A while in the making, the Museum of Yesterday, in Portuguese Museu do Ontem, is a mobile app for discovering the history of the old port of Rio de Janeiro, made in close cooperation with Agência Pública.
In essence, the app is a collection of, at the moment, about 160 stories, articles, audios and videos related to Rio’s old port, the Porto Maravilha, the ‘marvellous port’.
Some of these stories are illustrated by artist Juliana Russo, who also made hand drawn maps of both the port area as it is now, as well as what it looked like back in 1830.
Most of the Portuguese audio was narrated by Anelis Assumpção, a well known Brazilian singer.
All the content of the app is available in both Portuguese, the primary market being Brazil, and English.
What sets the app apart is that it’s not possible to access the content unless you physically explore Rio’s old port. In fact, every piece of content being tied to a physical location in the old port, to access the stories, you have to physically get close to each location. So, you have to explore the port area, in person, to learn about its past.
In addition, though the app does put all the stories, and yourself, on a map, you can not zoom or scroll the map, meaning that the visible area is limited by the screen size of your device. Pointers direct you to nearby locations but, mostly, you’re on your own, that is, you have to find your own way to unlock Rio’s past.
The underlying philosophy, of course, is Situationist thought, putting the primary control over the experience with the user. This puts The Museum of Yesterday thoroughly on the same side as Kompl, Dérive app and Sauntering verse.
The app was built using Meteor, a framework that makes it easier to deploy mobile solutions to both the Android and iOS platforms. On the downside, Meteor changes often and, particularly for building location-sensitive apps, tends to eat up significant resources, meaning that older devices can struggle with the presentation of content.
In fact, though field tests, with users carrying fairly recent mobile devices, went well, a pre release with a group of about half a dozen journalists, some carrying the great grandfathers of today’s mobile devices, saw a somewhat less ideal performance come to light, in some cases. Well, in underpowered smartphones.
Last minute changes to, in part, address the challenges of lower end phones, resulted in a bit of a tight release schedule, though on the day of our release, a dozen or so newspapers published positive pieces on the app, including one in of the country’s largest newspapers, Estadão, with TV interviews coming up, as well.
Several performance issues still need to be addressed, but, depending on your mobile device, this might not be relevant to you.
Also, very soon, the app will be extended with the ability to do a virtual tour of the old port of Rio. You’ll be able to access a few of the stories, without having to physically in the port. However, to uncover them, you will still have to go for a walk: Every 50 meters walked will give you access to one story.
So, get yourself to Rio and try out The Museum of Yesterday to get the full scoop.
World Summit Awards
The Museum of Yesterday was selected as the Brazilian submission for the World Summit Awards 2017, in the Culture and Tourism category, eventually winning the global competition.
In February 2019, The Museum of Yesterday was rebuilt. The frontend now based on Bootstrap 4.1, with the backend database moved away from Mongo and Galaxy, to being backed by a simpler WordPress backend.