National Archives and QRpedia

Yesterday, I paid a visit to the UK National Archives in Kew.
Their amazing educational team have recently completed a stunning QRpedia installation.

The Domesday Book

The Domesday Book

From their press-release:

As part of this project to increase digital engagement we have used the QRpedia service to link some of our museum exhibits to articles on Wikipedia. In the on site museum at Kew, visitors can use their smartphones to scan QR (quick response) codes next to the exhibits. QR codes are barcodes that can be read by smartphones to link physical and virtual documents.

The QR codes will allow visitors to the museum to explore more information on particular displays than can physically be provided on written captions. They can also deliver pages (where they exist) in the language of the user’s handset.

Visitors to the museum will also be invited to contribute their knowledge to The National Archives-related articles on Wikipedia.

There are 13 QRpedia codes dotted around the museum – here are some photos of a few of them.

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

QRpedia Scroll

Grant of Arms

The team have done an amazing job. They placed codes in prominent positions and made sure they are well lit.

They have also created a display to explain what the QR codes do. They even include instructions on how to get on to the free WiFi if your phone doesn’t have a strong signal.

QRpedia National Archives Instructions

So, now legions of school-children and visiting tourists can get highly detailed information about the National Archive’s exhibits with a simple scan of a code.

QRpedia Scanned

Where next…?

Jimmy Wales ♥ QRpedia

You know Jimmy Wales, right? He’s the guy co-founded Wikipedia – and, possibly, its most prominent face.

So, a few days ago, he popped down to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis to see the work the museum is doing with its Wikipedian in Residence – Lori Philips.

What else did he do while he was there? Why, scanned some QRpedia codes!

J Wales TCM 002

J Wales TCM 013

ASP 4574

You can see all the photos of his visit on Wikimedia Commons.

My highly placed sources tell me that Mr Wales was highly impressed with the work the museum had done, and loved their innovative use of QRpedia.

If you’d like to get started with QRpedia – visit the main site to get started.
It’s free, fast, and fantastic!

QRpedia and Images

One of the great things about QR codes is they have built in error correction. This means if the code gets damaged or dirty, it can still be scanned.

This means we can add images into the QR code to make it look prettier without negatively affecting the code’s usability.

Niteesh Yadav has created some QR portraits which feature famous faces superimposed on a QR code. I’m not overly convinced by the quality of the images nor the size of the codes – he uses a QR code containing a mini-biography.

So, I decided to create a QRpedia code featuring an embedded image.

Che QR

This is the QRpedia code which links to the article on Che Guevara. I picked Che because of the iconic monochrome image of him fits in well with the black and white nature of the codes.

This was created by using a QR code with the highest level of error correction. I then cut out the centre square and replaced it with the image of Che.

This leads to all sorts of creative possibilities.

@ I'm imagining a periodic table poster with a QRpedia code for each element, with its symbol in the centre / @
Andy Mabbett

Using the Wikipedia API, it should be possible to extract an image from an article and automagically add it into a generated image.

Certainly something to think about for QRpedia 2.0!

QRpedia in the news

A quick round up of QRpedia in the news:

The New Media Consortium has produced a report entitled Technology Outlook: UK Tertiary Education.

The full report (PDF) specifically mentions QRpedia Codes as “smart objects” and predicts a time-to-Adoption of four to five years. I think we can do it sooner than that, though!
The report is CC-BY and well worth reading.

One of our friend in Indianapolis, Angie Mcnew, was interviewed by the radio station WFYI (mp3).

We now have our own Wikipedia entry – in 8 languages – which was recently featured on the Wikipedia homepage.

Finally, Álex Hinojo was interviewed in EL PAÍS.

Things are ticking along nicely. I hope to make a announcement about a significant new installation next week…

QRpedia – Dealing With Missing Entries

QRpedia is designed to offer a single QR code which points to the same article in multiple languages.

The most common question about QRpedia is “What does it do if the article doesn’t exist in my language?”

Consider the following example…

  • A French user is in a German museum.
  • They scan a code – which points to de.qrwp/Nelahozeves
  • Unfortunately, Wikipedia doesn’t have the “Nelahozeves” article in French
  • What should QRpedia do?


This has been a matter for much debate in the QRpedia team. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the subject.

As we see it, our choices are…

  1. 404 – Tell the user that the page doesn’t exist.
  2. Wrong Language – Show the French user the German page
  3. Choice of Language – Show the French user a choice of German, English, Dutch, etc.
  4. Smart Search – Search French Wikipedia for the term, display the results to the user.
  5. Latin – Omnis intelligit Latinum. Si non sunt barbarus!

At the moment, we do the smart search. In this case, we point to the French Wikipedia search for Nelahozeves – which has a couple of relevant results.

This isn’t ideal. Often there are no suitable results – especially as we are searching French Wikipedia for a German word or phrase.

So – over to you. What should we do? Please leave your comments and suggestions.