In 1997 a system called Your Electronic Guide was developed within
the framework of the Hermitage-IBM joint project. It included special
software and a set of hardware made up in the form of information stands.
The aim that the project participants set themselves was to compensate
for the deficit of information within the museum and to install virtual
guides that would help individual visitors find their way about the museum.
The four information stands are located a key points where large numbers
of people tend to pass. They were set up in the Jordan Gallery where most
visitors enter the museum, in the Field Marshals' Hall where four routes
meet, and on the Theatre Staircase, where visitors pass from one museum
building to another. The program is user-friendly and the screen prompts
make it readily accessible for any type of visitor from young schoolchild
to adult. The interface chosen for the program is an interactive monitor
(Touch Screen System) where the user selects buttons graphically depicted
on the screen simply by touching the glass. The program can switch between
two languages: Russian and English. Visitors using the stands can obtain
detailed information about the museum's collections and highlights, temporary
exhibitions and services. They can chose one of six suggested routes and
get a print-out help in following it, which is one of the main advantages
of the system.
The Information Stand Program
The information stand program is made up of a number of sections, including Plans of the Museum, Collections and Halls, Masterpieces of the Museum, Recommended Routes, Visitors' Comments and General Information.
These sections contain information about the Hermitage's displays, descriptions and images of fifty masterpieces, descriptions of recommended routes and current information about temporary exhibitions. The information is updated daily, making it possible to warn visitors also about the temporary closure of particular halls. Users can chose the required section my touching the interactive screen.
The Recommended Routes section has been created for those visiting the Hermitage for the first time and those who prefer to make their own way around. Depending on the amount of time they have available, visitors are offered a choice of one of six thematic routes. Those who have already visited the Hermitage and are familiar with its collections and highlights can choose five works they find most interesting in the Masterpieces of the Museum section, after which the program indicates the best route by which to view them. The program draws up the routes dynamically and the number of possible combinations runs into the thousands. Users can request a print-out of the route which consists of a floor-plan with the route marked as a dotted line through the halls as well as a textual description of the route.
The program of the stands located in the halls also has a section entitled Closest Displays. This enables visitors to acquaint themselves in detail with the state rooms of the Winter Palace and the displays of the Department of Western European Art. The information stands contain more than 800 high-quality images, more than 200 explanatory notes on exhibits and collections and also descriptions of general and thematic tours.
The program also contains information about museum services that is co-ordinated with the route-finding.