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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:
October 28, 2010

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License
Museums and the Web 2003 Papers


MultiMuseum: a multi-channel communication model for the National Museum of Cinema

Sara Monaci, National Museum of Cinema, and Elena Cigliano, CSP ITC Innovation, Italy



The MultiMuseum is a multi-channel prototype, with different technological accesses. It has a mission: to open the museum to the public in an integrated way. It is an interactive, flexible and personalized tool, which allows the Museum to give information and services to cinema fans and to all potential visitors.

The aim of the project is integrating three fundamental aspects:

  • to widen the access to the Museum heritage;
  • to enrich the visitors experience both inside and outside the National Museum of Cinema;
  • to give knowledge personalized tools.

The MultiMuseum is a highly developed platform including applications commonly used on the web, expressively customized for the communicative needs of the Museum, and specific original software, like HyperFilm, which allows to insert images, videos, QTVR, HTML pages as hyper textual links connected to a main video.

The prototype deals with three experimentation areas:

  • the advanced Web channel, characterized by a strong graphic element, including not only the presentation of the Museum and of its charming dressing, but also of the collections, of the institutional activities and of the films planning of Cinema Massimo;
  • the PDA channel, conceived to implement the access to the contents, both inside and outside the Museum, by using handheld devices;
  • the Reseau channel, devoted to the wide band net (VDSL) created by Telecom Italia and Telecom Italia Lab.

Key words: multi-channel communication, public access, personalized experience, handheld device, wireless network, WI-FI.


The MultiMuseum project started in spring 2001 as a result of the collaboration between the National Museum of Cinema and the CSP, an ITC (Information and Communication Technology) Research Centre recognized by the Ministry of Public Instruction, of the University and of the Scientific Research. CSP is a non-profit society created by local bodies (CSI- Piedmont and the City of Turin), Universities ( the Polytechnic school and the Public University) and industrial associations (Industrial Union and Federpiemonte).

The National Museum of Cinema of Turin is a project created in 1941 by Maria Adriana Prolo, a collector and historian. Since 1953, the Museum has been a member of the FIAF (Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film) and in 1992 it became a Foundation. Nowadays the Mole Antonelliana, the city symbol monument, houses the Museum, which was inaugurated in July 2000. Thanks to the fantastic dressing of the architect François Confino, the Mole Antonelliana has been turned into a vertical museum unique in the world, which has received, until now, almost one million visitors.

For the National Museum of Cinema, the MultiMuseum represents the beginning of an important journey in the world of the new media and of the advanced telematics networks. The project offers both the visitor in loco and the visitor on line innovative opportunities of knowledge, interaction and sharing of experiences. In fact, it allows to have access to the information on the collections of the museum, on the films planning, on the institutional activities and so on.

Thanks to the partnerships created by the National Museum of Cinema and the cooperation of CSP, Telecom Italia, HP (Hewlett Packard) and Netbrain for this project, the MultiMuseum has become an example of synergy between the world of art and technology, culture and innovation both on the urban and the national territory. It is a communication model suitable to different settings of use and it can involve many political and cultural actors among with museums, cultural bodies, research centres and the Public Administration.

Moreover, to understand the importance of the MultiMuseum project, the particular national and urban setting in which it is inserted is to be underlined. Italy can boast of its prime position about the width and the richness of its artistic and cultural heritage. During these last years, the importance of the cultural domain has become a precious resource from a social and economic point of view.

As regard as Turin, this city is the Italian industry symbol and for many years its identity has been considered related to Fiat Auto image. As a place in the northwest of Italy where the productions of vehicles was the first thing coming to everybody's mind. Nowadays, Turin is in a period of deep change and the metal and mechanical industry is less present in the economic and social life of the city. Even if for more than one hundred years, Turin has been the capital of the industrial production of vehicles in Italy and also in Europe, today it is asserting its presence in the field of the new technologies and it has already won international fame in the field of Information and Communication Technology. In fact, Turin has become one of the so-called hi-tech cluster, the last generation of technological districts created by the digital revolution, as for the United States, Israel, France, Switzerland and Germany. Many investments have been made to carry out the research, to develop ideas, business, innovative finance indispensable to give birth to new firms.The XX Winter Olympic Games of 2006 will also give great opportunities to the city, which has been always engaged with these sports thanks to the mountains of its surroundings.

With public and private investments and the international attention they will bring, the Games are an opportunity without equal to transform and renew urban areas. Moreover, in this phase of deep transformation of the city, a new identity linked to the tourist and cultural development is making its way. Turin's goal is to become "the city of cinema". This is why the re-opening of the National Museum of Cinema is so important. This goal has its source in the city history: not only the first real Italian cinema industry has born in Turin, but also the world one. In fact, in the film library and in the collections of the Museums the visitors can find the great heritage of silent films. Thanks to the support of local and European bodies, many projects have been carried out to promote the cinema production.

So, the use of new technologies in the field of cultural domain and in particular in cinema represents an important occasion: the possibility to widen the access overcoming the geographical borders and to spread a cultural heritage without moving.

"The need, for such a museum, and for all the museums in general, to be equipped of a communicational tool which makes it accessible and immediately available for its users through different technologies. [...]

Museums have to deal and will always have to deal with the problem of spreading their resources to a widen public; and to do so they have to ask themselves which could be the most suitable vehicles to reach this public and to offer adequate services."

Communicating about the National Museum of Cinema is a complex operation. Producing the Museum website means creating an innovative communication tool having the characteristics of flexibility and appeal necessary to attract the Museum visitor, but also creating a familiar environment in which emotions and information become a unique resource and an irreplaceable advantage to increase the number of Museum visitors. This could be an advantage also for all the people who have worked and are still working at the Museum and for the city that houses it.

Goals of the MultiMuseum communication model

The MultiMuseum is a communication model conceived for a virtual museum which can be available from many places, in different moments and with different media. The main priority of the project is to create innovative technological solutions and contents focused on widening the Museum and its experience to the visitors, to the potential public and, in particular, to the city. In fact, the museum experience is not to be seen only in a sense of space, inside a place; but also in a sense of time, before and after the visit.

The MultiMuseum goal is to widen and to enrich the visitors experience through portable communication technologies: the web, which allows a constant access to information and services, a PDA channel (Personal Digital Assistants) conceived for a mobile access through a wireless technology, a broad band channel to use in loco the multimedia applications thanks to a high speed network. Technologies are the strategic point of the MultiMuseum project even if contents and services are the determining factors to widen the experience of the users to different spatio-temporal environments and to different ways of interaction. The web environment is mainly focused on recalling the Museum atmosphere involving the user in a virtual tour thanks to interactive images and film sequences.

The on line Museum tour is composed by film sequences showing the setting of the Mole Antonelliana, the Cinema Archaeology, the Cinema Machine, the Posters Gallery and the Temple Hall: the Museum core surrounded by ten chapelles on the main subjects about the Seventh Art, Love and Death, the Absurd, True and False and the Caffé Torino, the chapel dedicated to the city, once The Cinema Capital.

The MultiMuseum offers very rich practical information on organizing visits and a presentation of the activities for the public and for schools, which, through the site, can plan a programme of workshops for students and teachers. Before and after the visit, the visitor can have information on future events and thanks to the e-mail or consulting the handheld device (PDA) or the channel Avant-GO, he can receive further services. This technology allows the local memory of the handheld device to store the quick Museum information, which can be updated by synchronising the PDA with the PC: each user can have on his PDA the Pocket-size Museum, a pocket museum immediately available everywhere.

Thanks to the wireless technology, the MultiMuseum gives the visitors the opportunity to interact with its space during the visit: in fact, inside the Mole Antonelliana, a Wireless LAN conceived for the use of PDA as multimedia guide to the Temple Hall is available. Every visitor equipped with a PDA can follow a personal route through the chapelles and can consult the "guide" explaining the setting, enriching the experience of the visit by videos, texts and original sequences.

Dedicated to all the visitors of the Mole is the environment Reseau: this channel can be reached from multimedia stations in the welcome area for the public attending The Cinema of the Future Workshop, a multimedia work on cinema techniques.

Besides the traditional channels like the catalogue, the guided visit, the material shown in the exhibition, today the visitor can imagine a sort of MultiMuseum, a virtual museum on different temporal dimensions more and more in the hands of the users.

As well as the visit, there is the on line access, through wireless technologies, keeping the visitor in contact with the contents of the site during the visit. It allows to superimpose the physical space of the Museum upon a virtual space, available thanks to a handheld device, a sort of personal digital assistant (a PDA, in fact), that the visitor can always keep with him. This virtual space is independent from the place the visitor is in; it is a kind of flux, a space of flux, constantly available at any time. In fact, the wireless technology allows us to support the web information space within the physical space of the Museum visit: the information space of the virtual museum with the physical one, compared to the active experience of a visitor of the Mole Antonelliana. The wireless communication model supports and replaces the network model: a network made by cables and desktop terminals can be replaced by the wireless technology of the WI-FI nets which are perfectly suitable to the environment and to the use of handheld devices more and more light.

Just think about the historical buildings and about their structural and architectural problems which influence not only the people physical accessibility but also the introduction of telematics technologies focused on opening a virtual access to our museums heritage.The Wireless communication model is an innovative solution. In particular, it isn't intrusive towards monuments or historical buildings and the net set at the Mole Antonelliana is an important example: a facility made by an integrated WI-FI network, which allows to involve a monument of 167 metres in an information flux reachable from every place through stations, notebooks or PDA.This means not only different services and contents according to different terminals (audio and wide band video contents on multimedia Desktop-PC, rapid information services for internet terminals and informative pushing about the setting of mobile devices), but it also means to enrich the visitors experience inside and outside the Museum by the use of personalized tools.The charming web site is supported by the possibility of having the same contents on a mobile device and even on a last generation mobile phone: with the Pocket-size Museum each visitor can enter the Mole Antonelliana and follow a personalized journey or the hypertextual links of the guide on the Museum PDA.The wireless communication does not represent a revolution: every kind of information media, from the radio to the news on TV, has always been "wireless".

The absolutely new aspect of the recent "new media" is that, for the first time, people can have just the information they want, when and where they want by pocket terminals.This change has been possible because the media have progressively become digital, and also because of the technical research in the field of the mobile communication networks, which have introduced handheld devices more and more powerfull in terms of data processing and multimedia functions.So, the innovation is not only in the technology but also in the communication model, which emphasize the terminal-user capabilities: in the possibility to personalize, to inform about the contents according to personal needs or to original mental paths, thanks to light devices as notebooks or as Personal Digital Assistants.Today, we are facing the event called information on demand, where people can be free from institutions (Publishers, Training Bodies, Mass Media) and from the traditional physical places of cultural contents exchange.

The means and the process of the production and distribution of knowledge have deeply changed, and with them also the meaning of book, catalogue, magazine or audioguide.In particular, the cultural institutions and the Museums have been asked to meet the individual requirements and the interests of their public.The information on the single works can be shared through a digital multichannel communication model which allows tourists to make a personal edition of the texts, of the audios and videos about a particular subject or exhibition.Infact, more and more, the tourists desire to go into the catalogue and the other informative resources according to their interests as they prefer to follow a personal path inside the Museum.For the first time, the cultural tourists can have a guide working out again the contents of the different sources through different media but having the digital language in common.For the Museums, this is an important opportunity to offer the visitors of today, and the future ones, different information according to the several targets and to insert their cultural contents into a network at local and urban level.Infact, we would like to imagine the communication model the MultiMuseum as a model to be used in other urban or regional occasions: we will obtain a net of Multi... where every single part communicates and offers services, both inside and outside, to tourists and citizens, presenting different contents (information on the city transports, museums opening hours, restaurants, shops etc..).The result will be a great information about the city which could be available from every mobile terminal speaking a digital language.

The MultiMuseum contents and services

The prototype realisation of the MultiMuseum, the multichannel system for the National Museum of Cinema establishes three main areas of project and experimentation:

  • an advanced Web channel;
  • a PDA channel;
  • a RESEAU channel.

The Web channel has two different kinds of navigation. The first one has been defined "Browsing the Museum". It has been realised with Flash and allows the visitor to make a virtual tour of the Museum. It is sufficient to use the small Mole Antonelliana placed on the left of the screen, each floor of the Mole contains a small photo gallery. The second one is a more traditional thematic navigation. It provides general information on the Museum, on the events and on the exhibitions, but also information on future and past activities, on the visits and the schedule of the "Massimo" multi-screen cinema that is part of the museum system. There is also a press area where newspapers, press offices and journalists can enter in a dedicated mailing list, a newsletter, a page with links to other museums of cinema in the world and a section for activities, guided visits, school workshops, with their relative cards.

In the web channel there is also a very innovative presentation of the National Museum of Cinema, realised with a licensed software, HyperFilm, that allows the insertion of images, videos, 360° views obtained with QTVR, HTML pages as the links to a main video. The images shown in this video are: the interior part of the Mole, the Temple Hall, which is the centre of the Museum, the elevator that brings up to the edge of the Mole and the view of the different levels. While the main video is going on, on the right, some links to various levels of deepened investigation appear.

The PDA channel has been conceived to widen the access to contents, both on the exterior than on the interior of the museum, thanks to handheld devices. It allows people having their own palm desktop to enter in the AvantGO channel and receive some information on the National Museum of Cinema: a brief presentation of the Museum, how to reach it, news, events, the weekly schedule of the cinema Massimo. In the PDA channel, you can furthermore see a presentation of the wireless Museum experimentation, which has been a fundamental part of the project and whose aim is to identify the best way to enjoy the contents, through the use of handheld devices as an help during the visit of the museum.

Finally, the Reseau channel is dedicated to the Telecom Italia Lab broad band (VDSL net) of which the National Museum of Cinema and the CSP are part; it is an area that offers the possibility to the network of experimenters to get audio and video contents. The project is based on a high performances network structure and its aim is to demonstrate, even if only experimentally, innovative applications for business and home users.

The network is already present in three metropolitan areas (Turin, Milan and Rome) that are linked by a national backbone. The net is realised with innovative techniques, such as optical transportation DWDM, high speed access Gigabit Ethernet and VDSL, advanced IP networking and added value services on IP. The Reseau network is a real workshop for technologies and services through the two Multimedia Services Centers; it offers integrated widespread and integrated interactive applications of high quality on a IP broadband platform. The Reseau net will be available next spring for the Italian institutes that have asked for it.Through the Reseau channel, the National Museum of Cinema offers the Workshop on the Cinema of the Future. It is an experimental area by which one can explore some of the features of the digital cinema. Virtually following the course of the Cinema Machine, that shows the different elements of its language (edition, setting, special effects etc.) it is possible to interact with the Museum and compare some "digital interpretations". It is a demonstration of the fact that the cinema could reach new poetry and new trials through digital systems and their peculiar linguistic solutions (frame, link, windows, banner, animations).

Wireless Museum experiments

Inside the MultiMuseum you can find Wireless Museum, aiming to the use of palmtops during the visit. Concerning this kind of trials, it is one of the first in Italy but certainly the first in Turin. According to the researches, analysis and tests of CSP started in the summer 2001, mobile technology has been seen as a model of innovation to try inside a museum. Handheld devices satisfy our daily fundamental needs: they are flexible, have a good memory and are a perfect multimedial supports for audio and video contents in hypertexts created for this purpose. They furthermore allow the integration in a local network, offer the possibility of streaming and sharing the information inside a group. The PDA, providing the visitor with more additional information about the museum, is the evolution of the audioguides, with the good quality of being also easier to update thanks to the wireless connection. For this reason they have been defined "Ciceros in the palm of an hand".

The first phase of the Wireless Museum experiment begun in spring 2002 and finished in October. Its aim was to test five iPaq 3850 in a Wi-Fi network with audio and video streaming and hypertext contents. The test was focused on four of the chapelles surrounding the Temple Hall: Cappella Torino, Cappella Cabiria, Cappella degli Specchi and Cappella Horror. The aim in this first phase is to find a model of enjoying these added contents through a palmtop, to find checkout parameters and to tests its use inside this environment.

From December 2002 until April 2003 there was the second phase: tests and analysis of the results through groups of 10-15 elements. These people had been given a set of questions to verify what people thought about the amount of information, the interaction, the contents and the ergonomics of iPaq. After this phase, the handheld devices will be lent to the visitors of the National Museum of Cinema, the contents of the Temple Hall will be widened to other parts of the Museum, and the contents on the iPaq will be integrated with the web platform of the Museum. We are really interested in the more innovative forms of information pushing, so that visitors will receive the information directly from the server, avoiding the direct interaction with the device. This is for an easier and more advanced service.

The MultiMuseum multi-channel system: technical specifications

As we have said the MultiMuseum offers different channels and different languages of communication to the visitor of the Museum. The web is the environment of these channels' evolution, even though they are completely independent in their design and structure. the MultiMuseum is therefore a web container that offers three different channels/tools to enjoy the contents; they have been realised with applications which are usually used on the web, even if customised according to the needs of the Museum, and evolved application that have property formats.

The main web channel is characterised by a strong graphics in a driven data base. The PHP language, coming from the Open Source and scalable on the basis architecture has been chosen to realise the main data base structure (archives, user interaction forms and update and "back office" interaction forms) to allow the best efficacy and quickness inside a web container characterised by graphics. The web channel contains the presentation of its collections and two innovative applications:

  • Hyper Museum: it is a multimedial hypertext made with a HyperFilm technology (www.hyperfilm.it). HyperFilm is a software based on well known standards. It works on every platform that support free Macromedia ShockWave® and Apple QuickTime® plug-in. The hypertext presents videos (with Quick Time 5) and some QTVR with a main video made for the MultiMuseum;
  • Browsing the Museum: it is an hypertext realised with Macromedia Flash® 5 by which the user can navigate inside the Mole Antonelliana and the Cinema Massimo.

The direction of the MultiMuseum is mainly appointed to web interfaces directly linked to a MySQL database; they can be easily updated by the staff of the Museum. The databases used in the container are thought for a continuous updating also by no-expert persons, for researches in the archives and to make the structure scalable towards community services an easy achievement of community services. The architecture of the system has been thought for future layouts and to grant high performances with numerous visitors, even with a delicate hardware.

The Reseau Project: technical specifications

RESEAU is a Telecom Italia experiment, that foresees the development of a broad band pilot network and internet services of new generation. Today, the RESEAU platform makes it possible to test the following services:

  • Solutions for virtual communities: virtual multimedial environments fostering aggregation on internet through audio/video communication, enjoyment and sharing of multimedial contents (videos, games, 3D sets);
  • Solutions for videoconferences and cooperative job: high quality components through which simultaneously interact in audio and video between two or more users, sharing documents and applications;
  • Interactive multimedial applications: or multimedial web pages in which the user can interact. The "workshop on the cinema of the future" could be an example. It has been developed with the National Museum of Cinema, where some of the edition techniques are shown with a comparison between cinematographic space (real videos) and digital space, allowing the user to deepen some aspects of cinema edition.
  • videostreaming live and on-demand: audio-video contents with TV quality broadcast also on-demand;
  • games on-demand: games on the net, monoplayer or multiplayer;
  • e-learning applications: based on a distant teaching-learning relationship through the net.

For what concerns the net services here we have listed the more important among those being tested with RESEAU:

  • IPv6 with access to networks of new generation, it allows to overcome the present limits of the IPv4 and to approach more efficaciously other functions (security, mobility );
  • VPN-IP (Virtual Private Network-IP), a really safe net system (firewall, cryptography, anti-spoofing );
  • personal network portal services, they allow to personalise the access to the net according to the user;
  • IP Multicast, to pass information (for example videos) from a source to many users simultaneously taking the most of network facilities;
  • IP services for QoS (Quality of Service), CoS (Class of Service), Traffic Policy, allow to make different profiles of the user, to grant the effectiveness and the quality of the services offered;
  • optical storage networking services and disaster recovery allow to manage data banks and to restore the information in case of problems on local storage systems.

WiFi network at the National Museum of Cinema: technical specifications

A Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN), based on the IEEE 802.11 standard, is a system that gives the possibility to make a real LAN Ethernet "wireless" with Access Point (AP) and mobile devices Wireless Terminal (WT). The Access Points are bridges that link the wireless subnet with the hardwired one, while the Wireless Terminals are devices that permit to use net services wherever they are. The Access Points can be implemented both in hardware (with particular devices), and in software, with a PC or a notebook provided with wireless interface and ethernet card. The Wireless Terminal can be any device such as for example a notebook, palmtop, pda, mobile phones, or equipment that interface standard IEEE 802.11, or consumer systems on Bluetooth technology.

There is no doubt of the advantages obtained by using this technology. Installations, harness and maintenance are considerably reduced. The architectural ties which are imposed in historical buildings that, for example, host museums, congress centres and libraries can be respected. The problems of entering the network in areas where many other users are operating (airports, hotels, universities), or when we rapidly change our position, are solved. Then in this way we cut the amount of money spent to renew or increase the number of PC for visitors or for our staff.Furthermore wireless technology opens the way to new services characterised by a strong interaction with the outer environment.

We can then make the idea of a personalised museum come true. A museum that communicates with the visitor, that recreates the environment in which the object shown have been thought, and that offers sounds, images, different sensations. There will not be anymore an established way; the visitor will be free to create its own journey in the world of cinema.

The system planned for the Mole Antonelliana permits staff

  • to use localisation (detection) systems based on Access Points, inside the halls of the museum, that allow, with the mobile device given to the visitor, to get its position as to personalise the information, according to its place and its profile;
  • to enter in the LAN of the museum which is linked to Internet through the experimental Telecom Italia RESEAU broad band. In this way mobile or fix devices have the possibility to enjoy the multimedial contents, those more interesting to the visitor;
  • to monitor and manage all the network for the Access Point;
  • to couple the services on the basis of the different profiles of the users;
  • to direct the access to the single information areas of the museum;
  • to control, update and manage the contents and information for the users.


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