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Browning Library to offer electronic tour guide system

Oct. 13, 2000

By CLAIRE KENNEDY

Reporter

The staffs of the Armstrong Browning Library and Information Technology Center have designed hand-held tour guides containing information about the library's contents.

Carl Bell, senior analyst and programmer for ITC research and development, said once the devices are available for use, each object in the library will be numbered. The devices will allow library visitors to access information by either typing in the numbers of items on a keypad or by tapping on a number on the map of the library. The two-pound, hand-held devices will be in both English and Spanish, and headphones will be available for visitors.

Although it's not clear just when the devices will be ready for use, Bell hopes they will be ready before the end of the semester.

'We've still got some bugs we need to fix, and we also need some voice-overs, which is taking a while,' Bell said.

In addition to features already available on the tour guides, the ITC staff hopes to develop infrared sensors in the devices, which would allow them to automatically display information about items as visitors pass by them.

Bell said the ITC staff's biggest problem with putting these items in such high-tech form is that they've been working with a California company to design and manufacture software that would enable the hand-held tour guides to do this.

Rita Patteson, curator of manuscripts for the Armstrong Browning Library, said the devices will allow visitors more freedom than they have during a guided tour with tapes in a museum.

'It will be easy for a person who comes in to have this device, travel around and get information about items as they want to,' Patteson said. 'With this, you can go at your own pace.'

Staff members of the library and ITC developed the idea for the hand-held tour guide while working on a virtual tour for the library's Web site at www.browninglibrary.org. The tour will enable viewers of the site to see and learn about the contents of each room online.

'The library needed to get more technology-oriented and more publicity to let people outside of Baylor, Texas and the United States know about it,' Patteson said.

The Armstrong Browning Library, which contains the world's largest collection of materials of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, will celebrate its 50-year anniversary in October 2001. The library houses portraits of the notable nineteenth-century poets and paintings related to their poetry, as well as furniture and other belongings.

The library was able to make the hand-held tour guides, improve the Web site and replace the museum's old drapes and pillows using a $150,000 grant from the Baylor/Waco Foundation. The purpose of the grant was for Golden Jubilee, the celebration of the completion of the library's renovation.