place that was once the cradle of the Radio?

The project

A first in-depth phase of planning and experimentation has allowed us to identify those applications which, if on the one hand seemed better suited for the specific needs of the Marconi Museum, on the other hand also offered a major potentiality of reproducibility in contexts different than that of the Marconi Foundation. In this perspective the Wi-Fi application has been developed (thanks also to the accord with the City Hall and the University of Bologna), as well as Bluetooth, while through the RFID technology an experimental system which monitors accesses to a museum room has been conceived with the scope of compiling statistics and, secondarily, for security reasons. All of these applications can be replicated fairly easily in other settings, and ulterior developments can be made (see RFID applications for radio-assisted visits) so that they might become the object of future studies. The central nucleus of the project rotates around the set up, in the Villa Griffone park, of a Wireless Area, conceived as a welcome point for the visitor and equipped, in addition to the technologies which we will touch upon later, with a fixed multimedia station and a few covered seats for resting. At the fixed station it is possible for everyone, even those who are not equipped with a mobile apparatus, to take a thorough virtual tour of the Marconi Museum which includes explanatory videos on the history of radiocommunications and on the impact of the Marconian invention. The virtual tour has been realized with the most advanced techniques of animation and utilizes touch-screen methodology for navigation. The particularity of the Wireless Area is that it allows the visitor to have access, through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies, to a series of contents that span from general information about the Museum, to touristic information regarding the Sasso Marconi territory, to the possibility of downloading on one's mobile phone, palmtop or notebook, videos, images and audio documents on Guglielmo Marconi. As previously mentioned, the application of these technologies employed for museum services constitutes the fundamental nucleus of the entire project in the perspective of replicability in other museums. Below is a brief description of the applications.

Wi-Fi Technology

A system of hot spot access has been set up, which allows visitors to obtain information about the museum and to navigate on Internet by means of broadcasting. The system carries out an authentication federated with the key players of the territory. In this way the citizens of Bologna adhering to Iperbole, the students, the professors and the staff of the University of Bologna, can accede with the credentials already at their disposal. The system has been planned first and foremost for the experimentation of new applications, among these, for example, the allocation of a temporary password which can be used for navigating for a designated period of time to be sent to the user's cell phone via SMS. The objective is to expand the access area while respecting all regulations in effect. The technological infrastructure has been developed in collaboration with the Marconi Wireless Consortium. The first federation of authentication was made possible thanks to Acantho. The Foundation also realized a content that is available without authentication that can be utilized by other consociations.

Bluetooth Technology

The kiosk installed in the park of Villa Griffone is equipped with a broadcasting device made of multimedia contents based on Bluetooth technology. In particular it is a device (called Wireless Local Provider) that is able to detect the presence of Bluetooth terminals in the vicinity, make contact with them and transmit to those terminals, that have given the necessary consent, numerous multimedia contents (images, short videos, audio) in agreement with a plan of “ad distribution” preemptively settled and programmed. It is useful to remark that the majority of mobile phones today are able to connect via Bluetooth technology in a rather simple and quick manner, therefore this application could be easily usable from a potentially large public. Lastly, it is to be noted that the contents distributed are effectively transferred on the user's terminal, allowing the user to take full possession of them at no charge. A second Wireless Local Provider has been installed in the interior of the Villa for the broadcast of contents inherent to the museum, visitors and/or “thematic” contents during the days dedicated to conferences or workshops.

RFID Technology

Inside the museum, in a room called “From the frog to the radio”, the first of the itinerary, a RFID reader has been installed which operates in UHF band (made by Intermec Inc., a company based in the United States and world leader in radio frequency identification), and automatically detects the entrance (and exit) of visitors from the room. Visitors must be equipped with a small and simple UHF Tag, that can be distributed at the entrance. In this way it is possible to monitor the number of visitors that enter the room and automatically produce and elaborate statistics relative to attendance, duration of visits in the room, etc. In perspective, the RFID technology can be employed to detect the passage of the user in proximity of key “information points” that provide multimedia applications (video projections, audio reproduction etc.) to facilitate and/or act as a support to the museum visit.


This project was made possible thanks to a series of collaborations activated by the Marconi Foundation, both with the institutions that historically collaborate with the research activity that takes place at Villa Griffone (University of Bologna, Ugo Bordoni Foundation, University of Ferrara), and with young entrepreneurs of the region. A special mention is due to the collaboration with the Marconi Wireless Consortium, Center of Innovation which is part of the Rete Alta Tecnologia (High Technology Network) of the Emilia-Romagna Region, that selected and organized the phases of analysis, development and experimentation of the qualified technologies, and collaborated in the conception of the contents. An important agreement was stipulated with the Bologna City Hall and the University for the extension of authentication of services of Iperbole to the park of Villa Griffone. For that which concerns Bluetooth and RFID applications, the necessary devices were acquired from companies in the Bolognese territory, respectively Waymedia srl (that realizes and markets the Wireless Local Provider) and HiPro Group (specialized in the development of integrated solutions for logistics based on RFID technology). These companies also in part supported the necessary installation operations. The official inauguration took place during the Marconi Day, celebrated at Villa Griffone on April 25, 2008. The realization of this project was made possible thanks to the contributions of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna and the Ministry of University and Research.



© 2013 - Fondazione Guglielmo Marconi - Villa Griffone - via Celestini 1 - 40037 Pontecchio Marconi (BO) - C.F 80063250379

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